For Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight titleholder Fabricio Werdum, capturing the strap from former ruler Cain Velasquez in front of a raucous Mexican crowd at UFC 188 last June felt like a lifetime of hard work had finally been fulfilled.
Werdum fought for the second straight time in Mexico City, Mexico, arriving early and setting up training camp, for what was the toughest test of his career and one that he passed with flying colors. "Vai Cavalo" battered and bruised so-called "Cardio Cain" for three rounds, before latching onto a guillotine choke after Velasquez dove in for a takedown.
Having dispatched of the ex-champ, the soon-to-be 38-year-old Brazilian seems content with watching the rest of the rejuvenated heavyweight division come to blows while earning their shot at the title through a mini-tournament.
"This wasn't like a one camp for three months. This was a camp for a long time. I trained seven years for this moment," Werdum told BJPenn.com. "I think the best way is to have four guys [fight] for the title shot. (Junior) Dos Santos, (Stipe) Miocic, Cain Velasquez, and (Andrei) Arlovski. These guys fight each other. Like, Miocic vs. Cain Velasquez, and Dos Santos vs. Arlovski. Who is the best one and fights a good fight, the best performance fights with me, and that's it."
Indeed, much has to be sorted out in the 265-pound division.
Similarly to the way the Brazilian has risen from UFC castoff to heavyweight kingpin, former champion Andrei Arlovski has enjoyed a career resurgence, stomping out buddy Travis Browne in a slugfest for his second-straight knockout and third Octagon victory in a row.
Colossal Croatian Stipe Miocic is 6-2 in UFC, most recently putting the hurt on Samoan slugger Mark Hunt at UFC Fight Night 65 back in May. Then, there is former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos, who defeated Miocic in a close contest at UFC on FOX 13.
With the heavyweight division at a standstill for quite some time -- nearly two years to be exact because of Velasquez's injured knee -- Werdum's comment bears some questioning.
One would think that a fighter, who was originally scheduled to fight the champion and instead had to settle for a interim title battle at UFC 180 versus Hunt, would advocate for being more active with his newfound position.
Injuries are an ever-present factor in the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). Creating a tournament would eliminate potential worthy candidates when Werdum, who to the MMA world's knowledge is injury-free, can pick one off on a card later this year.
It's not like Werdum fought five times in the span of 12 months like lightweight No. 1 contender Donald Cerrone, or welterweight champion Robbie Lawler, who participated in three, 25-minute tussles in less than a year.
Maybe this was just a case of a fighter getting too ahead of himself and not thinking a situation through, or perhaps he really does mean it. Most fighters do not attain a belt late in their thirties like Werdum.
He could just want his beauty rest, though, if the UFC comes-a-calling, you can bet the Kings MMA product will answer.
"I need [time off]. I just want to recover my body and my mind. I want to enjoy my family," Werdum said. "I just want a little time to enjoy my belt, but I'll fight anyone, no problem"