When UFC middleweight Mark Munoz was forced out of his number one contender’s fight with Chael Sonnen, the organization made the most logical choice they could by taking Michael Bisping out his bout with Demian Maia and inserting him into Munoz’s slot against Sonnen with the winner scheduled to face Anderson Silva sometime this summer.
What to do with Maia was the question at hand. There was an immediate call for Brazilian leg lock specialist Rousimar Palhares to face his fellow Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace, but such a scenario would have given Palhares a mere two weeks in between his fight at UFC 142 against Mike Massenzio and the match-up with Maia on the UFC on FOX 2 card. Even though “Toquinho” suffered no damage and needed all of 63 seconds to dispatch of Massenzio, it was simply not going to happen.
Enter undefeated Serra-Longo student Chris Weidman. The Long Island native and two-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler was last seen submitting Tom Lawlor at UFC 139 in November. That night he earned his third UFC win in three tries and ran his overall record to 7-0. Taking on anyone in the UFC on two weeks notice is a daunting task, but it’s even crazier when your opponent is one of the best grapplers in the world.
Questions will arise, such as what type of shape is Weidman in physically and mentally; what is his weight, has he been in the gym, etc. These are all legitimate questions and ones that only Weidman himself can answer. Now he has, and as indicated by his attitude he is definitely a warrior ready to make the most of this opportunity.
“I’ve been training and working hard,” said Weidman in an exclusive interview with Five Ounces of Pain. “I was preparing to fight April 22, but I got the phone call and I knew I couldn’t let an opportunity like this pass me by. It’s going to be tough, but at this point it’s all mental, being confident and getting my cardio where it needs to be. I’m pretty confident and I know he’s tough, but in the UFC there are no easy fights. I have a lot of respect for Maia, but I’m not going to get to his level of BJJ in two weeks, I have to work with what I have.”
Fans have seen many fighters struggle with weight cuts in the past. Anthony Johnson is the first that comes to mind and he not only had a whole training camp to prepare but he was also moving up a weight class. As such, one would have to think that dropping a decent amount of weight in such a short period of time is not easy and one would be correct in assuming so.
“When I got the phone call I was 216.8 and I am down to 207 now,” explained Weidman. “A week out before a fight I would normally be around 205 so I am not that far off. I’ve had to cut my meals to very small portions and eat really light. I am eating a lot of tuna, grilled chicken and egg whites. The worst part is we are about to have a party at my house right now to find out if my wife is pregnant with a boy or girl. There’s a ton of food here and cake so I have to watch everyone else eat.”
Weidman spoke briefly of how he felt when he got the call to face Maia, laughing, “I was home about to eat dinner, my wife was making Sloppy Joes. “I got a call from my manager that the UFC called and wanted me to fight Maia. Joe Silva mentioned to my manager that the fight was in a week and my manager said, ‘Let me talk to Chris first’. Silva said if I accepted the fight they’d try to make it in March or April, but Maia wanted to be on FOX. I knew I had to take this opportunity and said let’s do it. So instead of eating Sloppy Joes I went and worked out instead.”
Everyone in the sport realizes the magnitude of this card. It may be the second card on network television but this time around it is loaded with three exciting fights as opposed to one. Being from New York, Weidman has a large group of family and friends who will be watching and rooting him on. There’s no doubt the 27-year old realizes the significance of being on this card and he plans on coming out on top.
“I haven’t had time to really wrap my head around it,” Weidman said. “This being the first true FOX card I realize it’s going to be an awesome experience. Getting a win over Demian Maia will definitely change my life and my career. This is a huge opportunity and opens up a lot of doors for me. I could never let this opportunity go.”
Being confident seems to be in Weidman’s nature. He sees himself putting on a great performance and having his hand raised when it’s all said and done. A win here runs his UFC record to 4-0 and will include a former title contender on his resume. So where exactly does a win over Maia place Weidman in the ranks of the UFC middleweights? In line for a title-shot in 2012 according to the self-assured grappler.
“I can see it going three different ways, I can see me knocking him out in the first round, winning by submission or by decision,” revealed a very confident Weidman. “I wish I knew how the outcome would be, but I don’t. What I do know is a win puts me as one of the top contenders. This is such a huge opportunity for me. Whatever the UFC thinks, I am down for. I’ll fight Sonnen or Silva. You never know guys get hurt and you have to be prepared for everything. I visualize MMA being legalized in New York and me winning the title here in NY. I want my title shot at the first MMA event in the state.”
Catch Weidman-Maia as they open the card on Saturday night at 8:00 PM EST with Bisping-Sonnen and Rashad Evans-Phil Davis set for later in the evening.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC