Chris Weidman has always been a risk taker.
As a kid he wasn’t very good at tag because he would run too close to people while taunting, “You can’t get me.” As an adult he takes the biggest professional fight of his life on the shortest notice of his career.
“I’m young, you only live once, and if the opportunity arises I’m jumping at it,” said the 27-year-old middleweight, who will take on Demian Maia on Saturday at UFC on Fox 2.
Weidman owns a 7-0 record, but Saturday will only be his fourth fight in Dana White’s organization. His biggest UFC win came in November, when he defeated Tom Lawlor by submission. A win over Maia would propel Weidman from a top UFC prospect to a bona fide contender. He took the fight on 11 days notice.
“They give him a day’s notice and he’d be ready to fight as long as he could get his weight there,” Strikeforce heavyweight Gian Villante said. Villante defeated Trevor Smith by TKO on Jan. 7 and Weidman was a part of his camp. Villante said Weidman is always in shape and in the gym, but that the short notice will make the weight cut more difficult. Weidman isn’t worried about it.
“It’s probably the most weight I’ve cut in this amount of time, but my body knows the deal,” said Weidman, who weighed 217 pounds the day he took the fight. “I’m prepared and I’ll be good with the weight cut. I’m excited for the struggle too. It’s a good experience.”
Instead of making excuses, Weidman is looking forward to the additional challenges that come with being a late injury replacement. He said he’ll be able to look back on this week’s fight preparation and learn more about what his body can handle during a tough weight cut.
Weidman’s confident attitude has even translated over to his training partners. Villante said that training with someone of Weidman’s caliber gives him confidence for his own professional fights. The Strikeforce veteran was asked to imitate Maia’s unique, Brazilain Jiu-Jitsu-based fighting style during Weidman’s ridiculously short training camp.
“If I was Demian Maia I’d feel bad because Chris beat me up pretty bad when I was acting like him,” Villante said.
On paper Maia has a strong edge in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but Weidman’s BJJ coach John Danaher thinks Weidman, a purple belt, will be able to hang with Maia, who has won two world championships and three world cups in BJJ.
“I’m quietly confident that despite having two-and-a-half years of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training he will be able to match wits with someone who has a lifetime of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training,” said Danaher, who trains with BJJ standouts Matt Serra and Georges St. Pierre.
Weidman’s unique grapping style makes him the only fighter Danaher knows who has broken the strong dichotomy between wrestlers and jiu-jitsu practitioners. The middleweight primarily utilizes freestyle wrestling techniques from his feet and BJJ moves on the mat. The transition from one to the other is “seamless” according to Danaher.
“Chris is an extraordinary talent who has used his wrestling pedigree — which is very, very impressive, to amalgamate with Jiu-Jitsu in a way where he’s formed a kind of hybrid approach to grappling,” Danaher explained.
Villante was able to describe Weidman’s style much less technically. In fact, Villante only needed one word to describe his training partner’s style: relentless.
“It’s one move to the next and all of a sudden you’re sleeping. I’ve found that out, his opponents have found that out and hopefully Demian Maia finds that out,” Villante said. “He’s going to brutalize you some way in the fight, no matter what happens Demian Maia will know he’s in a fight.”
Weidman said that his relentless style is based on his personality. He’s been wrestling since second grade and can’t remember a time where he wasn’t constantly moving forward and attacking on the wrestling mat. Even his studies at Hofstra, where he was a two-time wrestling All-America, have become part of that relentless mindset.
“I’ve always looked to beat my guys mentally,” Weidman said. “I’ve got a psychology degree and that goes along with that too.”
When Weidman tries to break Maia’s will on Saturday his wife, Marivi, will be in the stands to cheer on her husband. She’s never missed one of his fights and this time the couple’s three-year-old daughter, Cassidy, will also arrive in Chicago on Friday — although only Marivi will be in the United Center to watch Weidman fight. It’s been a busy week for the entire family.
Last Saturday, only a couple days after finding out Weidman would be fighting on the UFC on FOX 2 card, the family found out that Cassidy is pregnant with a baby boy that will likely arrive in June.
“I have a lot going on,” Weidman said with a grin.
He believes family support is one of the reasons for his success. His left ring finger is proof of that, even during UFC on FOX 2 open workouts. He wears his wedding band every day during his training.
“I already lost one, so I got to be careful,” Weidman explained. “I don’t want to have to buy another one.”
He said he’s even worn it during a fight when the person wrapping his hands didn’t notice, but admits that he won’t be able to get away with that again on Saturday.
A fight on 11 days’ notice? A 31-pound weight cut? A Brazilain Jiu-Jitsu world champion? No, Chris Weidman is just worried about losing his wedding ring.
– Stephen Boyle