On April 8th, 2017, Chris Weidman takes on Gegard Mousasi in the co-main event at UFC 210. Chris Weidman, who currently holds a record of 13-2 is the former UFC middleweight champion and has every intention of climbing his way back to the top of the division.
We had the opportunity to interview Chris for the first instalment of our new MMA series ‘Journey to the Cage‘. We spoke about his first experience stepping into the cage, and he also reveals who his toughest opponent was in the UFC.
I’m excited and this is a huge fight for me. This is my opportunity to get back on track and get a ‘W’ against a top guy who is on a winning streak, so this fight means everything to me.
I don’t mind at all. I have no problem. I don’t hate on anybody who is trying to make it to another level. They saw how effective Conor was and they feel like they could do that, and make themselves more money by talking. Go ahead and do it, I have no hate. It’s all good, do your thing.
What are your keys to success? What do you believe was vital in the rise of your UFC career?
I think delayed gratification. I think a lot of people just expect things to happen overnight, but it’s just not reality. Great things come in time, and I don’t expect results instantaneously. I have been working a long time, I’ve been wrestling since I was a little kid. When no one was watching me I was working, and next thing I know, I’m pretty good. You can’t get there quickly without putting the work in. You’ve got to work hard when no one’s watching. If you’re able to work hard and stay consistent and being okay doing when nobody is watching, you’re going to be successful.
What has been your career highlight so far?
My first fight beating Anderson Silva, I don’t think anything can top that. He was the champion for so long, and he was known as the greatest of all time. He looked unbeatable and it looked as if he was in the prime of his career, and I go out there and knock him out. He was someone who was the champion of the weight class when I had just started the sport. He was always someone I looked up to. Not someone I looked up to and over-respected, but he was someone that I was looking at and I believed I could beat him. I knew it was going to take years before I had the opportunity. When I was training and fighting other guys, I was training to beat the best in the world, and the best in the world was Anderson Silva. Getting the opportunity to fight him was an amazing thing, and to knock him out – that feeling was unbelievable.
I just think, at the end of the day, one second that you’re not focused on the fight and the other guy capitalises the fight could be over. That’s why MMA is such a great sport, and people love to watch it because you really never know what’s going to happen. Unfortunately, I was on the receiving end of it and you never want to shoot through the left hip of a southpaw, not only because of the knee but because of the kick and the left hand. All of the power comes from that side of the body, so you should never put your head on that side. You should shoot takedowns to the other side, which I did in the beginning. I was always putting my head on the right side. Going into the third round I remember him taking a while to get off of his stool, he looked tired. I just wanted to break him and just mix it up between the wrestling and the striking. I took a half-hearted shot put my head to the wrong side and he came up with the knee. It was just a bad decision by me and a good decision by him. I paid the price. I don’t have to go back to the drawing board and change my whole outlook on fighting. It’s just one mistake and I just get back to working hard.
You are coming off of two loses. How do you cope with losing, and does it make you change the way you train or get prepared for a fight?
I’m always trying to evolve and get better, but I’m not going to change who I am and look too much into it and change my game when I don’t need to. There are a lot of good things that I did even in those fights that I lost. There are also a lot of bad things I did. When it comes to the bad things I look and just try to make sure that it doesn’t happen anymore.
What are your thoughts on GSP returning and getting a title shot in a division he hasn’t previously competed in?
I think it’s tough for the middleweight division. It works out great for Bisping because he gets a big paid day. It’s also good for GSP. He has the potential to become the UFC middleweight champion and make some good money. I think it’s one of the easier fights that he could have taken, including the fights at 170. I’m not going to say it’s the easiest because he still has the potential to lose, but it’s the least dangerous. He goes up in weight after a long lay off. If he happens to lose, then there was a lot going against him. If he comes in against Tyron Woodley, that dudes a very heavy hitter with good wrestling. That’s not the best matchup for him. Even going down to 155 and fighting some of the guys down there might be a tougher matchup compared to Bisping. It works out great for both GSP and Bisping, but it doesn’t work out great for the middleweight division. They don’t have a date set, and I don’t see GSP fighting any other middleweights if he was to win. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens after that fight.
You’ve said “#IAmMore than a fighter. I am a family man. I am a husband. I am an American. I am a man of God. I am committed”
What drives and motivates you every day to train and compete?
First, you’ve got pride in yourself. That selfish ambition as much as selfish ambition is a motivating driving force, doing things for other people is even more of a motivation. When I’m training I am thinking about my family. I’m thinking about who is depending on me. I’m thinking about my coaches who expect a certain amount of work and effort from me, and they expect me to be back on top. I’ve also got the doubters that I want to prove wrong. There are so many different motivating factors that come in and help build the fire inside of me.
I just tried to minimise the fight and think of it as another wrestling match. You have the crowd, you have people drinking, you have people cheering more than I was ever used to, but in my head, it was just a competition. I just had to go out there, beat this guy and have fun. That’s what I did. It was definitely nerve racking, my first experience of those cage doors locking, but I’m still so in love with this sport and I love fighting. It was just something that I was prepared for.
You are a fighter who has benefited massively from the sport becoming cleaner and drug-free. What are your views on USADA?
Well, I think it’s good. Anytime you have any drug testing come in it will hopefully deter people from taking steroids. Unfortunately, I don’t think its stopping everybody. I think guys are still taking, guys are getting caught and I think guys are beating the system, but I think it’s definitely stopping a lot of guys from taking stuff.
Out of all your opponents, who was your toughest challenge and who gave you the fight where you really had to push to your limits?
Well obviously I lost two fights, so I can’t say that those weren’t competitive, but first, the Demian Maia fight. I took that fight on ten days notice. I was out of shape taking it and that was gruelling. It was only a three round fight, but I was dying, he was dying. I left everything out there. It wasn’t the prettiest fight. It’s not the fight that I go and ask someone to watch if I wanted to impress them because I don’t think it’s the most impressive if you’re looking from the outside without understanding the circumstances. That whole week for me was hard, cutting the weight. I lost my uncle. It was just such an emotional draining week, and to still get the win over a tough guy like Demian Maia was a very tough challenge. That one and the Lyoto Machida fight. It was going so smooth the first three rounds and all of a sudden in the fourth round he’s hitting me with big shots. He was walking forward and I was like “wow”. I thought he was ready to crack after that third round. I was wrong. He really wanted to win that fight bad. It was just a really good fight. Those are probably the two toughest challenges of my career so far.
Considering you have trained and worked very closely with Stephen Thompson, how highly do you rate him against other welterweights in the UFC division? and who do you think won in the rematch at UFC 209 against Tyron Woodley
I thought Wonderboy won. I thought he won rounds 1, 2 and 4. It was just tough. As well as he did in that fight, I just know how much potential he has. Woodley did a good job of keeping him guessing with his hands and his takedowns, this froze Wonderboy a little bit. I know a lot of people were booing, but as a guy who is involved in that sport that was a very intense fight for me. I was stressed as hell watching it because they were in range the entire fight. They might not have been throwing that much, but they were in each others range, and because both guys are so dangerous it was very exciting, but I know a lot of people thought that it wasn’t the best fight.
Obviously, I would like to fight those guys and get those wins back, but the most important thing is to get the belt. Whatever path I have to take to get the belt is what I want to do, and whoever has the belt, that’s who I want to fight.
Do you see a future for yourself at Light Heavyweight? If so, how do you think you would do against the current fighters in that division?
I always imagined myself going up there, fighting and winning the belt up there, but I’ve lost two in a row at middleweight. Let me get back to winning ways here and beat guys in the middleweight division, get the belt and then I will talk about the light heavyweight division.
I spoke very briefly with Ari Emanuel (CEO of WME). I think it’s going to be a good thing for the UFC being owned by WME-IMG. I think it’s going to give us a lot of exposure across mainstream media and mainstream sponsors. I think eventually it will be a good thing. It’s going to take time but eventually, it will be a good thing.
What was it like acting on Kevin Can Wait? Working with the likes of comedic legends Adam Sandler and Kevin James, and would acting be something that you intend to do more regularly in the future?
Definitely. It was a humbling experience being on stage with Adam Sandler and Kevin James for my acting debut. They made me feel really comfortable. They’re so comfortable doing it. They have been doing it pretty much their whole lives at this point. It just comes so naturally to them and that it made me feel like I was hanging out with the guys. It ended up being a really fun experience. Acting was always something that was in the back of my mind, something I would do to make money after fighting, but it’s not something that I felt extremely passionate about. After doing Kevin Can Wait I did fall in love with it. It was more fun than I originally thought it would be.
And finally, any final words for Gegard Mousasi before you meet at UFC 210?
I’m really excited about going on my next winning streak. He’s a well-rounded guy, with a lot of experience, very calm, and good under pressure. I’m going to make sure that I bring the pressure, make him panic, and confuse him in there. I just want to break him. I’m just trying to break everyone that I come up against. I’m going to mentally and physically break him.