The familiar sounds of the turning signal going blend with the siren of an ambulance zinging by. The man who pulled off the impossible versus Anderson Silva back in 2013 is in his car living his best domestic life, running errands and recovering from surgery on his thumb.
“I can’t change my baby’s diaper anymore. I only have one hand to use right now,” says Chris Weidman to The Sports Fan Journal. “I love doing it, but I’ll take it as a benefit.”
Weidman, currently sitting as the #4 ranked middleweight in a supremely talented and jam-packed division, is on the mend after damaging his thumb vs. Kelvin Gastelum in July 2007 during the main event of the UFC’s Uniondale (New York) fight card.
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) July 23, 2017
“My thumb feels good, I feel good,” said the “All-American” from Hofstra University. “They had to graft my hip bone into my hand to fuse the joint, they’re telling me 6-8 weeks until I can punch again. As soon as I’m able to punch again, I’ll look to get a fight setup.”
2018 was supposed to be the re-emergence of Weidman in the title picture. After holding the belt for 890 consecutive days, in which he defeated the all-time great Anderson Silva twice, Weidman slipped into a three-fight losing streak. Those losses were to the absolute best in the sport, but the focus has always been on building legacy, getting better as a fighter and bringing the gold back to New York.
“Once I get the belt back, I’ll see what big fights I can get for myself to create my legacy and to test myself,” stated Weidman. “Trying to be the best competitor I can be, and what happens afterwards isn’t in my control.”
The road to getting the middleweight title back around his waist is an interesting one. Current champion Robert Whittaker is slated to face Yoel Romero at UFC 225 on June 9th in Chicago, and Luke Rockhold is currently considering a move to light heavyweight. Weidman has losses to Romero and Rockhold, but has yet to face the current champion. Possible fights with Jacare Souza and David Branch have been discussed as options before getting dibs on next for a chance at the gold.
For Weidman, his focus is always on getting better and testing himself against the best. If he had it his way, that would mean taking on more challenges after winning the middleweight title, like possibly of moving up in weight.
“Definitely, I have no problem switching weight classes up to 205,” proclaims Weidman, who has fought all 13 fights in the UFC in the 185-pound middleweight division. “It’s something I’d be interested in at some point.”
Every fighter in the UFC ponders the possibility of participating in a superfight. Weidman, as a former champion, taking on Whittaker would be big, so would a rematch with Romero after the Cuban great gave Weidman a second consecutive loss with a brutal flying knee. For fight fans, the biggest fight people want to see involves the man who is “notoriously” absent from the UFC, and could be for the foreseeable future, versus the first ever Russian beltholder in the history of the preeminent MMA promotion.
For many, Conor McGregor’s shenanigans at UFC 223 in Brooklyn was the WWE turning into real life on the UFC stage. It was an awesome spectacle. It also saw many innocent bystanders end up as unintended casualties.
“On a PR level, there was a lot of coverage of it. Some people say there’s no such thing as bad press. It definitely got a lot of press, but I think that hurt his (Conor’s) career, and it hurt him personally…he’s got a family,” Weidman says, pausing a bit. Seemingly reflecting on his own family. “I don’t think that’s the level he wanted to get to, hurting other people like that. Outside shenanigans, making it more interesting for fans to watch fights, when they see the beef not just outside the Octagon and on the mic… but behind the scenes. It makes it more real and makes fans more excited to watch the fight. I hope it doesn’t get to the point where stuff like what happened at (UFC) 223.”
Weidman understands and can appreciate the hype that’s generated from the theatrics of arguably the two best lightweights in the world. Most fight fans feel the same way, as the blurred lines of professional wrestling and MMA get blurrier by one star crossing over into the other every year. What was initially entertaining and captivating on a global scale turned ugly and immature with the hurl of one railing into a bus.
“If Conor has a problem with Khabib (Nurmagomedov) and he really wants to fight him, he can do it in a cage, or if he really wants to do it out of the cage, that’s up to him… he can tell the kid where to meet him and they can go 1-on-1. That’s what we do,” says Weidman emphatically. “But for him to hurt other people, that’s where it’s a problem.”
Controversy can sell, and Weidman’s dealt with his fair share first hand (especially on his thumb). In talking to Weidman, you get the sense that it’s all about the process for him. At age 33, he’s seen a ton and lived to tell about it, but he’s “still young in (his) MMA career, as far as fights” are concerned.
“I’ve been through a lot with fighting and wrestling, dealing with injuries and setbacks. It’s just a part of my story and it’s something I’ll get better from.”
Weidman’s story will continue this summer as he looks to sign on to a fight in June for a card in this fall.
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”