alert-erroralert-infoalert-successalert-warningbroken-imagecheckmarkcontact-emailcontact-phonecustomizationforbiddenlockedpersonalisation-flagpersonalizationrating-activerating-inactivesize-guidetooltipusp-checkmarkusp-deliveryusp-free-returnsarrow-backarrow-downarrow-left-longarrow-leftarrow-right-longarrow-rightarrow-upbag-activebag-inactivecalendar-activecalendar-inactivechatcheckbox-checkmarkcheckmark-fullclipboardclosecross-smalldownloaddropdowneditexpandhamburgerhide-activehide-inactivelocate-targetlockminusnotification-activenotification-inactivepause-shadowpausepin-smallpinplay-shadowplayplusprofilereloadsearchsharewishlist-activewishlist-inactivezoom-outzoomfacebookgoogleinstagram-filledinstagrammessenger-blackmessenger-colorpinterestruntastictwittervkwhatsappyahooyoutube
Kick & Punch / November 2016
Maureen Quirk, Global Newsroom

For NYC Local Chris Weidman, UFC 205 Means Everything

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy shocked Long Island, New York.

Houses were flooded, lives were lost and communities torn to pieces in wake of the devastating storm and the damage and grief that came with it.

One of the many New Yorkers affected first-hand was UFC Athlete Chris Weidman.

“My house was on the water so you always anticipate a little flooding from the canal,” he says. "The next thing I know, I just hear crashing in the garage. All our pictures, all the baby pictures, Christmas stuff, clothes—it was all just floating.”

But it was seeing his fellow New Yorkers return to the devastation that really got him.

“You had to watch everybody come back to their houses the next day and you see them see their house for the first time. That was torture for me. I know what they’re gonna see inside their house. They’re hoping for the best, and they walk in and it’s beyond their worst nightmares.”

Four Years Later

Last week, on the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the city remembered and honored the destruction caused by a storm that’s now regarded as one of the costliest in U.S. history. chris-weidman-ufc205-1

Meanwhile, just miles from his former home, Weidman, still a proud Long Island resident, could quietly be found in the gym, preparing to represent his home state on perhaps the largest scale he’ll ever know: inside the Octagon at Madison Square Garden at UFC 205.

Set for November 12, UFC 205 will be the first-ever UFC fight to take place in the state of New York. Earlier this year, state officials signed a bill lifting a longtime ban on professional MMA fighting.

Make no mistake, despite his ties to the state and his activism to legalize the sport, a spot for Weidman on the UFC 205 fight card was not guaranteed. 

“It’s crazy because when I always envisioned fighting in New York, I always imagined all my teammates and all the other guys from different gyms in New York would finally have the opportunity. It would be like a bunch of New York guys,” he says.

It’s crazy because when I always envisioned fighting in New York, I always imagined all my teammates and all the other guys from different gyms in New York would finally have the opportunity. It would be like a bunch of New York guys.

But with all eyes ready to turn to New York City come November 12, things didn’t play out exactly as Weidman had envisioned.

He finds himself the only native New Yorker on a stacked main card highlighted by three title fights including the much anticipated McGregor-Alvarez matchup for the Lightweight belt.

chris-weidman-ufc205-2“People are gonna be flying in from all around the world to be there and witness [UFC 205],” says Weidman, reflecting on the scale of the event. “You might not be the biggest MMA fan but if you have money and you’re a sporting event guy, this is a historical event and you’re gonna wanna be there.”

And with ‘nosebleed seats’ going for more than $700 a piece, Weidman seems to be right.

“I have to go out there and do my thing. It’s definitely just added, not really pressure, but added excitement to get the job done.” 

I have to go out there and do my thing. It’s definitely just added, not really pressure, but added excitement to get the job done.

Behind the Scenes

Long before UFC 205 was announced, however, Weidman was working to “get the job done” and have his career sport legalized in his home state.

“It’s crazy because New York, where I’m from, born and raised, is usually in the forefront of everything. It’s usually the first to get things done. But when it came to what I do for a living, mixed martial arts, it was the last state to get things done, the 50th state to finally legalize mixed martial arts,” says Weidman. 

It’s crazy because New York, where I’m from, born and raised, is usually in the forefront of everything. It’s usually the first to get things done. But when it came to what I do for a living, mixed martial arts, it was the last state to get things done, the 50th state to finally legalize mixed martial arts.

Weidman was instrumental in the lifting of the ban and was even present at the bill signing in April.

“I was pretty involved with talking to assemblymen and senators and even the governor, trying to hash this out and figure out why isn’t this legal here. Every year I’d be very optimistic that it’d pass, and it wouldn’t.”

For him it wasn’t just business; it was personal.

“I hated trying to prove to people that what I do for a living is a sport and that it should be legal. For it to finally be legalized, it’s just nice not have to argue why what I do for a living is a legit sport.” 

I hated trying to prove to people that what I do for a living is a sport and that it should be legal. For it to finally be legalized, it’s just nice not have to argue why what I do for a living is a legit sport.

The Biggest Fight of His Life

Although Weidman is on the main card at UFC 205, he will not be fighting as the titleholder nor is this a title shot. chris-weidman-ufc205-3

At last December’s UFC 194, Weidman lost the Middleweight belt, a title that had been his for three and a half year years.

Given a shot to regain that belt back at UFC 199, he was forced to withdraw with just a few weeks’ notice due to an injury.

“We all have to expect you’re gonna have setbacks. You’re gonna have things that come out of nowhere,” says Weidman, reflecting on all that he’s been through. “I feel like any time life is going perfect, you get a curveball thrown at you. And you just have to be aware of that and prepared to deal with it accordingly.”

Weidman has remained optimistic, and now this boy who grew up down the street from the Long Island Rail Road is ready to take that railroad ride right into the City one more time.

“I’m finally gonna be home, and all the people that couldn’t travel and be there to support me, they’re gonna be able to finally be there in my corner,” says Weidman.

“I’m gonna be comfortable. I’m gonna be around the areas I train at, around the areas I grew up going to. You can’t get more familiar than that,” he continues.

“I’m born and raised in New York, never left. The toughness I have is a product of the environment I grew up in and where I came from. Living in New York and the toughness of the New York people has one hundred percent rubbed off on me and helped me make me tougher.”

I’m born and raised in New York, never left. The toughness I have is a product of the environment I grew up in and where I came from. Living in New York and the toughness of the New York people has one hundred percent rubbed off on me and helped me make me tougher.

Without hesitation, Weidman’s longtime coach Ray Longo agrees.

“I say when they announce Chris’ name [at UFC 205] they’re gonna blow the roof off the place. I say it’s gonna be deafening in there. I think he’ll have 23,000 people cheering him on, and that’s gonna be a huge, huge thing,” says Longo.

The Comeback Kid

For Weidman, it’s his close-knit and longtime support system that has helped him stay focused ahead of this monumental fight.

chris-weidman-ufc205-6“In life you’re gonna lose. You’re gonna want to do great things, and things aren’t always gonna work out for you. And at the end of the day you can’t feel bad for yourself and think ‘why me?’ It’s just part of the game,” says Weidman.

“I live with the idea that everything happens for a reason and so you get injured, or you get hit with a storm, and you get hit with these unexpected events and there’s only one way to move. It’s either you stay where you are and you get down about it and you start being depressed, or you stay optimistic and have a good attitude about it and look towards the future in a positive way.” 

I live with the idea that everything happens for a reason and so you get injured, or you get hit with a storm, and you get hit with these unexpected events and there’s only one way to move.

Helping him stay positive is a group of longtime friends and family—all New Yorkers.

He met his wife in seventh grade and the two have dated since high school. They’re now the parents of three.

He first fought his training partner and best friend – Gian Villante – in a high school wrestling match.

Longo is the man who gave him his first sparring opportunity. Today, he and Weidman are business partners and own LAW (Longo and Weidman) MMA together.

It’s clear that still living in the city where he grew up, still spending his time alongside those he grew up with is what’s kept Weidman humble, motivated and focused despite the highs and lows.

“I had the title for three and a half years, and now here I am. I lost a fight, but I have an opportunity where if I win this fight I’m right back in the title contention,” Weidman says.

“If I’m not working as hard as I can, not doing the best I can for my family, I’m basically slapping my kids, my wife, everybody, in the face, and I’m not doing what I’m meant to do. And that’s work hard and provide for my family."

If I’m not working as hard as I can, not doing the best I can for my family, I’m basically slapping my kids, my wife, everybody, in the face, and I’m not doing what I’m meant to do.

chris-weidman-ufc205-5

chris-weidman-ufc205-5

Kick & Punch / November 2016
Maureen Quirk, Global Newsroom