Chris Weidman is undefeated in nine professional fights, five of them in the UFC.
He has been to decision four times and finished the other five fights inside the distance, four of those being UFC fighters. Earlier this month he demolished Mark Munoz and that, combined with his preceding win over Demian Maia, means his star is currently shining very brightly indeed.
Less than two years ago, Weidman was living in the basement of his parents New Jersey house. Now he is very possibly the next challenger to middleweight champion Anderson Silva. And Weidman says if he gets the shot, he is looking to put The Spider away just as he did Munoz.
FO: You’re a very popular man at the moment it seems! Have you noticed an increase in attention since the last fight?
Yeah definitely. I think that, I’m trying to get that title shot and I think there are a lot of people behind me, including in the media. So far I haven’t had a day where I haven’t had a film crew on me or doing a phone interview. I love it man I am trying to have the best time with it and make the most of it. I’ve earned it.
FO: Why do you think people are getting behind you for this title shot, and what do you attribute your new-found popularity to?
I think the knockout over Munoz. He was ranked number three in the world and I was able to finish him in the second round. I don’t think anyone has made him look like that before so, that, plus I am on a five-fight win streak in the UFC with two top-five guys in a row. I guess after that you start getting some people realising what you are doing.
FO: One thing I like is that you look as if you’re going in there to finish the fight every time, you’re not looking to point-fight and play safe…
I’m very offense-minded no matter what I’m doing. I take risks in every right I’ve ever had, especially when I’ve had a full training camp. When you don’t have a full camp you don’t trust your cardio as much, you don’t go for things because its like ‘what if I miss it and I get tired’ kind of thing. But when I have a full training camp I just go for things, like in the Munoz fight you can see I go from one submission to the other. I could have just stayed on one submission and really focused on that but I wasn’t afraid to let go and go for something else. I was having fun out there.
I like to be offensive not defensive. When these guys try to squeak out wins that’s how you end up losing, and then you want to kill yourself because you really didn’t go out there and do your best you know? If I lose because I was too offensive I am not going to lose too much sleep over it; it just means the guy was better than me on the day and that’s what happens. I am always going to go after my guys and go for the finish. That’s just how I fight. Its almost natural, I gotta keep moving and keep going.
FO: I guess you’ve seen all this critique on the websites and the messageboards recently regarding fighters being too ‘strategic’ and playing it safe?
I see it, I know what you mean… but that’s always gonna happen. You had that back in the day where a guy would hit the takedown and lie on him for ten minutes because there were no time limits or whatever. It could be really bad back then. Now, guys who get taken down need to learn how to get up and guys how to get the takedown need to learn how to pass guard, don’t just stay in the guard. They gotta keep moving and if no one is doing anything then the referee needs to stand them back up.
Like that fight, the heavyweights at the weekend, Cheick Kong and Shawn Jordan. The referee needs to make guys fight a little bit, he needs to be educated on when guys are working and not working. But if guys are training hard at the gym they are gonna fight the way they train. Maybe a lot of these guys aren’t practicing to finish guys. When I am in the gym I am working on being offensive the whole time and looking for ways to finish the fight because I know that is exactly how I will end up fighting when I get in that cage.
FO: Is it possible that there’s too much pressure not to lose for some of them? Guys worrying about their contracts and so on…
Yeah I definitely think guys are thinking that way and its the wrong way to think. You are never going to perform your best when you are thinking that way. I took a lot of fights so far on short notice and maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing to do but, you only live once man, you don’t want to have regrets. And if I never took those chances I wouldn’t be in this position now and I would be regretting it like, ‘what if I had taken those fights?’
All you have control over is working hard in the gym and then working as hard as you can in the cage. Win or lose, its whatever. As long as you are in that cage you work as hard as you can and you don’t let yourself get beat by yourself before you get in the cage, then you have nothing to feel bad about - whether you win or lose.
If you start to worry about money and this and that, you’re going to go out there feeling like crap. All I focus on is working hard. I go out there in that Octagon and work as hard as I can and that comes from working as hard as I can in the gym.
FO: [laughing] So lets nail you down - you’re saying now, on the record, that no matter who your next opponent is you’re going to be going in there looking to stop him?
Oh yeah, without a doubt. I didn’t I get to where I am at now just so I could slow down. I refuse to beat myself before I get in the Octagon. I have a psychology degree, I got a bachelor [of arts degree] in that, and I think it helps me.
I think I am mentally complete at this point - I know I am talented, I know I have potential, I know I have technique. Mentality at this stage is probably the most important thing. Every fight I’ve had I feel like is the biggest fight but now I have a chance to fight for the title, the approach will still be the same.
FO: Physical or mental, which is the most important side for the professional fighter such as yourself?
I think in high school physical strength is most important, up to the beginning of college. But once you get to the upper-echelon of talent then everyone is physically strong and everyone has talent so its up to the guy who is mentally strongest.
That takes time to achieve and I’ve learned so much, and I’ve gotten so mentally strong by learning how to win and learning how to lose [in college]. I learned reasons why I lost and that keeps me mentally strong because I understand it. I don’t have too much pressure going into the Octagon because I know where I am at.
FO: Let’s now change tack slightly and look at what your peers are up to, starting with the fight that was announced between Vitor Belfort and Alan Belcher…
I think Belfort has the edge in the first round and if it goes past that I think Belcher has the edge. So if Belcher is able to keep smart in the first round I think he eventually gets the W. But Belfort definitely is a dangerous opponent.
FO: Were you impressed by Belcher’s performance against Rousimar Palhares in May?
Yeah I was actually there for that fight. You know, at this stage of the game you gotta be confident in every area. He took a risk - obviously Palhares’ main area is on the ground but he felt he could compete with him there and prove a point, which he did and I give him a lot of credit for that.
FO: Is Palhares intimidating or is he a one-trick pony?
I think the one-trick pony in him is the intimidating part because you will spend the whole camp training to avoid getting heel-hooked, then if you get heel-hooked the thought of having spent your whole camp training to avoid that is a terrible feeling.
You know what he wants to do to you and if it happens even though you’ve tried to prevent it you’re gonna want to kill yourself. So that’s the intimidating thing about him.
FO: And Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann at UFC 152, your thoughts on that fight?
Hmm. I think Stann is going to be looking for the knockout and I think Bisping is going to have to look to mix it up a little bit here, takedowns and footwork, not stand in his range. Potshot him a little bit. Its an interesting fight and I think either Stann knocks him out or Bisping wins the decision.
FO: Bisping - under-rated or over-rated?
I know he is good and talented and he has faced some good guys but every time he has faced a top ten guy he has lost. Like with the Chael Sonnen fight he did awesome and a lot of people thought he could have won but he didn’t find the way to win.
And I am not knocking him - I think he’s a great fighter, I really do - but I question his mentality against top guys when the pressure is on. Which is pretty much what everyone says about him. He has had chances to fight for the title twice now and he doesn’t come through when the pressure is on.
FO: Million dollar question - who is next for you?
Hopefully Anderson Silva.
Hmm… I’m pretty sure… you know… there’s a good chance of it happening and… yeah.
FO: Is that why there was a camera crew with you today?
No, that was media. The UFC is trying to build me right now and I am PR’ing up but I’m not doing a Countdown show or anything. Right now we are waiting on a bunch of stuff. I am not gonna say its definite or not, we are waiting to find out.
I want him, I have said that, I think I deserve him - I beat two top five guys in a row, no one else has done that. No one else has really stopped a top ten contender either. Everyone I have fought has been tough guys like my first UFC fight was against (Alessio Sakara when he was on a three-fight win streak. He was in his prime and I took that fight with two and a half weeks notice, plus a broke rib, and beat him.
Then Tom Lawlor who is definitely a tough guy. Submitted him. Then Demian Maia - took that fight on ten days notice, cut 32 pounds and he was ranked fifth at the time. I was able to beat him. Then finally I had a full training camp and I was able to take out Munoz who was ranked third. The number one and two guys just fought and I was able to take out number three so its looking good!
Every time I have had a full training camp I have finished my opponent and I think the UFC likes that. And if I get the Anderson Silva fight, I am going for the finish.
FO: Speaking of the Munoz fight, just briefly run us through that finish. It was a great overhand elbow you dropped him with.
Well I’ve got the longer arms and the range advantage and so Munoz had to cover that distance to get to me. And every time he exploded forward I either hit him with the takedown, the cross or the hook. And then the elbow.
Also the footwork - he comes in, I move away. Then he comes in again, I hit him with the takedown or hit him with the elbow. So having the range helped me and he is an explosive guy, which I knew he wanted to use against me.
FO: Some people are saying you are the new Chael Sonnen… well, stylistically, not in PR terms obviously-
Ha! Obviously not! That guy is a genius.
FO: What did you think of his whole campaign leading up to the Anderson rematch. Did he cross the line with the comments about Brazil and Anderson’s wife etc?
I honestly thought it was all in good fun and if you talk to the guy you know what he is doing. He put on a show and sold the fight and I am sure Anderson Silva didn’t truly care. It sold the show and made him more money, got Brazil behind him and it worked out for him. It was the biggest fight of Anderson’s career, the way Chael built up the fight, it was huge.
I know Chael is a good guy so… you know, if he was to retract it every time he said it, that would be worse, but he sticks with it consistently and so you can see its humour, when he first started talking about Brazil everyone thought he was the most disrespectful guy in the world, everybody hated him, but because he stayed consistent then people started falling in love with it and realising that was his humour. And I think its obvious he didn’t really want to put Brazil down, it was building the fight and part of his humour.
FO: I know what you mean, but I also know some of the big-name Brazilians are definitely really pissed off about it.
Ha, I know, I understand where they are coming from. If I was them I don’t know how I would feel. But I don’t feel he was being serious so, he was just being Chael Sonnen. I wouldn’t take it too seriously.
FO: Sticking with this Brazilian theme - Anderson’s people say you’re not a contender right now as you aren’t known enough and you need more wins. Your response to that?
There is only so much avoiding you can do so if the UFC wants him to fight me it is going to happen. Anderson can sell PPV by himself, he is the greatest fighter of all time so it doesn’t matter who he is fighting.
And they can definitely sell me - I am undefeated, every time I have a full camp I finish my opponent, I finished my last guy in a devastating fashion. Two top five guys in a row. I was living in my parents basement a year and half ago, its almost like the Rocky story that I now have the opportunity to fight for the title. The UFC can definitely make that an interesting story for people.
When I first got into MMA three years ago I would tell people what weight class I was in and people were like ‘whoa, that’s Anderson’s weight class I hope you never meet him.’ Basically looking at me like, ‘you have no chance of being champion.’ And in the back of my mind I was like, ‘You’re wrong!’ But I would never say anything because they would think I was crazy.
And I was a big Anderson fan too, I thought he was awesome, but I wanted to be the guy to dethrone him, and this was three years ago before Anderson had any idea who I am. And now I am in that position to do what I wanted to do - dethrone the best of all time. And now people aren’t laughing when I say that.
I think I am stylistic nightmare for him too and you can definitely build that up. I will give him serious trouble. I am not going in like some other guy just staged, to ‘test myself’. I have been competing since I was young and I have made that mistake before, going in to see how I would do against somebody who I thought was good and then fighting out later in the match that ‘wow, I can hang with him.’
I am done with that type of attitude. I am going in there to beat him. I know I belong in there, I have proved it. I am going in there to finish him. And not just Anderson - every single fight I’ve had I am in going in there to finish. I would say 90 per cent of the guys who got in there withy Anderson have been scared of him. I’m not.
FO: That’s a great point to end our interview on! Thanks very much for the time and if you would like to give any shout-outs, the floor is yours…
Cool, thanks. I’d like to thank my sponsors Bad Boy and American Ethanol for all their support, plus my coaches, my manager and all my friends and family.
I’d also like to ask people to support me in this Edge Shaving Gel poll that’s running on the Edge website right now. If I won that it would be absolutely huge for me so if anyone reading this would take twenty seconds out of their day to click on the link and vote for me I would really appreciate that!