Home breeds comfort and perspective.
So when Chris Weidman holds his two-month-old son Colten in his hands and sings R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” in the kitchen after a plate of sushi, he can forget about the 30-minute sparring session he put himself through a short time earlier.
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And when Weidman, the undefeated UFC middleweight champion who grew up in Baldwin and now lives in Dix Hills, plays with his three children and five nieces and nephews in the living room, he can extract himself from the task ahead of him next Saturday at UFC 194.
Weidman will make his fourth title defense next Saturday in Las Vegas against Luke Rockhold.
“He needs everybody around him,” said his mother, Mary Weidman. “Chris has always been like that. Friends and family are important to him.”
At times, he’s a well-trained mixed martial artist capable of breaking down his opponent physically and mentally. And then there are the times when he takes the garbage out to the curb at night, or the time when after pushing his body to its limit in training, he comes home to put up the Christmas tree.
This is the dichotomy of the fighter’s life. Weidman is not the first athlete to raise a family while competing on his sport’s biggest stage, or really, any size stage.
But amid his success as one of the world’s pound-for-pound best mixed martial artists, Weidman remains the same person. In a sport that often sees the outlandish orators rise up faster than their resumes would suggest, Weidman goes about his business in a respectful but personable manner.
“He’s under the pressure to try to live what people expect him to be but for him to consistently stay who he is. That’s a hard thing to do,” said his father Charlie Weidman. “I’m kind of proud, and I think many fans are respectful of that fact that Chris keeps it real.
“When the fighting game is over, he’ll still have his three kids, his wife. That is the foundation for him.”
That foundation comes with great sacrifice.
“When I’m in training and I’m tired and I want to give up, I think of them and what they’re sacrificing,” Weidman said of his wife, Marivi, and children Cassidy, C.J. and Colten. “She’s at home doing the homework with my daughter, putting them to bed, and all these things. It makes me work that much harder.”
Rockhold (14-2, 4-1) presents his share of challenges. The Californian is a former Strikeforce middleweight champion and has more of an a offensive ground game than Weidman’s recent opponents. Rockhold has won four straight fights, all by submission or knockout.
“To be a champion, you really have to keep that motivation,” said Ray Longo, Weidman’s trainer. “That’s the biggest part. And I think he’s doing that. He still has the desire and he still wants to prove a lot to the world.”
In work, Weidman’s proving ground is the octagon. In life, there’s a different shape: his inner circle. Weidman surrounds himself with family and friends in the hours before it’s time to go to work on fight night. At some point before leaving for the fight, he gathers with his mother, wife and sister for prayers.
“We go and pray, but what happens is we just all cry, even Chris,” his mother said. “We’re all crying and bawling and just loving each other.”
Not exactly the scene associated with a sport as physical and demanding as mixed martial arts. But such a juxtaposition keeps Weidman focused.
“There’s no more precious time in my life than the time before my fight when I’m with my family,” Weidman said. “It makes you appreciate them so much. You realize that’s who you’re fighting for and that’s who you have no matter if you win or lose.”