LAS VEGAS - Chris Weidman draped an American flag around his shoulders as he walked toward the octagon Saturday night for UFC 175 at Mandalay Bay.
That has become a familiar scene during the past year for Weidman, the 30-year-old middleweight champion from Baldwin whose nickname just happens to be "The All-American."
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But that particular flag has a story beyond what the stars and stripes represent in American history.
It was flown in a P-3C "Orion" aircraft on an Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Mission in support of Horn of Africa Contingency Operations. It was presented to Weidman last February.
"It's pretty awesome that they went to war with it,'' Weidman told Newsday, "and I'm gonna go to war with it."
Weidman went five rounds with Lyoto Machida in an amazing display of mixed martial arts, human endurance and courage. Weidman won the fight by unanimous decision for his second consecutive title defense.
Weidman (12-0, 8-0 UFC) said someone from his hometown had reached out to a friend and told him about how they watched his fights. The story was relayed to Weidman, and the flag, signed by the troops, followed shortly after that.
"The one thing that would raise their spirits was getting together and watching my fights in Afghanistan," Weidman said. "They got in touch with me and said they'd be honored if I walked out with their flag."
Another successful mission for that flag. Weidman, too.