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Chris Weidman cuts weight with a little help from his friends

Gian Villante, right, feeds chewing gum to training

Gian Villante, right, feeds chewing gum to training partner and UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman during his weight cut in Las Vegas on Thursday, May 21, 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger

LAS VEGAS - Cutting a significant amount of weight in a short amount of time never is easy. Still, Chris Weidman smiled throughout the process.

It's tiring, physically and mentally. Still, Chris Weidman cracked a few jokes and had his people laughing.

"You guys are still here?" Weidman asked after riding a stationary bike for close to 30 minutes late Thursday night. "Is it me or has this been a long time?"

At that point, the UFC middleweight champion from Baldwin was more than two hours into the weight-cutting process. He weighed around 202 pounds when he first stepped into the fitness center at Palms Place, and 192 when he left.

"The whole week, his attitude was great," trainer Ray Longo said. "Now it gets a little tough taking those last couple pounds off."

By Friday at 4 p.m., Weid- man needed to be at 185 pounds to defend his title against Vitor Belfort at UFC 187 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena late Saturday night. He got there easily.

"I feel like I'm eating a little more, so I have better energy throughout the week," Weid- man said, attributing the change for this fight week to his new nutritionists at Perfecting Athletes.

Before Weidman began his weight cut, a standard practice for mixed martial arts fighters, his crew from back home sat waiting for him in the main entrance. It included Longo and Matt Serra. Serra is Weidman's Brazilian jiujitsu instructor and a member of his corner on fight night. Those two had to be there.

But these three fellows -- Eddie Gordon, Al Iaquinta and Aljamain Sterling -- didn't need to spend their Thursday evening there. All three are UFC fighters. All three are from Long Island. All three are part of the Serra-Longo fight team and train with Weidman at their gym in Garden City.

They made the trip to Las Vegas to watch Weidman's fight. They made the trip to the weight cut because they all know what Weidman is about to go through and how important their presence is.

"I think it's great everybody wanted to support him," Longo said, his face going from tense workout mode to smiling, proud team leader. "They know how hard it is to cut weight. Just having your teammates around makes it a little easier, that they actually care enough not to be running wild on the Strip. They're with him making the weight cut. It's a great feeling. It's a great feeling for the team. We have everybody."

This isn't a story about how fast Weidman pedaled on the bike, or how long he shadowboxed and hit pads in tight spaces under ceiling fans and amid basic gym equipment.

It's not about how he sweated through his 2002 Section 8 wrestling champions sweatshirt or his Hofstra wrestling sweatshirt or the rubber sauna suits.

It's not about how he alternated between the cold-water pool and the hot-water whirlpool, or how he watched "The Godfather" on his iPad during that time.

It is, however, a story of friendship, loyalty, teamwork and fighters' bonds. Gian Villante, a UFC light heavyweight whose name appeared right under Weidman on that 13-year-old high school sweatshirt, was there the entire time feeding Weidman chewing gum or running a mile or so back to their hotel suite to get more clothes and weight-cutting supplies. Iaquinta wore a T-shirt from their gym back home -- Longo and Weidman MMA.

"It's a great morale boost," Longo said. "Our team is tight. Everybody's pulling for everybody. Everybody cheers for everybody. It's a very dynamic team. Again, not the biggest team, but definitely the tightest team."


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