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Former UFC champion Chris Weidman moving up to light heavyweight

UFC middleweight Chris Weidman, from Baldwin, prepares for

UFC middleweight Chris Weidman, from Baldwin, prepares for his upcoming fight during a training session at Longo & Weidman MMA in Garden City on Oct. 25, 2018. Photo Credit: Newsday/Mark La Monica

The move always has been part of his plan, even when he held the UFC middleweight title. But now Chris Weidman has made it official: He is moving up to the light heavyweight division.

After going 1-4 in his last five fights at middleweight, including losing his title to Luke Rockhold in 2015, and a string of injuries that continually kept him on the sidelines, the Baldwin-raised Weidman is ready to see what it’s like to compete at 205 pounds.

“I want to see how my body feels not having to deplete itself and see if not I’m getting injured as much, because obviously that’s been an issue,” Weidman said at UFC 238 in Chicago on Saturday night.

Weidman (14-4) has had two surgeries since his last bout, a third-round knockout loss to Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza last November at Madison Square Garden. Before that, he beat Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Long Island at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum in the summer of 2017.

“Being at 205, I think there could be less chance of me getting injured, with weight training and my joints aren’t getting dehydrated,” said Weidman, who turns 35 later this month. “I’m not holding back on the amount of nutrients I’m taking in. I’m just kind of taking in what my body needs.”

Weidman won the middleweight title on July 6, 2013, by becoming the first person to knock out Anderson Silva, who had reigned as champion for nearly seven years. Weidman successfully defended his title three times, the second longest streak in UFC history behind Silva’s 10.

“I’ve accomplished my goals at 185,” Weidman said. “I’ve had that belt wrapped around me four different times.”

Weidman always had talked about wanting to move up to light heavyweight at some point in his career. He had planned to defend his middleweight title several more times, then move up to challenge Jon Jones. But after losing the title to Rockhold, it became more about getting the title back. As he struggled to get back into contention, between injuries and knockout losses to Yoel Romero, Gegard Mousasi and Souza, it became time to reassess his goals.

“I won’t be the biggest 205-pounder, that’s definitely for sure. But I don’t think I’ll be the smallest. I think I bring things to the table that could be an issue for a lot of those guys.”

Who would that first 205-pound opponent be? Weidman doesn’t seem to care right now.

“One side of me is like, ‘Listen, I’ve fought 10 or 11 top-five guys in a row,” Weidman said. “Is it the smart thing to fight a guy who is not on that level? Probably, but I like to take risks. High risk, high reward. The better the guy, the more people doubting, and I think that’s what truly motivates me and excites me.”

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