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UFC champ Chris Weidman has this thing about losing

Chris Weidman prepares for a sparring session on

Chris Weidman prepares for a sparring session on May 7, 2015, ahead of his middleweight title defense against Vitor Belfort at UFC 187 in Las Vegas on May 23. Credit: Newsday / Mark La Monica

Refuse to lose.

The catchy phrase kind of rhymes, works well on T-shirts and conveniently takes up just 13 characters in social media when adding the hashtag symbol.

But to Chris Weidman, the UFC middleweight champion from Baldwin, those three words represent everything. They symbolize his transformation from talented but underachieving All-American wrestler to undefeated world champion in mixed martial arts.

Weidman, 30, first came across the phrase on the back of the football team's T-shirt when he attended Baldwin High School.

"I always thought it was pretty cool, I liked it," Weidman said. "And then when I finally understood it, it was years later when I started MMA. I decided you know what, I'm just done losing. I'm not losing to any of these guys any more, I'm done."

Weidman rose to the top of his sport and makes his third title defense Saturday against Vitor Belfort at UFC 187 in Las Vegas.

Making such a decision is easy. Sticking with it takes fortitude. Physically, Weidman possesses all the tools. Now, his mental game may be even better than his wrestling and jiujitsu, a martial art in which he earned his black belt under Matt Serra earlier this month.

Weidman referred to himself as a "choke artist" when he was in college. Yes, he was a four-time All-American -- twice at Nassau Community College and twice at Hofstra. But he never won a national championship.

"I wasn't mature enough to be that hardest working guy in the room, and I'd lose," Weidman said. "I was like, 'I'm not meant to be the person I thought I could be. I'm not meant to be a champion and a guy that accomplishes his goals and dreams.' There was a time I thought that, that's just kind of me. MMA gave me one more shot, one more shot to change all that."

Tom Shifflet, Weidman's coach at Hofstra for his senior year, remembered a very competitive wrestler who had a good work ethic.

"Chris is Chris and he's going to be a little difficult on himself because he's an elite athlete and he looks at things a little different," Shifflet said. "If that's what he needed to give him the drive or help him get to that next level, good for him. If he takes something he feels he didn't succeed at it and uses it now, that's great."

Weidman won his first four fights and the middleweight championship in Ring of Combat, a respected regional promotion based out of New Jersey. Six fights later, in July 2013, he stood victorious inside the UFC's octagon with a knocked-out Anderson Silva -- considered the greatest MMA fighter ever -- below him.

Weidman (12-0, 8-0 UFC) then beat Silva in the rematch later that year and found a way to, with an injured left hand that significantly limited his training, outlast Lyoto Machida last summer.

"One thing I'd like to steal from him, not his reach, not his jiujitsu, not his wrestling, I'd really just like to take a little of what he's got mentally and how strong he is," said UFC light heavyweight Gian Villante, Weidman's closest friend and training partner from Levittown.

"It doesn't matter to him who he's fighting at any time. Best guy in the world, best guy to ever go inside the cage, he doesn't care. He thinks he's knocking the person out, which is crazy to me, but it's really not because he believes it and it works."

So much so, the Long Island accent disappears, the exact syllables are pronounced and the pacing turns deliberate when Weidman says "I am not going to lose."

He refuses.

"I'm the champion. Everybody wants a piece of me. Everybody's giving me their best," Weidman said. "People want to do good against me, and I can never give anybody an inch. That's the goal for me and that's what keeps me motivated, whether it's sparring, jiujitsu, wrestling. I can't take a day off. Everybody's out to get me. I gotta win every day. That's why it becomes a habit when I step into the octagon."

New York Sports