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SportsMixed Martial Arts

Everyone in Chris Weidman's corner plays a role during fight week

UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman loosens up before

UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman loosens up before a workout at the TUF Gym in Las Vegas on Tuesday, May 19, 2015. Credit: Jeffrey Basinger

LAS VEGAS - Poor Gian Villante.

The light heavyweight UFC fighter from Levittown spent his Wednesday night in a converted warehouse getting his arms twisted, his neck cranked and his chest pounded by UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman. Then former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra jumped on Villante for more of the same -- for demonstration purposes.

Serra was the teacher, Weidman the student and Villante the heavy bag with arms and legs and a willing attitude.

"I have to be the heel, pretty much, just take the beating," Villante said. "It's not very comfortable for me, not very fun for me, but I'll do whatever it takes for this guy to get a win. It's all worth it once he beats this guy in a couple days."

That guy is Vitor Belfort, a former light heavyweight champion and Weidman's opponent Saturday at UFC 187 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

That's what good training partners do. They give themselves up during fight week so the guy who needs to drill techniques, stay fresh and cut weight can do just that.

"Poor Villante takes a beating from me during fight week," the undefeated Weidman said. "And then I take a beating from him during fight week for him."

When that pin slides into the hook to lock the door to the octagon, mixed martial arts is an individual sport. But all that time before fights, MMA has a strong team component.

"It is easier to be able to push yourself when somebody's there," sparring partner and UFC welterweight Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson said. "If you were there by yourself, it's like popping in a fitness DVD at home and doing about five minutes of it. There's no motivation."

From those who train and teach techniques in camp to those who buy the organic raw honey during fight week, everyone plays a role.

"It's crazy how many people I'm surrounded by now," Weidman said. "It's grown. I signed with a new management team [Paradigm]. We have new nutritionists, so out of nowhere I have this huge entourage around me helping me with everything I need to do."

This week, that includes training and recovery, proper eating and, of course, cutting weight to reach 185 pounds by Friday's 4 p.m. weigh-ins.

Six days and nights in Las Vegas is a long time, no matter what your reason is for coming to town. For Weidman, there is plenty of downtime in between workouts and interviews. Hello, video games.

And if you don't think Weidman and Villante take their battles on the pitch in the FIFA soccer game seriously, consider a shirtless Weidman sitting in the living room of his hotel suite with a game controller in his hands and acupuncture needles in his body.

"It's all about me being comfortable this week, having people that love me around me," said Weidman, who Thursday was joined in town by his family. "They're all here for the right reasons. They all want me to win and be successful."

New York Sports