Chris Weidman has been the face of mixed martial arts in New York throughout much of his professional career.
But when one looks at the poster for UFC 205, the promotion’s first ever event in New York City, Weidman’s name and face are nowhere to be found.
The Long Island native finds himself in an unusual position entering his bout against Yoel Romero on Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden. Instead of being asked to carry a card in his hometown, Weidman is taking a back seat to three championship fights, headlined by a lightweight title fight between champion Eddie Alvarez and superstar Conor McGregor. The welterweight title also will be defended by Tyron Woodley against Stephen Thompson, while Joanna Jedrzejczyk defends her strawweight belt against Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
“I’ve been fighting for the title for the past four years, so there’s a lot of media and coverage and excitement every time you fight for the title,” Weidman said. “This time I’m not on all the commercials and all that stuff for the first time.”
This is Weidman’s first non-title bout since July 2012 when he knocked out Mark Munoz with a standing elbow in the second round. A title run followed with two wins over Anderson Silva, plus wins over Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort. A loss to Luke Rockhold last December was the first of his career and ended his reign after 888 days.
He’s not the main attraction at MSG, but Weidman is taking everything in stride, saying there’s less pressure and attention on him than past fights. He’s more focused on realizing a career-long dream than his placement on the card.
“I know when I walk into that arena, it’s going to be crazy. There’s going to be a lot of support and this has been a dream for a long time to make that walk into Madison Square Garden,” Weidman said. “So it doesn’t put extra pressure on me, it’s going to give me some extra excitement the day of, but I already put so much pressure on myself to go out there and dominate and finish these guys that fighting in New York isn’t going to change that.”
There is, perhaps, one reason Weidman is upset he’s not the main event.
“Yoel Romero, I’d love to drag him into a five-round fight,” Weidman said.
For the first time since a January 2012 win over Demian Maia, Weidman is scheduled for three rounds instead of five. Weidman believes the longer the fight goes, the better chance he has to get a finish.
“His gas tank is suspect,” Weidman said of Romero. “It’s just science, the guy has too much muscle and the lactic acid builds up.”
The three-round format might work to Romero’s advantage on fight night, but Weidman has tried to use it to his benefit in training, changing up his camp to stay healthy and adapt to a shorter fight.
“Way less chance of getting injured when you’re only training for three rounds,” Weidman said. “When you’re doing five rounds every time you spar, or more like six rounds sometimes, with different guys trying to get your cardio up, those two extra rounds are so huge.”
With only three rounds worth of cardio needed for this fight, the amount of training Weidman was used to became excessive.
“I got to the point when I was fighting five-round fights, I’d be done with the third round and I was not tired, but after the fourth I’d start getting tired and then into the fifth,” Weidman said. “Now only fighting three, I’m dialing down. I’m doing less training; you have to train less.”
A shorter fight means Romero may be able to put constant pressure on Weidman, but the former champion is preparing for anything.
“It’s always different with these guys that have that explosiveness,” Weidman said. “It’s either they lay back and they don’t do much because they’re scared of getting tired, and they get tired anyway, or they go for it and either finish the fight or they’re exhausted and get run through, so it’s going to be up to him what he decides to do.”