Two mistakes, two losses.
Now many in the mixed martial arts world think Chris Weidman — the once undefeated, undisputed UFC middleweight champion who ripped through legends of the sport — is on the wrong side of his prime.
“You’re gonna have setbacks. You can’t let that hold you down,” the Baldwin-raised Weidman said. “Your setback is a platform for your comeback.”
Weidman lost the title to Luke Rockhold in December 2015. In the third round of a fairly even fight, he threw an ill-advised spinning back kick that didn’t connect. It led to a takedown, a pounding and a fourth-round TKO.
In his next fight, Weidman (13-2) made a technical error in which he shot in with his head toward the left leg of southpaw Yoel Romero. One flying knee later, Weidman sat bloodied and defeated inside the octagon at Madison Square Garden.
“I have all these people writing me off right now. More than ever,” Weidman said. “The excitement that gives me to know when I win this next fight, to shut them all up and bring them back on the team is gonna be a fun feeling.”
Weidman returns Saturday at UFC 210 in Buffalo against Gegard Mousasi, another top-tier middleweight in a division that has grown deeper and deeper over the past few years.
Weidman wants his performance on Saturday to communicate a message to other fighters, the fans on his side and, of course, those in doubt of the 32-year-old Serra-Longo fighter.
“Let them know, no, I’m not gone, I’m actually here to take over this division, which I’m gonna do,” Weidman said. “I’m gonna take over this division at middleweight and I’m gonna go up to 205 and I’m gonna win the belt up there. That’s the plan. That’s gonna happen. Right now people don’t see that. I see it, though, and so it’s gonna be a fun time for me April 8 to show the beginning of that comeback.”
Two straight losses will bring out the negativity from fans in online forums and social media. Weidman used to read MMA forums a lot. Not so much now.
“It was too heartbreaking through the losses to go on there,” he said. “No matter how mentally strong you are, when you see things consistently, it can start bringing you down and I need to be around positivity. I’m not dumb. I know what people are thinking. I don’t have to read any articles, but I know they’re out there. And I see social media stuff sometimes. I don’t look too much and if I look, I’m kinda like squinting. If it’s a bad one, I close my eyes. If it’s a good one, I’ll open up.”
Mousasi (41-6-2), a former Strikeforce champion, is on a four-fight win streak, including three straight by TKO in either the first or second round.
“I know how Chris Weidman’s going to fight,” Mousasi said on last week’s UFC 210 conference call. “He’s going to come forward, he’s going to try to put the pressure on me, work on the cardio, do some wrestling, do some striking, but end of the day I’m prepared. I know exactly what he’s going to do.”
Weidman said he probably had too many things going on during his previous couple of training camps.
“My focus wasn’t undivided,” Weidman said. “It needs to be. I need to be selfish. I need to make those sacrifices. This camp I am.”
That meant not traveling to Las Vegas with brother-in-law Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson for his rematch against welterweight champion Tyron Woodley on March 4. Nor did he go to Brazil with longtime friend and training partner Gian Villante for his fight against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua a week later.
Instead, the former champion remained on Long Island to train both body and mind for such a critical fight. Weidman said he feels great mentally and even better physically.
“Right now, I’m not going to hold back a thing,” Weidman said. “I’m going to be a Tasmanian devil in there, whatever I feel, I’m doing. There’s no stopping me right now.”