Chris Weidman’s lower leg shattered on contact. On the first strike of the fight.
Weidman threw a right leg kick that connected just below the knee of Uriah Hall during the middleweight bout at UFC 261 on Saturday night in Florida.
Weidman’s leg crumbled above the ankle on contact, and then it crumpled underneath him when he put the leg back down on the canvas. The brutal injury instantly reminded fans of when a similar injury happened to Anderson Silva in his rematch with Weidman at UFC 168 in December 2013.
"I got nothing but respect for Chris Weidman. He’s truly one of the best," Hall said after being awarded the TKO victory due to injury after the 17-second bout.
The broadcast never cut back to Weidman until his right leg was in a compression boot and he was being lifted off the mat on a stretcher and carried out of the octagon. Two replays were shown of the strike but not before the announcers warned viewers what would happen.
"I heard a click. I thought it was a slap, but I didn’t feel the slap on my calf, so I was like, that’s gotta be his bone," Hall said at his post-fight news conference about checking Weidman's kick. "And when he landed, it clicked in."
The 36-year-old Weidman (15-6) was greeted with cheers by the 15,000 or so fans inside the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville as he was taken out of the arena and to a hospital. The UFC said Weidman was stabilized and will have surgery on Sunday.
"I wanted to put on a great performance, but man I feel so bad for him," said Hall (18-9), the No. 9 ranked middleweight in the UFC. "I hope he’s OK. I wish the family well if you guys are watching."
The fight was billed as a rematch of their bout in Ring of Combat in 2010 when they both were rising middleweight prospects in New York. Weidman, who grew up in Baldwin, gave the Queens-based Hall his first career loss then.
A decade later, the two remained among the top-ranked middleweights in the UFC, with Hall on a three-fight win streak and Weidman coming off a win last August and looking to put together one more run at the UFC middleweight title he defended successfully three times from 2013 to 2015.
"I think we both really had respect for each other because we played a part in molding each other to bring us to where we are right now," Hall said in his post-fight news conference.
It was only the third time in UFC history where a fighter broke a leg on a kick that immediately ended a fight, and two of them involved Weidman. At UFC 168, Weidman checked a kick from Silva that shattered his leg and sent him to the ground screaming in pain, only to be carried out on a stretcher shortly thereafter. Silva was 38 at the time of that injury and returned to the cage 13 months later.
"It’s only happened three times, to the two of the guys who are involved in it, the irony of it is crazy," UFC president Dana White said.
White did not want to speculate on how this will affect Weidman's future fighting career.
Silva posted a photo on Instagram of Weidman and a message of positivity and well-wishes for the man who took his title and then delivered the same leg-kick check that led to his broken leg.
"My deepest and most sincere sentiments champ," Silva wrote. "Have faith, I wish you a speedy recovery. In this moment I wish you and your family light, love and knowledge. To the fans of the sport, please respect this moment of this incredible warrior and let's wish that he is 100% very recovered soon. May God bless you and your family."
UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling tweeted support for his Serra-Longo teammate.
"I have no words," Sterling wrote. "I hope the leg can heal up 100%."
Light heavyweight Anthony Smith was doing his post-fight media availability when he heard about Weidman’s injury. He was emotional upon hearing the news as he and Weidman trained together for a couple weeks at Gym-O in North Carolina for their fights on Saturday.
"I don’t know how Chris Weidman’s ever lost after training with him," Smith said. "He’s the best guy I ever trained with. He just can’t catch a break."
Strapped onto the stretcher, his lower right leg in pieces under the skin and the protective boot covered by a blanket to prevent onlookers from seeing anything or taking any photos, Weidman raised his hand and pointed with his index finger toward the sky as the crowd clapped for the fallen gladiator as he was wheeled off the arena floor.
"I hope he recovers, and . . . whatever rank I am in the future, if he gets well, I owe him this fight," Hall said in the cage after the fight. "I hope he can come back from it. You’re one of the best, Chris."