LAS VEGAS - Chris Weidman, a few hours before he achieved athletic glory inside the octagon before more than 12,000 screaming fans, sat in his hotel room and cried.
And that's a perfectly normal thing for the UFC middleweight champion from Baldwin.
"Before I leave the hotel room, my mom, my sister and my wife -- pretty much the women of my life, we hold hands, just hang out and we just basically cry," Weidman said. "It's terrible. They turn me into a girl, they pray for me. It just needs to happen. It's what I need now. It's part of the ritual."
Who could argue with Weidman after he sat atop Vitor Belfort and pummeled him with fists and elbows until the referee stopped the fight 2 minutes, 53 seconds after it started Saturday night?
In many ways, Weidman (13-0, 9-0 UFC) is a creature of habit. Every time his name is announced before a fight, he raises his right hand toward the sky and circles around. He has most of the same people around him since he first won the title two years ago.
And he keeps facing the challenges put in front of him, overcoming them and turning doubters into believers.
"What questions could you have?" trainer Ray Longo said. "He definitely can take a punch. He's fought the best of the best. He's won in spectacular fashion. What questions could there be at this point? He took the best of what Belfort had for a short period of time and wasn't even fazed by it. This is a bad man."
"Bad" as in very good at what he does, which is win mixed martial arts fights by imposing his will and making opponents break mentally before he ever will.
Belfort (24-11), a former light heavyweight champion, earned his nickname "The Phenom" at age 19 for being extremely fast and explosive with his punches. Now 38, Belfort still possesses much of that speed and power. He caught Weidman with several uppercuts in the clinch early in the round. Weidman covered up and eventually got free. He followed with a double-leg takedown into half-guard, then mounted Belfort and pounded away until the fight ended.
"We're living the dream," Longo said. "We really are. Doing what we like to do and having a great time. We're the best in the world, man. It's not a bad feeling."
The bad feelings happen before the fight while Weidman still is in his hotel room. He's nervous. He feels the pressure of what's to come.
"From my hotel room, I'm like, 'Why do I do this? This is so stressful,' '' said Weidman, who won a $50,000 performance of the night bonus for beating Belfort. "Pressure's building up because it means so much to me to win, and you never know what's truly going to happen, so it's such a stressful situation. Then I get to the arena, I get on my feet and I start feeling athletic, I just feel like this is why I love this. This is why I'm meant to do this. This is my dream."
The most commonly asked question of fighters after a fight is what's next? For Weidman, the two likely options are Luke Rockhold and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza. He's fine with either fighter, but he did have one specific request.
"I'm not missing the Madison Square Garden fight, that's for sure," Weidman said. "That's all I really care about. Asking about Jacare or Rockhold, honestly, it doesn't matter. I want to fight either one of them, but in Madison Square Garden."
The UFC put a hold on the Garden for Saturday, Dec. 5, should the bill to legalize MMA in New York pass. After six straight years of being passed by the State Senate, the bill again rests in the Assembly, where it has more than 50 Democratic sponsors. The bill was discussed in the Assembly's Democratic conference earlier this month. Additional discussion likely will take place. New York's legislative session has four more weeks, and the bill would need to move out of the conference and through four Assembly committees before reaching the floor of the Assembly for a full vote.
"As long as I'm in that venue, I'm a happy man," Weidman said. "That's a dream."