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UFC's Chris Weidman: 'I have to win this fight'

Middleweight Chris Weidman of Baldwin, trains with Ray

Middleweight Chris Weidman of Baldwin, trains with Ray Longo in Garden City. (Sept. 9, 2010) Credit: James Escher

The narrative of Chris Weidman's fight acceptance last week dictates a no-lose situation for the rising middleweight from Baldwin.

Only, Weidman sees things a little differently about his decision to agree to fight Demian Maia on 11 days' notice in UFC on Fox 2 this Saturday. Just getting into the cage and doing the UFC a big favor doesn't make it a win-win in his eyes.

"I have to win this fight," Weidman said. "I can't look at it like a win-win because then it gives me an excuse to lose."

Normally if a fighter loses, he drops a few pegs in the division. But when a fighter takes a bout on such short notice, especially against a top-tier mixed martial artist such as Maia, there would be a bit of amnesty. A free pass of sorts.

No such thing for Weidman (7-0, 3-0 UFC), not the way he sees it. This is an opportunity to make a name for himself. Since joining the UFC in February 2011, Weidman has steadily moved up the prospect list. A win over Maia (15-3) catapults Weidman from developing prospect to legitimate contender at middleweight.

"He's not so known like the other guys like Chael [Sonnen] and Mike [Bisping], but he's as tough as those guys," Maia said. "Maybe not so experienced like those guys, but he's very tough. He has never lost. He has a good record, and the thing is, I was training for a striker like Mike."

Maia was originally scheduled to fight Bisping, who was elevated to the co-main event against Sonnen after an injury to Sonnen's original opponent, Mark Munoz. The main event on Saturday features Rashad Evans against Phil Davis.

Bisping is known more for his striking, whereas Weidman is a wrestler. He was a two-time All-American wrestler at both Nassau CC and Hofstra. Maia is a black belt in Brazilian jiujitsu and is considered one of the best on the ground at middleweight (185 pounds).

Weidman last fought in November when he choked out Tom Lawlor in the first round at UFC 139 in San Jose, Calif. It was a submission that elevated Weidman's status and put him in a position to receive such a call from the UFC. Rousimar Palhares was the UFC's first choice to fight Maia, but he turned it down having just fought in Brazil on Jan. 14. Weidman got the call on Jan. 17. At first, it sounded as if Maia would be taken off the UFC on Fox 2 card, but he stressed that he wanted to fight then.

"Within the half-an-hour between the two phone calls, I became so pumped up to fight Demian Maia," Weidman said. "I didn't care when it was. So when they told me I was going to fight him in a week, you know what, let's do this. I have a lot of respect for him, and I'm excited to get out there and test myself."

Weidman has become accustomed to cramming training into a small window of time. In his UFC debut last March against Alessio Sakara, Weidman had just 17 days to prepare for the veteran fighter and elite boxer. Weidman beat Sakara by unanimous decision.

"We only live once," Weidman said. "Some people never have opportunities like this given to them, and who am I to just turn that away?"

New York Sports