Chris Weidman remembers the specifics of a fabled conversation Dana White tends to forget.
White, UFC president, loves to tell of the time Weidman came to him and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, guaranteeing not only two victories against Anderson Silva but two finishes against the greatest fighter of all time. White’s version leaves out his and Fertitta’s reaction, which Weidman can recount vividly a year and a half later.
“They laughed,” Weidman says. “They appreciated my confidence and liked to hear it, but I’m sure they were thinking to themselves, ‘All right, Anderson is going to kill this guy.’ It was hard to think of Anderson losing, let alone being finished, so I know it probably sounded far-fetched.”
But Weidman was serious—and prophetic. He took the UFC middleweight championship belt from Silva with a second-round knockout last year on the annual Fourth of July weekend card. Then, he proved he was the better fighter with another second-round stoppage in the rematch at the New Year’s Eve weekend event.
That brings us to this year’s International Fight Week. Weidman will headline UFC 175’s main event against Lyoto Machida Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, and he’s in a much better place. No more desperately pleading with bosses just for an opportunity against the best.
“I was fat, totally out of shape when I met with them,” Weidman recalls. “It was right after I had my shoulder surgery and when I got hit by Hurricane Sandy. It was in Chicago last January where I went backstage at a weigh-in and just told them to listen to me. I was so nervous.”
These days, Weidman is the one getting approached incessantly. The 30-year-old underestimated how much beating Silva would change his life. When he was a hot UFC prospect on the rise, Weidman could go out in public without causing a stir. His first Starbucks visit in his native Long Island, New York, after defending his belt changed all that.
“Even before I sat down, I noticed a guy looking at me weird,” Weidman says. “Next thing I know, he came up and then for about 45 minutes it was just one person after the other. I was stuck in there. I couldn’t ever even sit down.”
Weidman won’t complain. The benefits of his newfound notoriety knock out the challenges. For the first time in his life, he’s secure financially. Less than three and a half years ago, before the UFC signed him, Weidman was broke and living in his parent’s basement with his wife. Once they finally moved into their own home, Hurricane Sandy ravaged it in October 2012.
Weidman had to deal with the fallout from the natural disaster throughout his training for the first Silva fight.
“I had a lot of times where I couldn’t focus 100 percent on fighting, but I pushed through it,” Weidman says. “I bought a nicer house now that isn’t on the water, so I don’t have to worry about getting hit by a hurricane. It’s where I want to be.”
And Weidman is right where he always expected to be. No one is laughing anymore.
“It ended up working out,” he says. “Everything I said came through.”