This Saturday, Chris Weidman will fight for the first time in nearly a year. Even better for the New York native, he’ll get to do it in Madison Square Garden in perhaps the most-hyped UFC event in history.
“It’s awesome, man,” Weidman said in studio on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I’ve been fighting for almost eight years now, and when I first started out, I had to fight in New Jersey. That was kind of my home away from home. I haven’t fought back on the East Coast since before the UFC. So now to be back and to be back in New York and to be a part of the first MMA card ever, it’s historical. To be able to have my friends, my family, my fans be able to just take the Long Island railroad right in to Penn Station, walk upstairs to Madison Square Garden and watch me in the center of a cage is just a dream come true.”
Weidman, 32, will face Yoel Romero, 39, at UFC 205 in a middleweight bout. While Weidman is excited to fight at MSG, he doesn’t necessarily think he’ll feel any added pressure.
“I don’t know, man,” he said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself just to go out there and dominate every single time. I don’t know if I could add any more pressure, but I think it’s going to be extra excitement. I think for the first time maybe I won’t get booed. I’ve gone against so many veterans of the sport and so many legends and they’ve had such huge fan bases, and I’d be out in Vegas and they’d have their countries flying in from Brazil, and I hear the boos. This time, I think we’ll have some cheers.”
Weidman (13-1) began his career 13-0 with wins over Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort, among others, before losing to Luke Rockhold at UFC 194 last December.
Weidman hasn’t fought since.
“I had my first career loss against Luke Rockhold in December,” he said. “We scheduled an instant rematch to get that bet back in June, and two weeks before that, I had to pull out because of my neck.”
Weidman had two herniated discs.
“I had a serious neck issue that was miserable, and I had to pull out of the fight,” he said. “I couldn’t fight with it. I spent a lot of time going to different doctors and I got this non-invasive surgery and it’s unbelievable. Six weeks later, I was completely cleared to do anything I want, and I’ve had no setbacks at all.”
Weidman is eager to prove the doubters – such as they are – wrong. After all, the former champ is about as respected as they come. Still, staying hungry has never been an issue for him.
“It’s definitely a real thing,” Weidman said, referring to fighters who lose their drive. “I surround myself with the same people I’ve been around with since the beginning. If I start coming to the gym and not having that drive, they’d look at me and just be like, ‘What the heck are you doing?’ I am more obsessed with this than I’ve ever been. I’m more obsessed with kind of proving myself. Now I’m in a position where I have doubters and I’ve lost my last fight, and I have extra incentive to prove them wrong. I think that drives me more than anything. And then of course my first fight in Madison Square Garden – I can’t let the people down, man. I got to go out there and dominate.”