Chris Weidman will put his middleweight title on the line at UFC 181 in December. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Chris Weidman will defend the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight crown at UFC 181 on Dec. 6, when he faces Vitor Belfort at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
Weidman in an exclusive interview with Sherdog.com spoke about the upcoming clash with Belfort, who after a tearful appeal was licensed by the Nevada Athletic Commission under the condition that he submit to random drug testing. The 6-foot-2 Weidman also addressed the fact that mixed martial arts still is not legalized in his native New York, where he admits to having entertained the idea of a future super fight against UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones:
Sherdog.com: What our thoughts on Belfort as a threat to your unbeaten record, given that he is an aging warrior who appears to be rejuvenated?
Weidman: I have respect for him, and I have respect for the cage. Anybody who is going to step into the cage, I have respect for. The second that I don’t have respect for someone in there is the second that it would take for me to lose that belt. That being said, my reign as champion is going to be a long one, and no one is going to take this belt form me for a long, long time.
Sherdog.com: Given that Belfort was granted a Nevada license during what was a tearful hearing, what are your thoughts on the notion that he will not be on testosterone replacement therapy for your fight?
Weidman: I didn’t see the hearing. I was in the pool with my kids and I lost track of time, but I did want to see the way that it played out; but soon after it was over, I found out what happened. Do I think that he’s going to do something sneaky? I wouldn’t be surprised, because he’s gotten caught cheating now twice. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does something stupid again. My biggest concern is that he gets caught again. Even if he’s taking something, I don’t care. Just don’t get caught doing it, because I want to fight him whether he’s on something or not. That’s the fight that I want, and he’s the guy that I want to beat up.
Sherdog.com: Can you discuss Belfort’s hand speed against your grappling, wrestling and jiu-jitsu, as well as your striking abilities -- the latter of which were evident against Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva -- and how that will mesh in the fight?
Weidman: I think that I’m a versatile individual, and I pretty much feel like I can do anything that I want to do in there. I can stand and bang and knock him out, or I feel as if I can take him down and submit him. Nothing’s going to come easily, and I always expect some resistance, but if someone had yelled out and told me that this is what I had to do, I am getting the job done, whether they told me to submit him or knock him out. I’m going to get it done.
Sherdog.com: Is this a dangerous fight or a potential career-ender for Belfort, who, due to his age, could be more vulnerable than ever?
Weidman: I’m not saying that I’m going to end his career. I don’t like to sort of dictate people’s lives. All that I know is that I’ve got to go out there on Dec. 6, and I’ve got to beat him. Whatever happens with him after that is up to him; but again, people have asked me that, like they did with my first fight with Anderson: ‘Do I want to retire him?’ Same thing with Machida. But my goal is not to do that at all. I don’t want to hurt people’s livelihoods. If they love what they’re doing, I want them to keep doing that.
Sherdog.com: How has your life changed as champion?
Weidman: Financially, I’m in a much better spot to where I can focus more on my family in between camps and yet still try to get better with training and with fighting at the same time. When I had no money, there was no hanging around in the pool with my kids. I had to be doing private lessons or teaching a class or working somewhere. I had to find a way to make money, but now, because financially I’m in a better place [and] I’m wearing the belt, I can hang out with my family more often.
Sherdog.com: Do you ever see MMA legalization in New York becoming a reality?
Weidman: I think that the more people like you take the time to interview guys like me and the more pressure that we can put on, the better the chances of MMA being legalized in New York.
Sherdog.com: What have your explanations been to those who have asked, “Hey, Chris, when are you going to fight at The Garden?”
Weidman: My explanation is that it is legal in every other state in the country and it’s legal pretty much any other place in the world and that there is virtually no other place on this planet where you can’t fight and participate in a mixed martial arts event other than here in New York, where there are two champions from there right now. I went down and I lobbied about getting MMA legalized in New York. I met with [state] senators at summit events and I’ve seen the overwhelming amount of support that we have. That’s why it passes with flying colors in the senate every year. It’s just not got voted in.
Sherdog.com: Have you been to Madison Square Garden for any event and if so, have you thought about what it would be like to perform there as the UFC middleweight champion?
Weidman: I’ve been to tons of events at Madison Square Garden ever since I was a little kid, but that would be a dream for me to fight in New York and at Madison Square Garden. Being from around New York and being able to have all of my friends and family and my fans being able to take a train from the Long Island Railroad right to Madison Square Garden -- that would be crazy. That would really be a dream come true, and yes, I often think about it.
Sherdog.com: What events have you attended there?
Weidman: I’ve been to boxing events, to kickboxing events. Those are two of the combat sports that I’ve been there and watched -- nothing big. I’ve seen the Golden Gloves there.
Sherdog.com: Have you ever thought about what it would be like to have an all-New York battle of champions between yourself and Jon Jones at, say, Madison Square Garden, if you moved up and fought him at 205 pounds?
Weidman: That would be absolutely, absolutely insane. That would be ridiculous. I can’t even put words to how incredible that would be. As far as the economic impact that would affect New York, the numbers would be ridiculous