Sherdog Prospect Watch: Chris Weidman

By Brian Knapp Sep 25, 2009
Chris Weidman aims to introduce himself to the world this weekend in Barcelona, Spain, where he will compete in the Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling World Championships as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt.

The 25-year-old Baldwin, N.Y., native qualified for the prestigious competition after only eight months of formal jiu-jitsu training, having submitted James Brasco -- who captured a Brazilian jiu-jitsu world championship as a brown belt in 2007 -- to win the ADCC East Coast Trials in June. Though he faces an uphill climb against some of the world’s most accomplished black belts, Weidman has designs on upsetting the apple cart.

“I expect to win,” said Weidman, who will compete at 87.9 kilograms (192 pounds). “I know I’ve trained really hard, and I’m confident I can win. I’m going to leave it all out there.”

Groomed by former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra and respected striking coach Ray Longo, Weidman showed a surprising aptitude for submissions early in his development. Within three months, he had won his first Grappler’s Quest tournament -- in his weight class and the absolute division -- and submitted all 13 of his opponents. The ADCC tournament, held once every two years, represents a significant step up.

“I’m real excited,” Weidman said. “I get to go out and display everything I’ve been working on. It’s a big opportunity. I’m going to be on the stage with big UFC stars and will see where I fit in, with grappling at least. I really want to see where I’m at competitively. I’ve wrestled my whole life. I want to see where I stand with the top guys in the world.”

A four-time collegiate wrestling All-American at Nassau Community College and Hofstra University, Weidman defeated “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 light heavyweight winner Ryan Bader as a senior. He tried out for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, only to have a rib injury interrupt those plans. Instead, Weidman turned his attention to mixed martial arts and drew upon his roots.

“I think the day-in and day-out grind of wrestling got me physically and mentally prepared,” Weidman said. “I’ve been at the top of a sport. I know what it takes to get there. Developing that strength and your mental skills is a huge part of MMA.”

So far, the transition has been seamless. Weidman debuted with a keylock submission victory against Reubem Lopes at Ring of Combat 23 in February. Two months later, he stopped Mike Stewart on first-round punches under the same promotional umbrella.

“I thought they went good,” Weidman said. “I was happy with them. The first one ended in a submission. The second ended by TKO, so I got to use my hands and show my game was well-rounded.”

Though he has not yet had contact with a major promotion, Weidman and his handlers believe the call could come soon, especially if he performs well in Barcelona.

“I’ve only had two fights,” he said. “I’m still flying under the radar, but I feel like I can definitely compete at that level [in the UFC]. I also know that it’s smart for me to get a few wins under my belt [in smaller promotions]. Talent-wise, I’m right there.”

His confidence appears grounded and well-founded. Longo, who has trained and cornered fighters for more than two decades, likes what he sees from Weidman, who serves as an instructor at his gym in Garden City, N.Y.

“He’s a good listener and has a great work ethic,” Longo said. “Chris is a quick study, picks upon things quickly. His pedigree in wrestling, his background, his drive and burning desire to win is why I think he’ll succeed in MMA.”

Weidman recognizes the value in training and learning under proven veterans like Serra and Longo -- one a former UFC titleholder, the other his right-hand man. Experience cannot be priced.

“They’ve been there before,” Weidman said. “They’ve been in all the competitions. I look forward to learning more from them. Matt’s been a world champion, and Ray’s been a top trainer for years.”

Once he fulfills his commitment to the ADCC world championships, Weidman will again switch gears to his fledgling MMA career. Married one year ago, he and his wife are expecting their first child in March. There can be no better motivation.

“My short-term goal is to win my next fight and get into the bigger promotions and bigger money fights,” Weidman said. “My goal long-term is to become a UFC champion.”

He enjoys the mental challenges the sport presents on a fight-by-fight basis.

“There are so many different aspects to the sport,” Weidman said. “You can’t just be a dumb guy doing MMA. There’s such a huge mental part of the game, as well as physical.”

His combat sports aspirations notwithstanding, Weidman continues to pursue a Master’s degree in Physical Education at Hofstra University. A scholar and an athlete, he admits he never dreamed his career path would lead him into a cage, where men bleed and sweat in order to hammer out and honest living.

“I definitely did not see myself as a fighter,” he said. “Ten years ago, I wanted to be a professional hockey player. Five years ago, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I definitely didn’t see myself as an MMA guy.”


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