Every interview he does during fight week, every news conference and every media scrum, he’ll face the same set of questions. He knows it.
“These are the cards I was dealt,” former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman said. “I went out there to win these fights, I lost.”
Weidman, from Baldwin, will headline UFC’s first trip to his hometown on July 22 when he fights Kelvin Gastelum in Nassau Coliseum at UFC Long Island.
He’ll make his walk to the octagon inside the arena he grew up going to Islanders games at before it was renovated this past year. He’ll do so on a three-fight losing streak. He’ll do so having spent the previous week answering questions about how the once-undefeated and seemingly unstoppable champion could lose to Luke Rockhold, Yoel Romero and Gegard Mousasi.
“It’s something that I gotta move on from and focus on the future. I don’t let a loss or a setback define me,” Weidman said. “I’m not going to let that bother me. The greatest athletes of all time don’t. LeBron James, the Kobe Bryants, all these guys, they have bad games, they have bad weeks, they have bad months. But they find their way back.”
Weidman (13-3, 9-3 UFC) will attempt to do just that against Gastelum, a former “Ultimate Fighter” winner who will fight at middleweight after struggling several times to make the 171-pound limit for welterweight bouts. Gastelum (14-2, 8-2, 1 no contest) has won three fights in a row, the last of which — a first-round TKO of Vitor Belfort — was overturned to a no contest after Gastelum tested positive for marijuana metabolites.
There are things in Weidman’s head that he sees now that he could have done differently, be it in the fight or in camp or elsewhere that maybe would have made a difference. But that’s an alternate reality now. Yes, he threw that spinning back kick against Rockhold at UFC 194 in Las Vegas. Yes, he put his head on the wrong side when he shot in on Romero at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Yes, there was mass confusion about whether Mousasi’s knee strikes were legal and how that whole controversial ending played out at UFC 210 in Buffalo.
“I put a lot of work into this sport, a lot of time,” Weidman said. “I’ve had some setbacks now and I’m very motivated to show my skill set. It looks as if I’m on the downswing of my career if you look at my record. You come watch me train, I’m getting better. It’s not like I’m in here getting my [expletive] kicked in sparring and I’m trying to mentally push myself to think I’m still good. I’m still doing my thing in every element of MMA.
“I just have to make it work on fight night.”
That fight night will occur 15 minutes from where he grew up. It will happen across the street from where he was a two-time All-American wrestler for Nassau Community College. It will take place across the other street from where he was a two-time All-American wrestler for Hofstra. It will unfold a three-minute drive from the gym he spent the past nine years of his life training in mixed martial arts, the gym he now co-owns with Ray Longo, his trainer for his entire career.
“This,” Weidman said, “is going to be one of these things I’ll be able to take with me for the rest of my life.”
|CHRIS WEIDMAN’S UFC FIGHT HISTORY|
|March 3, 2011||UFC on Versus||Alessio Sakara||Won by unanimous decision|
|June 11, 2011||UFC 131||Jesse Bongfeldt||Won by submission, Round 1, 4:54|
|Nov. 19, 2011||UFC 139||Tom Lawlor||Won by submission, Round 1, 2:07|
|Jan. 28, 2012||UFC on Fox 2||Demian Maia||Won by unanimous decision|
|July 11, 2012||UFC on Fuel TV 4||Mark Munoz||Won by KO, Round 2, 1:37|
|July 6, 2013||UFC 162||Anderson Silva||Won by KO, Round 2, 1:18|
|Dec. 28, 2013||UFC 168||Anderson Silva||Won by TKO (injury), Round 2, 1:18|
|July 5, 2014||UFC 175||Lyoto Machida||Won by unanimous decision|
|May 23, 2015||UFC 187||Vitor Belfort||Won by TKO, Round 1, 2:53|
|Dec. 12, 2015||UFC 194||Luke Rockhold||Lost by TKO, Round 4, 3:12|
|Nov. 12, 2016||UFC 205||Yoel Romero||Lost by KO, Round 3, 0:24|
|April 8, 2017||UFC 210||Gegard Mousasi||Lost by TKO, Round 2, 3:13|
|July 22, 2017||UFC Long Island||Kelvin Gastelum|
Photographers: Chris Ware, Raychel Brightman
Video editors: Greg Inserillo, Raychel Brightman