Chris Weidman was nervous. Nauseous, in fact. The former UFC middleweight champion was gripped with anxiety and the fear of losing.
“I felt like I was going to throw up,” he said.
But this wasn’t moments before he would do battle at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden last November. This was three weeks ago while watching his 4-year-old son, CJ, wrestle for the first time.
“I’m worried about if he loses, he’s going to get destroyed and he’s going to hate it,” Weidman said during a lunch break this week. “In a one-on-one sport, if you get manhandled in front of everybody, it can scar you. I was worried that could happen. He’s only 4, and he was wrestling 5- and 6-year-olds. I’ve never felt so nauseous in all my life.”
CJ won his first match, a second and then a third, finishing the tournament unbeaten. His father, who also served as his coach, couldn’t have been prouder.
“It’s been a very selfish life when it comes to sports,” Weidman said. “It’s always been about me and what I’m accomplishing. This is the first time I’ve been obsessed with somebody else and what’s going to happen. The anxiety was unbelievable. But he showed toughness and he showed instincts. I’m not sure where he gets it from.”
The old man’s toughness will be tested April 8, when Weidman (13-2), the UFC’s third-ranked middleweight, takes on fifth-ranked Gegard Mousasi (41-6-2) in a non-title bout at UFC 210 in Buffalo. Daniel Cormier defends his UFC light heavyweight title against Anthony Johnson in the main event.
Weidman, a native of Baldwin, is coming off a bitter defeat at UFC 205, where he was stopped by Yoel Romero in the third round of a non-title bout. Weidman was knocked out when he tried to shoot for a takedown and was kicked in the head with a flying knee.
“It was a tactical mistake,” Weidman said. “When you’re going against a southpaw, you’re never supposed to shoot your head to the power side, the left side of the body. I thought I was ready to break him, but I put my head on the wrong side just as he happened to be coming up with a knee at the same time. Next thing you know, the moment I had been waiting for, being in Madison Square Garden in front of my family and fans and putting so much effort into getting [MMA] legalized, I’m sitting there with blood running down my face, asking myself, ‘Is this really happening?’ ”
Weidman said the stunning loss was “a very tough thing,” but despite it being his second straight defeat, he hasn’t lost confidence he’ll regain the title he won in 2013 by being the first UFC challenger to defeat the great Anderson Silva.
“This is where champions show what they’re made of and who they really are,” said Weidman, 32. “I feel better than I’ve ever felt. I feel more motivated than I’ve ever felt. Every time you have a setback, it’s an opportunity for a comeback.”
Buffalo was one of the cities Weidman visited when urging New York State lawmakers to pass a bill legalizing MMA. He made speeches, shook plenty of hands and assured locals the UFC would make one of its first visits to their city. Weidman said he is excited to fulfill his promise in what will be the fourth UFC event in the state since the bill was passed a year ago.
“I get to give those fans something they’ve missed out on for a long time,” Weidman said. “I get to give them the comeback story. It’s going to be a fun night.”