It was a notion which made its way around the mixed martial arts world after UFC 205, and it wasn’t exactly said in hushed tones: Chris Weidman needs to take a step down in competition next time he fights.
Weidman, after all, was brutally knocked out by Yoel Romero at Madison Square Garden for his second straight loss via stoppage. So it would seem to make sense for the Long Island native to take a step back.
But the former UFC middleweight champion is having none of that talk. During a recent appearance on The MMA Hour, Weidman said their was no hesitation in accepting his killer April 8th matchup in Buffalo against Gegard Mousasi.
“I want to get that belt back and fighting the toughest guys in the division is the way to do that,” Weidman said. “I don’t take that last loss and think I need to be some guys who aren’t on my level up to get my confidence back. I know exactly what I did wrong and what I have to do differently, so I don’t need to fight any guys to get my confidence level up. I’m just as confident as i was. I feel like Mousasi is a great fight for me to get back on my winning ways and get close to fighting for the title again.”
After winning his first 13 career fights, Weidman found himself twice on the wrong end of bad results . First, at UFC 194, he lost the title to Luke Rockhold in a bout in which referee Herb Dean came under intense criticism for the amount of time he allowed Weidman to take a beating. Then, at UFC 205, came the loss to Romero.
But it wouldn’t be like Weidman to take a step down in competition, so after flirting with a meeting with Robert Whittaker, the Mousasi opportunity presented itself and Weidman obliged.
“I think this was the only real option,” Weidman said. “At first they mentioned Whittaker which we were cool with, then they said Mousasi which we were cool with. It was a matter of when we were going to do it, it was a date issue. I was still healing up and I didn’t want to jump the gun and sign up for a fight that I wasn’t going to be prepared for. April 8 is perfect, I think Mousasi is a perfect opponent, he’s been calling me out so it’s even a bit more motivating to give him a beating, so I’m pretty excited with how this worked out.”
If Weidman ever did have any doubts about whether he wanted this fight, Mousasi made it easy by trolling him at every available opportunity, including implying on Twitter that Weidman was “scared.”
Given that Weidman has fought everyone from Anderson Silva on his eight-year win streak to Lyoto Machida to Rockhold to Romero, you can understand why Weidman laughed off that claim.
“He was implying on Twitter as if I turned down a fight with him,” Weidman said. “Which was one of those things like I’ve never turned down a fight in my life, so right away my ego is going in like this guy wants me to start cursing him out and going nuts and telling everyone the truth. I’m like whatever, let’s get this date and get the fight signed. Once he started talking, I was like this is the guy I want, I’m going to make him pay, but I didn’t feel like going on a whole Twitter rant about it. I just made sure this fight was the one that was going to happen.”
By the time Weidman takes the cage in Buffalo, he’ll be 23 months removed from his last victory, his first-round finish of Vitor Belfort at UFC 187. Weidman, for his part, says he hasn’t even stopped to think about it.
“I don’t have time to think about these things,” Weidman said. “I’ve got three kids to raise and I’m training. As far as Google and all this stuff, I’m bad with dates to begin with. I’m feeling better than ever right now, based on my last two fights it’s hard to talk the talk, but my last fight I feel I was winning up until I made a mistake and he capitalized.”
Indeed, Weidman believes at UFC 210, a back-to-basics approach will get him back into the win column.
“This next fight, a lot of mistakes I made the last two fights, this fight is going to be going back to the old me, going back to beating the crap out of people.”