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Staying busy with MSG TV work during injury, Chris Weidman eyes interim title shot in UFC return

Chris Weidman has been sidelined with a thumb injury since beating Kelvin Gastelum over the summer. The former UFC middleweight champion’s schedule hasn’t exactly slowed down, though.

Weidman has been doing quite a bit of television work with MSG Network since the fall. It started with segments on specific shows, including a spot on a hockey program. And it has since grown to “Weidman’s World,” his own interview show where he sits down and hangs out with players from different New York area sports teams.

So far, Weidman says he has played Connect Four and Jenga with players from the New York Rangers and had on-ice competitions with athletes from the New York Islanders. Weidman, who was a prospective NHL player years ago, even took some of the Islanders to his Longo-Weidman MMA gym to to teach them mixed martial arts.

Weidman said he approaches the interviews from a different perspective than journalists do and that’s been the key to getting hockey players and others to be candid.

“A lot of these players, if you listen to the Islanders or the Rangers, they get interviewed in the locker room right after the game, it’s very structured answers,” Weidman told MMA Fighting. “They’re very protected. … Maybe coming from another athlete, maybe it’s easier to pull some of that stuff out of them. Maybe they’re not as guarded. I think that’s what’s happening. They can relax with me. I’m another athlete.”

On Tuesday night, Weidman himself will be featured on the MSG Network show “Beginnings,” which will track his rise from a kid from Long Island to a college wrestling star to UFC middleweight champion. The show will air after the conclusion of the New York Knicks’ game against the Brooklyn Nets.

Weidman said he has considered doing television following his MMA career, but nothing is set in stone.

“I don’t really know,” he said. “I’m not like banking on it. I do enjoy it, especially working for MSG Network. That would be a dream come true to have something that’s long term with them. Especially location wise, being one of the biggest local stations in the world. I would love to be a part of it long term. So we shall see. I love what I’ve got going on with them.”

Weidman, 33, is far from done with MMA, though. He needed surgery to reconstruct a ligament in his thumb after injuring it in his third-round submission win over Kelvin Gastelum at UFC on FOX 25 in July and is unsure when he’ll be back. Right now, Weidman said he’s looking at early summer, but no doctor has given him an official timeframe.

Weidman said surgeons had to take a ligament from his wrist to create a new one at the base of his thumb. It was a similar surgery to one Khabib Nurmagomedov had, Weidman said, and Nurmagomedov told him it stopped hurting after about eight months.

“I’m not gonna get into a training camp and I can’t train,” Weidman said. “I’m not gonna accept any fights until I can punch and grapple without bad pain.”

When he does get back, Weidman expects to either be in a fight for a title or in a title eliminator. Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker is currently sidelined with staph infection, so Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero will fight for the interim belt at UFC 221 on Feb. 11 in Perth, Western Australia. Weidman has losses to both men and would love to avenge them.

“I can see myself potentially jumping in there for a title shot against maybe the winner of the fight coming up, depending on Whittaker’s health,” Weidman said. “I’d get a rematch with Rockhold which has been a long time coming. We were supposed to have that rematch right away and my surgery held that up. Or Yoel Romero. Both those fights would be great. If not that, you got ‘Jacare’ who just came off a great win. I don’t mind that fight, either.”

Weidman said there was talk of him fighting Rockhold at UFC 221 for the interim belt, especially considering Romero is coming off a loss, but he couldn’t take the opportunity, because of the thumb injury.

The aforementioned Ronaldo Souza knocked out Derek Brunson in the first round of their main event fight at UFC on FOX 27 last Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C. Weidman was in attendance for that about and a fight against Souza is one that interests him.

“That fight does intrigue me,” Weidman said. “I love ‘Jacare.’ I’m a fan of ‘Jacare.’ I just feel like he would be a great test for me. We’ve been around each other for a long time in the division. We never fought. And I would love to test myself against him.”

Weidman (14-3), who held the middleweight title from 2013 to 2015 when he dropped it to Rockhold, said either a fight for the title or a fight with Souza — with a title shot on the line — would be his desire when he returns.

“I’m very confident I’m gonna get back to that title shot soon and get that belt,” he said.

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