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Chris Weidman conflicted about fighting during coronavirus pandemic, awaiting word on a new opponent

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Under ideal circumstances, Chris Weidman would be three weeks away from making his middleweight return against Jack Hermansson in the main event at UFC Fight Night in Oklahoma City.

Sadly that possibility faded away weeks ago after the coronavirus pandemic swept across the globe with Weidman’s home state of New York hit hardest out of any place in the United States.

He’s now been self-quarantined in his house for the past month without a single coach or training partner to work alongside. Add to that, Weidman was just recently informed that Hermansson would no longer be his opponent due to travel restrictions that will prevent him from coming to the U.S. from his camp in Norway by May 2.

“I’m training in my basement – my unfinished, cold basement – every day,” Weidman told MMA Fighting on Thursday. “If it’s a nice day out, I’ll go for a bike ride, I’ll come back and do a bag workout, or I’ll lift weights, or get on the treadmill. I’ve got a treadmill. That’s been pretty much my go-to. I got quarantined four weeks ago today, (and) I’ve been in my house. Working out where we think it’s proper, no jiu-jitsu, wrestling. No partners. No coaches. No mits. Just on my own.

“I was told last week that Hermansson is out. They talked to me about some new opponent. I said yes and they said no. Now I’m just in a waiting game. I’m just waiting.”

As MMA Fighting previously reported, Yoel Romero was one of the proposed opponents for UFC 250, but the rematch didn’t materialize because the event was canceled.

Another problem Weidman faces moving forward is a lack of head coach. His longtime compatriot Ray Longo won’t make the trip with him regardless of where the UFC is holding the fight.

“I won’t have a cornerman,” Weidman revealed. “[Ray] Longo’s not going to come out. I don’t know. I just don’t know what the hell’s happening. I’m going to have Longo and Matt [Serra] on Facetime. It’s not even right of me to even ask them to come out.

“Longo’s definitely not [coming]. He’s older, and I just feel like anybody who has a family, I don’t even feel right asking them. Putting them in any kind of harm’s way, and then they have to go back to their family. [They’ll] probably have to be quarantined from their family for a while.”

Considering the multitude of issues he faces, it would be hard to blame Weidman if he decided to bow out and live to fight another day. On the flipside, the former UFC middleweight champion feels like he thrives in adversity, and there’s a part of him that wants to fight under these bizarre set of circumstances.

“One part of me is just like do I not do this? Is it stupid to do this? The other part of me loves this,” Weidman said. “When your back’s against the wall, it’s chaotic and most people wouldn’t do it. Everything’s working against you as far as training and everything. I’d love to rise to the occasion. I love that. The other part of me is like the people I talk to around here think it’s crazy that I’d be fighting.

“One part of you thinks, am I blowing this out of proportion? The other part thinks maybe you’re not. Being in the epicenter in New York, it’s so close to home. You’re seeing this.”

According to Weidman, he’s talked to many people who have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, including one friend who has a parent currently in a coma hooked up to a ventilator. He’s also heard about younger, healthier people falling seriously ill after contracting the virus.

Seeing all of this firsthand could scare anybody out of taking the risk to fight right now, but Weidman also has put in a hard training camp, even if under substandard conditions. If he drops out now, Weidman could be sitting on the shelf for several more months waiting for another opportunity to compete again.

“A part of me says this is too much, I’m not doing it. Let’s wait until things clear up a little bit, but when do things clear up?” Weidman said. “Do I really want to wait until the fall to fight again? No, I don’t. So it’s like I’m healthy, it’s just a very different type of thing dealing with here. It’s hard to know what the right thing to do is. I just wish there was a little less uncertainty about things.

“I would love to be training with partners and sparring, and I don’t have that, but a part of me wants to see how I would feel without any of that. Basically my whole training camp would be seven and a half weeks of being quarantined and not training with anybody and going up against somebody I don’t even know at this point. Like I said, a part of me loves that, and a part is like, what the hell is wrong with me?”

One thing for certain, Weidman won’t be making his official return to middleweight as he initially planned.

Assuming the UFC finds him a new opponent in time, the New York native knows there’s not going to be a safe way to cut down to 185 pounds given the way he’s had to adjust his training over the past few weeks.

“I’m not going to be able to make 185 [pounds]. If I make 185 right now, I’m going to kill myself,” Weidman said. “I’m training in a cold basement. I’ve got no partners, no coaching, no help. Once we get down there, there’s a lot of unanswered questions. How am I making weight? Do I have a treadmill in my room? What am I doing? Am I going on a treadmill with other people on them? There’s just so many unanswered questions.

“I know a lot of guys are doing a catchweight, so if I’m going to do this, I’d need a catchweight of some sort. Otherwise it’s just worth doing that to myself because I’ve done it before earlier in my career. I know I’ll make the weight but it’s not worth putting my health at risk with not too many people around to help me out.”

At the present time, he is just waiting and anticipating that the UFC will find him a viable replacement in time so he can still perform on May 2.

Like all of the unpredictable issues facing him lately, Weidman doesn’t know if he should set a deadline when he just can’t entertain a fight any longer without knowing his opponent, or if this unique situation will somehow bring out the best in him.

The only thing he can say for certain: it’s all a bit confusing.

“I really have no idea what the hell’s going to happen,” Weidman said. “My body feels good, I will say that. Just working on getting my weight down, but my body feels great. Because I’m not doing that physical wear and tear on my body everyday. I’m on the bike and I’m doing sprints and I’m hitting the bag. My body’s not breaking down. One part of me feels amazing, I wonder how I’d feel in the fight. I know somebody in particular on our team who went into a fight without training at all – he just had physical therapy – and he had the best fight of his life. So maybe this is the future of the sport.

“We’ll see what happens. We’re getting closer and closer to the fight and I don’t have an opponent. So I don’t know what the hell’s going to happen.”

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