Chris Weidman has no illusions about his standing in the middleweight division as he plans his return to 185 pounds.
After a brief move to 205 pounds last year that ended in a knockout loss to Dominick Reyes, Weidman ultimately decided middleweight is the better fit. Deep down, the former champion knows he could still make waves at light heavyweight, but he also understands that competing at 185 pounds is probably better for his long term goals.
“That’s the plan, I think,” Weidman told MMA Fighting regarding a permanent move back to middleweight. “We’ll see, but I think I’m used to being there and my move to 205 [pounds] didn’t go my way at all. I really couldn’t take anything out of that fight. I feel great against 205 pounders, sparring them, and I know I could be right there with all those guys. But it just so happened in my fight [that] I got caught early. So it was hard to take anything out of it.
“I’m going to go back to 185, where I already know there’s a lot of questions.”
Weidman originally was slated to face Jack Hermansson in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Oklahoma City, but the card was canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. After Hermansson was ruled out due to new travel restrictions, he entertained several potential replacements, including a showdown with top middleweight prospect Edmen Shahbazyan.
With a 1-5 record in his past six fights, including five losses by KO or TKO, Weidman isn’t making any demands about his path as a middleweight. He knows he isn’t in a position to demand fights that will guarantee him a shot at the title, but he also understands several middleweight contenders would welcome a chance to face a former champion.
In the long run, Weidman hopes those fights will eventually lead him to his ultimate goal — a fight against reigning middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
“I think the guy’s super talented,” Weidman said. “He’s the new champion. He’s got the star power, and when I’m all said and done with my career, I really want to fight the best guys in the history of the middleweight division. I think I’ve done that, and Israel’s one of those guys I haven’t got to fight yet.
“He’s growing to become one of those guys. [I’m] seeing if he can defend his belt a couple of times, but I’d love to test myself against him. So whoever I’ve got to fight before that to get to a fight like that is definitely motivating.”
Adesanya has definitely injected excitement into the middleweight division, which has shined a brighter light on all fighters at 185 pounds. But Weidman isn’t ready to anoint the champ as one of the best fighters of all time.
“Listen, he’s got a lot of work ahead of him for sure,” Weidman said. “Anderson Silva, he dominated everybody for years. He didn’t have wars like [Israel] has been having. He had a close fight with Anderson Silva, and this was years after I fought Anderson Silva. He had a very, very close barnburner fight with Kelvin Gastelum. The fight with Yoel Romero was obviously just terrible, but he’s exciting to watch.
“He’s got a good mouthpiece on him. He’s a smart kid. He’s fun to listen to him talk. I don’t know if he’s going to be beating Anderson Silva’s record or anything like that, but I think he’ll be looked at as a guy who’s like a legend in the sport when it’s all said and done – at least in the middleweight division.”
The last thing Weidman wants right now is the perception that he’s somehow calling out the current middleweight champion when he’s coming off back-to-back losses. The New York native knows there’s a long road to travel before getting back to title contention, but at the same time, he can’t deny how much he’d love to land that fight in the future.
“Obviously, I’m coming off losses,” Weidman said. “I don’t want to talk too much, but it is a really good matchup for me. Obviously, I got knocked out by Yoel Romero, and he didn’t, but I engaged a lot more. His other fights, if you compare my fight with Kelvin Gastelum, I pretty much dominated that fight and then finished him. I finished Anderson Silva twice, and he had a close fight with him, too.
“I just think matchup wise, everything is about matchups, and I think I’m a bad matchup for him. A guy who could get him down and control him. I’m very dangerous with submissions as well, and [I could] knock him out at the same time. I would love to get that opportunity, and right now I’m far away, at least in my eyes. I’ve got some serious work to do. But that is the end goal.”
Right now, Weidman is just ready to get back to work. He aims to a return to the win column and shift the perception that he’s somehow past his prime. It wasn’t that long ago he was considered the best middleweight in the sport, and he’s eager to prove himself yet again.
“That’s the game we’re in because the low’s the low – you know,” Weidman said. “Nothing you can do now. These guys think you suck because you lost a fight. When you win, you’re the man.
“But you’re always looking forward, because even a win, you’ll have your haters. It’s always your turn to shut them up. It’s the sport we love.”