It’s not lost on Chris Weidman the kind of pressure he’s facing at UFC Vegas 6.
What seems like a lifetime ago when he was the middleweight champion, the New York native is now preparing for a co-main event fight against Omari Akhmedov after going just 1-5 in his past six fights.
Of course that dubious record requires a little context beyond just the numbers.
All five losses have come against champions or past title contenders from the UFC, Bellator or Strikeforce, which is a murderer’s row of competition. That said, Weidman understands that no one cares much about how a fight played out once it’s over or the kind of opposition he’s been facing.
All that matters are the wins and losses and Weidman hasn’t been winning much lately.
“It’s a very tough sport. It’s a fickle sport,” Weidman said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “The fans are definitely tough. But it’s also kind of motivating. You want to remind them. I’m 1-5 in my last six fights. But you look at who I fought and then one person I beat [Kelvin Gastelum] and he’s done pretty good himself. In all those fights, other than my [Dominick] Reyes fight, I was winning the fight. It’s just kind of the way it works sometimes.
“You fight all these really good guys, you’re not always going to get your hand raised. There’s definitely randomness who wins that night. Random things that happen. It doesn’t necessarily mean that person is the better person in the fight.”
Originally, Weidman was scheduled to compete back in May in a main event showdown against fellow middleweight contender Jack Hermansson. That matchup was eventually scrapped after concerns about getting Hermansson into the United States due to travel restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic and then the entire card was scrapped.
According to Weidman, he had a slew of names and dates tossed at him including possible matchups with Yoel Romero and Edmen Shahbazyan but neither fight came together. Then he circled back to Hermansson but Weidman wasn’t able to compete on Fight Island in July due to a move to a new house that he had already scheduled with his family.
In the end, the UFC came back with the offer to face Akhmedov, and at that point, Weidman was just ready to fight. The name didn’t really matter anymore.
“I just wanted to fight,” Weidman said. “I honestly didn’t really hear of him leading up. I was like who’s that? Even my manager didn’t know. Then I looked him up and he’s been on his way up. He’s been in the UFC for a while, kind of going back and forth between welterweight and middleweight.
“He’s on a nice win streak and he’s ranked in the top 15. It’s one of the first times I’m not fighting someone in the top five but he’s a tough kid. I think it’s a really good matchup.”
Considering Hermansson is a top-five ranked middleweight, Shahbazyan has been considered one of the brightest prospects in the UFC and Romero holds a win over him, Weidman was excited about any of those choices.
Instead he now draws Akhmedov, who is 5-0-1 in his past six fights including wins over Ian Heinisch and Zak Cummings, but the Russian doesn’t have the same name value or draw as the other opponents previously offered.
That said, Weidman knows the pressure is solely on his shoulders to show up and perform regardless of the person standing across from him in the octagon.
“I need to get a freaking ‘W,” Weidman said. “I need to get back on my winning ways. I think I have a lot of advantages in this fight but when you’re in there, you never know what’s going to happen.
“I’m taking it very serious. He’s tough but when I look at the guys I’ve fought, I don’t think he’s up there as far as the most talented. I think that’s a fair statement without knocking him.”
It’s been over three years since Weidman had his hand raised and he hasn’t tasted UFC gold since losing his title in 2015.
Despite the constant setbacks and various obstacles lobbed at him recently, Weidman truly believes he’s still one of the best fighters in the world, and he hopes to use Akhmedov as a way to prove it.
“My goal is to go in there and show there’s different levels to this game,” Weidman said. “I’ve been training consistently longer than I probably have in a very long time. I think that’s going to pay off in this fight.
“I haven’t been out of the gym. I’ve been healthy for a long time now. I’m really hoping that pays off. A lot of my career I’m out of the gym, I’m injured and I’m blown up. This time, I really haven’t been out of the gym between fights. I’m excited to see that work out for me. I’ve just got to get my hand raised. I really think I’m definitely still one of the best in the world but I’ve got to go out there and prove it and get a ‘W’ and start getting on a streak again. Hopefully, Aug. 8 will be the start of it.”