More than anything else at UFC Vegas 6, Chris Weidman just wanted to win.
It seems like a lifetime ago that the New York native was an undefeated, undisputed UFC middleweight champion. But he faced off with Omari Akhmedov on Saturday night with a 1-5 record over his past six fights.
With hopes of one day climbing back into the title hunt, Weidman knew another loss was unacceptable, and he had to get the job done by any means necessary.
“A lot of my fights in the past, I’m winning on the feet and then I got caught trying to go for it, being exciting,” Weidman said of a wrestling-heavy strategy against Akhmedov. “So the goal was try to get to my bread and butter this time as much as possible.
“It was just such a weird fight. It was so sloppy. Every time I got to his legs, I was like a little bit off, a little bit too low on the leg or a little bit too high. The weight was off. It turned into a sloppy fight. But it came down to that third round, I was able to dig deep and come up with the ‘W.’
“It was a scrappy fight. I’m just happy to get back inside the octagon and find a way to win. He was strong as hell. He’s a scrappy guy. He hasn’t lost in six fights. It was good to get out there and start over again in the middleweight division.”
In a perfect world, Weidman would have dominated Akhmedov from the first second of the opening round until the final horn. But he was forced to dig deep while facing adversity throughout the fight.
It’s probably not a performance to add to his highlight reel any time soon, but Weidman ultimately accomplished his primary goal.
“That is not the fight that I imagined to be honest,” Weidman said. “I always envision wars and tough times and pushing through, but that was, even in some of my finest moments in that fight, it was sloppy, and I really kind of pride myself on being a technician and making things look pretty and making it look easy. I wasn’t able to do that tonight.
“But I do think it was a step in the right direction to get a ‘W’ against a tough guy. I’m excited to get in there with some of these top tier guys at middleweight and really start making a statement. I feel like I’m renewed and I got a fresh start here.”
Following the win, Weidman revealed his upcoming move to South Carolina, where he’ll continue training with UFC welterweight Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. After that, the 36-year-old contender hopes to book another fight “pretty damn quick” while targeting the best of the best that the middleweight division has to offer.
He may not have the belt around his waist right now, but Weidman promises he’s still carrying the same championship mindset that got him to the title in the first place. That’s why he truly believes he’ll wear gold once again.
“Damn right I’m a champion,” Weidman said. “I’ve been through so much damn adversity, I’ve had so much critiqued on me. From being the undefeated world champion to never really getting the love or the respect I feel I deserved when I was on top and then finally getting knocked down and then everybody jumping on top, trying to kick me while I was down.
“To overcome that is a championship mindset. A big part of me pushing through and continuing to do what I do and with the confidence I have is to help inspire other people. Life is not going to turn out the way you want all the time. You’ve got to be able to push through ,and ‘F’ the doubters and just believe in yourself. I’m not done showing the world what I’m capable of. In those moments, just don’t back down. Don’t quit and just keep moving forward.”