Like the rest of the MMA community, Jon Anik was in a state of shock in regards to the ending of the highly anticipated middleweight matchup between Chris Weidman and Uriah Hall at UFC 261.
The fight was just getting underway when Weidman threw a leg kick that was checked by Hall, and the former champion’s leg snapped immediately in one of the most devastating injuries in UFC history. Weidman stepped back down and his leg completely gave out as he fell to the mat in agony leading to the referee calling the fight right there and then.
Hall came away with a TKO victory to extend his winning streak to four, but he didn’t feel like a winner as he stated in his incredibly thoughtful post-fight interview.
Anik was sitting just a few feet away from the heartbreaking moment and—having a close relationship with the “All-American” as well as his coaching staff—it hit him hard.
“Oh, my gosh, man, I’m losing my mind and I’m getting emotional just thinking about it,” Anik told MMA Fighting. “I’m just supremely close to Chris Weidman and, obviously Ray Longo is one of my best friends. He’s been on my podcast since episode one—and that’s six years—so I spend a lot of time with them during fight week. I love Chris so much and I just hate to see anybody go through this, but I just feel so bad for the guy.
“In the moment, I was off my game,” Anik continued. “I missed a promo cue, I try not to let that happen. I was totally off. The only thing that could’ve saved the night from there was actually what happened, that we saw some of the greatest finishes in UFC championship history because we were all in a very bad place for Chris.
“And for Uriah, they’ll move him forward. He has a four-fight winning streak and this sport is just insane. I think if you didn’t have all the respect you needed to have for these athletes, something like this happens and then you have it.”
Earlier this week, Weidman gave an update on the successful surgery he had Sunday morning in Jacksonville and he said he was told he could be back training in as little as six to 12 months.
“Surgery was successful,” Weidman said. “They put a titanium rod through the tibia, they go through the knee and they put the rod in. They drill it through the tibia and make it straight and hard. My fibula was broken as well, but I guess when they put the tibia back together and my leg was straight, the fibula kind of matched back up to where it was broken and they feel like that could heal on its own as long as I’m not putting weight on it and stuff.”
Having been around Weidman for so many years, and seeing how the 36-year-old has looked for silver linings in a horrific situation, Anik has zero doubts that Weidman will return to the hallowed octagon once again.
“The surgery went well and I think the fact that one of the bones sort of aligned on its own is a good indicator that maybe he can get back to competition even sooner than people expect,” Anik explained. “There’s no doubt in my mind this dude competes again. None, whatsoever. I really do believe that’s the safe bet right now, that he walks at Madison Square Garden with much fanfare and it’s one of the most special moments in UFC history.
“If you’ve seen any of the content Chris has been pushing out since this happened, he said when it happened, he’s writhing in pain and he’s immediately trying to lean into the positive, thinking about, ‘How can I document my recovery?’ He’s literally leaning into his faith, trying to take his mind into a positive place. I just have so much respect for him.”
After winning his first 13 pro fights—which included capturing the UFC middleweight championship against Anderson Silva at UFC 162 and three successful title defenses—Weidman hit a bit of a skid. He dropped the title to Luke Rockhold at UFC 194 and went on to get stopped in four of his next five appearances, including a brief move to 205 where he suffered a TKO loss to Dominick Reyes at UFC Boston in October 2019.
Weidman returned in 2020 with a hard fought unanimous decision win over a surging Omari Akhmedov at August’s UFC Vegas 6 event and it seemed like things were beginning to turn around before the unfortunate ending to this past Saturday’s matchup.
Since moving to South Carolina, Weidman’s mental state has been in the best place it has been in quite some time. Between that, and his ability to adapt to the ever-evolving MMA landscape, Anik is confident that, although the road to recovery will be a difficult one, Weidman will get through it like a champion.
“I’m telling you, as an athlete, I’ve never heard coaches speak about a fighter quite like [they do with Weidman],” Anik stated. “[I’ve heard it] certainly when people talk about Jose Aldo, and there are some others, but when Matt Serra and Ray Longo talk about this guy, I mean, you look at him as an American, his jiu-jitsu credentials and everything that sort of got him to be the undisputed UFC middleweight champion, quick learner doesn’t even begin to describe it. You tell the guy one thing and it immediately becomes part of his game.
“You hear Anthony Smith talking this week saying, ‘Dude, I trained with the guy for 10 days and I got nothing done. Barely landed anything, couldn’t out-grapple the guy,’ he’s a total phenom. His training in South Carolina got him in such a good place that he was ready to resume his ascent and maybe even get back into title contention, believe it or not, and he was entering this fight as No. 11 in the world.
“I just feel bad for Carolina Chris but if anyone can lean into their faith, and anybody can lean into the positive, it’s him and his family. These are gonna be some tough days but I wish I could get a betting line on him fighting in 2023 because that sh*t’s happening.”