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Chris Weidman confident in comeback from injury, but ‘unless I think I’m the best in the world, I’m not gonna fight’

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If Chris Weidman fights again, he wants there to be no doubt that he’s coming back to be among the elite.

The former UFC middleweight champion recently underwent a second surgery to address the severe leg injury he suffered in a fight with Uriah Hall at UFC 261 in April. On Wednesday, Weidman explained on The MMA Hour that the first surgery was strictly to insert a rod into his broken tibia, a bigger bone that bears more weight than the fibula, while the fibula was left to heal on its own. When Weidman continued to experience complications, he underwent a CAT scan and it was discovered that the fibula was non-union and not healing.

A second surgery was ordered so that plates could be placed along the length and width of Weidman’s fibula, a process that took three hours (“I literally have more frickin’ metal in my lower leg than I have bone at this point,” Weidman said.)

With a timetable for his recovery uncertain, Weidman, 37, maintains that he fully intends to fight again someday, but if he doesn’t feel he can compete with the best anymore, he will step away.

“Listen, if my body was to the point where it was like, ‘Alright, you can’t do this anymore,’ I’d be done,” Weidman said. “If I felt like I was going to the gym and going with top guys and I just wasn’t able to do the things I used to be able to do and they were beating me, I wouldn’t just go into the cage to collect a paycheck and get beat up. I feel great. I felt great before this last fight, I felt amazing, I felt like I’m the best in the world and I was ready to have some big moments. So I’m gonna do everything I possibly can, take it day by day, a day at a time, to get back to that spot. And I’m just gonna try to control the things that I can control. When I get back into the gym and they say my leg is fully healed and I’m able to do things the way I was just doing pre-April, I’m 100 percent fighting and right now that’s where my mind’s at.

“But if for some reason I get back on my feet and they’re like, ‘This is the best it’s gonna be, Chris,’ and I’m not able to do the things I used to be able to do. I can’t grapple like I used to, I can’t strike like I used to or move like I used to, I’m not gonna do that to myself. I’m not gonna go in there and just get embarrassed. Unless I think I’m the best in the world, I’m not gonna fight.”

Over the course of his career, Weidman said he’s had 25 surgeries to address various issues including problems with his knees and neck. The initial surgery to fix his UFC 261 break was the most taxing.

Beyond the pain, it was the uncertainty that Weidman found difficult to deal with as he had to wait to find out whether more surgery was needed or if he would have to undergo some other procedure.

“The hardest part was being in limbo for that three- or four-week period where they were kind of like, some doctors were saying I should get the surgery, some weren’t but we had to get a better X-ray through that CAT scan to really find out,” Weidman said. “That just took longer than I’d like to and I just wanted to know one way or the other what the hell the deal was. That was tough for me to deal with. Going through that last surgery of mine, obviously breaking my leg and then everything that went with that, the pain and then the physical therapy afterwards, that was the most painful thing I’ve ever been through in my life. I’ve had neck surgeries, shoulder surgeries, hand surgeries, I’ve had some bad surgeries. There was nothing even close to the pain I was dealing with after that. So going into another surgery, I honestly was scared. I did not want to go through that type of pain again and thank God, it wasn’t even close to the same type of pain.

“I guess because of how traumatic that injury was just from that kick being so explosive over Uriah Hall’s leg, that really just was so much damage. There was so much damage from being stabbed from the inside out with my jaggedy bones going through the skin. I guess everything that happened with the surgery, it was just super, super painful, I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. So going back into another surgery where they’re going back into that area, I was worried. But has not even been close to the same pain, so I’m grateful for that. But it was scary.”

Weidman isn’t looking too far ahead and for now is glad that he’s experiencing considerably less pain than he was before his second surgery. His goal is still to compete again and to be able to do so without any restrictions, but at the end of the day he’s going to listen to what his body is telling him.

“Just getting to the point where I was walking before this last surgery—I know I was having pain moving around—I still feel like [my abilities are] gonna be there,” Weidman said. “With this fibula being fixed and everything healing properly, I think I’ll be right back to where I need to be. I’ll be able to deal with anything I need to. I’ll kick someone in the head, I’ll kick someone’s leg again, I’ll let them kick me. I don’t care, I’m willing to do whatever it takes.

“But that being said, if my body’s not responding, if it’s something that’s impossible to do, I’m not just gonna be going in there to get beat up. I’m trying to have some amazing moments. I’m trying to create some great moments and I really believe I have some great moments left in me inside the UFC. So that’s where my head’s at and I’m just gonna take it a day at a time and get through this and stay positive.”