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Undefeated UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman defends his belt for the third time at UFC 187 when he takes on No. 1 contender Vitor Belfort.
On this hot spring day, the 30-year-old Long Islander has been up since seven o’clock making media rounds prior to his title bout with “The Phenom.” Weidman and his training partner Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson have been riding together in a Cadillac Escalade for hours in New York City, before arriving at CBS Studios on the Upper West Side.
That’s where the Muscle & Fitness team intersect with the duo to talk training, future bouts and much more. Weidman was scheduled to face the Brazilian Belfort one year ago but the latter pulled out because of issues with the Nevada Athletic Commission. Then, following a successful title defense at UFC 175 against Lyoto Machida, the champ pulled out of two bouts with Belfort due to hand and rib injuries.
“I’d like to fight more. I also want to make as much money as possible and to make as much money as possible you need as much promotion as possible,” says Weidman. “Sometimes big fights take more time to promote.”
Thompson, a burgeoning welterweight contender, watches his buddy make another media appearance, this time for CBS Sports.
“It’s always funny watching Chris on TV,” Thompson says.
“My record for most interviews in a day was 30,” recalls Weidman.
But he’s not complaining. The laidback Weidman exits the studio and enters the concrete jungle which awaits him. As we make our way over to the Escalade, which is parked ever so far away, Chris and I exchange thoughts on his teammates at the Serra-Longo Fight Team — a couple of which he cornered at the UFC Fight Night in Newark, NJ last month — before he eyeballs his driver.
“Aljamain [Sterling], Al Iaquinta, Gian Villante, Eddie Gordon; all these guys are in the gym working their butts off to accomplish their goals of being a champion,” remarks Weidman. “I just want the best for them.”
As we get ourselves situated in the backseat, that’s when the interview commences — just as Chris reminds us that he gets carsick. Muscle & Fitness brings you this exclusive conversation as we tour The Big Apple with the undisputed UFC middleweight champion.
What have you needed to do stylistically in your camp to ensure you beat Vitor?
Chris Weidman: I’ve got some secrets. I can’t tell anybody yet [laughs]. It’s kind of the same for every opponent. I want to get better at striking, jiu-jitsu and wrestling. He’s an explosive guy. I want to break him. I want to squish the explosiveness out of him and have my way with him.
What exercises do you feel best translate to giving you knockout power in the Octagon?
CW: I guess core workouts because that’s where your power comes from.
Any specific exercises or workouts you’re using?
CW: One thing with MMA is that you’re going to go from standing, where you’re nice and relaxed, to the ground where you’re stressing your muscles. One exercise could be where you’re holding yourself up on a pullup bar for 15 seconds with your chin above the bar and then jumping off and shadow boxing, making your hands move as fast as you can and then jumping up on the bar.
What are some everyday exercises that people are using that are excellent in achieving a takedown?
CW: Anything to do with the back, neck and legs. Anything with those three groups, you’re going to help your wrestling ability.
How do you incorporate strength training with your MMA workouts?
CW: Maybe like 2-3 times a week I do something that is usually parlayed with hitting pads or doing something MMA related and I’ll just add pullups, pushups, and light weights into the workout.
What are some keys for maintaining muscle mass as you diet down?
CW: Make sure you don’t starve yourself. Make sure you’re eating throughout the day, getting three meals and eating snacks in between. Don’t ever let yourself get hungry. Don’t put yourself in starvation mode. You don’t want your muscles to eat away at themselves. Keeping your body fueled.
Could you give us a sneak peek at your diet?
CW: Ezekiel bread, eggs — that’s exciting — almond butter, honey, chicken, quinoa, cucumbers and hummus. I’m eating more greens.
What’s the next step in your weight cut and how do you foresee the rest of it going?
CW: Just sticking to what I’m doing. Eating clean and healthy. I’m going to start the water loading process Sunday [a week out from UFC 187] and gradually come down. I stop drinking water 24 hours before the weigh-ins and then I’ll lose more weight like that.
Have you modified your training at all since your injury in January?
CW: My rib has been completely fine so I haven’t had to modify it around an injury. I’m just a little bit more conscious of getting injured. I try to kill myself when I workout. I have to try and kill myself and have a conscious mind of not getting hurt. It means too much to get hurt these days. It’s really a tough sport so you have to be smart with your training. I’ve become a little smart.
Have you placed more of an emphasis on one part of your attack heading into your title bout with Vitor?
CW: I want to beat him everywhere from the stand-up, to wrestling and on the ground. I want to be more dominant in every situation.
What do you weight right now?
CW: It’s personal [laughs]. Right now, I weigh 202-203 pounds.
Have you kept your eyes on anyone at middleweight that is maybe surprising you?
CW: Obviously, Luke Rockhold just had a nice win over [Lyoto] Machida. Jacare [Souza], Yoel Romero. The only person I’m really thinking about is Vitor Belfort.
Has Vitor left your mind at all since you were originally set to fight a year ago?
CW: I mean, I live my life. I don’t think about him everyday. He’s always been in the back of my mind.
Is it personal at all?
CW: It’s personal because he’s standing in my way. I have to move him in order to accomplish my goals and provide for my family the way I want to.
How impressed have you been with your teammates from the Serra-Longo Fight Team and what have Matt [Serra] and Ray [Longo] meant to you and your career?
CW: All of them are extremely talented. They’re team players and I love them all. As far as Ray and Matt, I grew up in Long Island and when I decided to get into MMA, there was no question on where I was going to train. It ended up being right there — 10 minutes from where I lived — where I could go down to the gym and both guys have been amazing.