Outside the cage, UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman is an engaging, charming guy with an accent that can't hide his Long Island upbringing. But in the cage, Weidman is 6'2'', 186 pounds of lean muscle and fury and perhaps the baddest man in UFC right now.
He has buried Anderson Silva—arguably the greatest the sport has ever seen—twice and in the process ended Silva's reign as the longest title-holder in UFC history. Weidman may have something to say about that record given the way he trains, with a relentless regimen of myriad fighting styles, cardio and strength training. He has muscles on his torso most people don't even know exist, and his envy-inducing approach to eating (he doesn't count calories) somehow still leaves him seemingly without an ounce of fat on him.
SI.com talked with Weidman at the legendary Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn, NY as he trained for his May 23 bout against Vitor Belfort at UFC 187.
SI: How often are you in the gym training?
Chris Weidman: I’m in the gym at least six days a week. I’m off Sundays. I train two times a day. The thing about mixed martial arts is you have to know every single martial art in the world or you’re at a disadvantage. So, there’s so much to learn. I have to know wrestling. I have to know kick boxing. I have to know boxing. I have to know karate. I have to work on my strength and conditioning. I have to put it all together and spar, so there’s a lot of things to work on.
SI: How many hours a day are you working on those aspects of MMA?
CW: Six to eight hours a day.
SI: How many calories do you eat in a given day?
CW: I have a nutritionist, but we don’t really count the calories. I have three meals a day. I have two or three snacks in between, all healthy stuff—a lot of vegetables, protein, grilled chicken. After workouts, I recover with veggie drinks—I eat very clean.
SI: Do you know your body-fat percentage?
SI: Where's your favorite place to train?
CW: My own gym in Long Island Law MMA.
SI: What's your go-to meal before a fight?
CW: My pre-fight (after weigh-in) meal is always steak. Always get a nice rib-eye just killed with a lot of sodium.
SI: What's your favorite workout when you're training?
CW: My favorite stuff is to actually do mixed martial arts and to spar as hard as I can. Put it all together, outsmart the guy in front of me. It’s the ultimate physical game of chess and that’s what I like to do. I like to compete. So, any time I get to go live—which means go all out—that’s what I like to do.
SI: What about when you're banged up? What workouts do you like the least?
CW: Any time you’re banged up, your body hurts, you don’t really feel like going to the gym. That’s when I feel like you really have to push through it. That’s when you really make the leaps and bounds in your game. So, pushing through those days is never easy, but that’s what gets you good.
SI: What's the difference between training to take a punch vs. throwing one?
CW: I work hard. Getting hit is part of the job. You don’t want the first time you’re getting punched to be in the fight because there’s a lot of shock and awe and you won’t react well. I like to get hit in sparring. I don’t want to get concussed, or I don’t want to be getting knocked out, but I want some shock treatment to prepare me for the fight. I don’t want any elements of surprise.
It’s a lot different throwing a punch in the air than throwing a punch at someone who knows what they’re doing. There’s a lot of elements setting things up the right way, so it’s not as easy as it looks from the outside looking in.
SI: How often are you lifting or doing weight training?
CW: Two or three times a week we get something in. Pull-ups, push-ups, but mostly cardio stuff. Fighting is very tricky. You need good cardio, but you also need to be strong. If you have too much muscle, you’re going to get tired. If you don’t have enough muscle, you’re going to get thrown around. You need to find the equilibrium somewhere in there. I don’t like to put on too much muscle because I think it’s actually more important to be in better shape than to be stronger.
SI: Can you talk about your swagger and what motivates you?
CW: I just work really hard. I’m passionate about what I do. I love what I do. I think I’m the best in the world.
SI: Talk a little bit about the importance of preparation.
CW: It comes down to practice. It’s the same things as other sports. You can go in the cage and be like, ‘I didn’t work that hard, but I’m going to have this adrenaline to get through it.’ Well, the adrenaline only lasts so long. If you’re going against a guy who works harder than you, he’s going to beat you.
I get nervous going to the gym every day because I put the pressure on myself to be the best that I can. There are days when I feel like crap.
SI: What separates you from other fighters in MMA?
CW: Everything. I think just my potential and how much hard work I put in. When you put in the work I put in, you can’t afford to believe you can lose. None of these guys are beating me. Every time I’m in that cage, every single time it’s happened, I’ve looked across the cage, I’ve looked at the guy and I’m like, 'There’s no way I’m losing to this guy.' Every single time. I think the time I finally lose is the time I look across the cage and go 'I’m screwed.' And I don’t think that’s happening any time soon.
SI: What would make you walk away from the sport?
CW: As soon as I’m not loving it anymore. When it gets to the point where I’m just going to the gym just to go to the gym, as opposed to trying to be the best in the world and I want to be the greatest of all time. When that desire ends, and I don’t have that inspiration, I’m done.