Chris Weidman is almost ready to return to the cage.
Weidman, a former UFC middleweight champ, has been away from competition for nearly two years following the catastrophic leg injury he suffered against Uriah Hall at UFC 261. In January, the former UFC middleweight champion announced he will return to action in March, where he faces Owen Livesey in a grappling superfight at Polaris 23. Speaking with Ariel Helwani on Monday, Weidman explained that his leg is still not quite 100 percent, and so he viewed grappling as a good way to ease himself back into competition.
“It’s been a long road,” Weidman said on The MMA Hour. “I’ve been enduring this injury and recovery. There have been 4 surgeries and I’ve been infected. It has been hell. I’ve been asked a few times to do grappling events over the years and it just never really works out time-wise. I did the Abu Dhabi [Combat Club] back in 2009, I did the trials and then I got to go to the Abu Dhabis in Barcelona, Spain, and it was a great opportunity for me. It was a great experience. I felt that I would do it more because it is something I enjoy doing. But, MMA has taken over so I have been focusing on that. My leg still needs to heal, but there are some standup issues that I still have to deal with. I am offered the Polaris grappling match. I thought this was amazing timing.
Weidman said that he is no beginner when it comes elite grappling. He was a two-time All-American wrestler in college and won the ADCC North American trials in 2009, where he went on to have a competitive match with grappling legend Andre Galvao.
Still, Weidman’s first priority is returning to his MMA career, and after testing himself out in this grappling match, “The All-American” hopes to return to the cage this summer.
” I think it’s June-ish. “Somewhere in June. I’m going to wait until after this grappling match. Get that win, focus on that, and then after that I’m going to hit up the UFC and figure it out. I still have things to work out in my leg.”
Weidman is one of the most accomplished middleweights in UFC history, having held the title for over two years. Pushing 39 and coming off one of the worst injuries in UFC history, it’s fair to wonder why he is coming back to MMA at all. But for the former champion, it’s simple: He believes he can be the best in the world again, and he wants to prove it, meaning when he does come back, he wants to be thrown right in the deep end.
“I would say someone in the top 15,” Weidman said. “Anyone from 10-15. I was like, 12 or something when I left, so somewhere in there. I’m not coming back to be a B-rated fighter or a gatekeeper or anything like that. I went through all this hell not just to come back and be like that. To get the belt, I am returning to fight for what was mine. After analyzing all these guys and watching the middleweight division these last two years, with everybody at the top of the division, I don’t think there’s any reason I can’t beat those guys. So I’m excited to work my way up and get there. …
“I think my skillset matches up really great with the top guys, and I’m excited to get there. There is definitely a way to get there. Beat someone in the top-15, and then maybe someone in the top-5 and boom, I’m there. But I’ve got a lot of work to do, and I’m excited for the challenge. I’m not putting myself through this crap to fight some guys I know I can beat or just have a big-name fight, I’m trying to shock the world again. I realize there won’t be many people thinking that I can return and it excites me.
Weidman’s grappling match with Livesey takes place on March 11 at Doncaster Dome in Doncaster, England, and streams exclusively on UFC Fight Pass.