You may not know Chris Weidman yet, but you’re about to.
Weidman, who made his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut in 2011, is currently undefeated and the reigning middleweight champion, but he faces his stiffest test yet in Luke Rockhold (yes, that’s his real name). Weidman already vanquished the likes of Anderson Silva (considered by many the greatest MMA fighter of all time) and Vitor Belfort (a former light heavyweight champion), and a victory against Rockhold would land him on the all-time greats list and prime him for the type of crossover success experienced by Ronda Rousey, Randy Couture, and Chuck Liddell. Weidman and Rockhold square off live on Pay-Per-View this Saturday at UFC 194, a massive show headlined by a featherweight championship battle between big-talking Conor McGregor and hasn’t-lost-in-a-decade Jose Aldo.
Weidman recently saw box-office heavyweight and dark horse Oscar candidate Creed. “It was unbelievable,” says Weidman. “I’ll tell you one thing, if you want to know what it’s like to walk out in an arena, watch that movie. When they do the walkout, it felt like I was walking out. It felt so real — the way the lights, the music, and the crowd come together. It was awesome.”
As it happens, Weidman has one of the best entrances in the business. Ever since he defeated Silva for the middleweight belt, Weidman has relied on the simple power of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”
“There’s only so much you can control when you’re fighting, so the things you can control — like your fight song — are pretty important. So you want to pick that wisely,” Weidman says. “The first time I used [“I Won’t Back Down”] was for the first Anderson Silva fight, and obviously that went well — I knocked him out, which nobody had done before and nobody expected. Plus everybody loved it, so I stuck with it. I go with the song that gives me the chills, and that song gives me the chills when I hear it. It keeps me calm, but it also gives me that little extra buzz.”
Even if Weidman doesn’t end up starring in movies or dropping into music videos, he is still partly responsible for one of the most disturbing GIFs on the Internet. In his championship rematch with Silva, the latter threw a kick that did not end well. “I knew I checked his leg kick, and I knew he went down in pain, but I didn’t know I broke his leg in half,” Weidman says of the break, which ended right after. “Then I saw him screaming and holding his leg together, and I was just in shock. I didn’t know if I was supposed to be happy or not.”
UFC 194 kicks off Saturday at 10 p.m., with the preliminary fights airing on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 8 p.m.