Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chris Weidman: You Heard It Here First

Here’s a quick list of his credentials:

- 4X high-school wrestling All-American
- 4X college wrestling All-American (2X NJCAA; 2X NCAA DI)
- Beat Ryan Bader in 2006 NCAA DI national tournament
- 2-0 MMA; both Rd. 1 stoppage wins
- Submitted all 13 of his opponents at the 2007 Grapplers Quest North American Championship after just two months of BJJ training; won Intermediate No-Gi Heavyweight and Absolute Divisions
- Won 2009 Abu Dhabi Combat Club North American Trials; was the only finalist to win via submission; no one scored a point on him; will represent the U.S. at the ADCC Championships in Barcelona in September

Now you know. Here's the Full Contact Fighter article I did on Chris.

Chris Weidman: An All-American Prepares to Take on the World
by Matt Kaplan

An accomplished young wrestler discovers some power in his hands and is ready to make a name for himself under the bright lights of mixed martial arts. MMA fans have seen it all before, right? Chris Weidman is something different.

In just a matter of months, the All-American wrestler, undefeated mixed martial artist, and prodigious grappling newcomer has shown a level of improvement and achievement that is hard to imagine, and now, after less than a year of full-time training, he is poised to take on the very best in the world.

As a wrestler, the Long Island native was a multiple conference and county champion, a state champion, and a four-time All-American (in freestyle and Greco-Roman) during his career at Baldwin High School.

At Nassau Community College, Weidman was a two-time junior college All-American and became the first junior college wrestler ever to win the NY State Collegiate Championship. He was also a two-time Division I All-American at Hofstra University, where, as a senior, he finished third at the 2007 NCAA Division I Wrestling National Championships after placing sixth as a junior. (He defeated TUF Season 8 winner Ryan Bader in the quarter-finals of the 2006 NCAA championships before dropping a semi-final match to eventual national champion and current UFC middleweight Jake Rosholt.)

It was also at Hofstra where Weidman first encountered the Serra/Longo Fight Team.

UFC veteran Pete “Drago” Sell had been training with Hofstra’s wrestling team, and Gabriel “Monsta” Toribio, who was in a class with Weidman, invited Weidman to help the Serra/Longo fighters with their wrestling. Weidman began working with the Serra/Longo team and was subsequently introduced to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the spring of 2007.

After just two months of studying BJJ under Matt and Nick Serra, Weidman tried his hand at competitive submission grappling and entered the 2007 Grapplers Quest North American Championship.

“I decided to do a tournament, just to have fun with,” he says with a shrug. “And I submitted everybody.”

Weidman cleared out the Intermediate No-Gi Heavyweight and Absolute Divisions, submitting all 13 of his opponents in stunning fashion. Not bad for a BJJ white belt.

But wrestling was still tugging at Weidman, and so he put his BJJ training on hold to coach at Hofstra and train for the Olympics. As Hofstra’s wrestling season – and Weidman’s bid for spot on the Olympic team – came to an end, Weidman found himself at a crossroads: continue to train for another four years for Olympic wrestling or pursue a career in MMA. Weidman chose MMA.

He began working at renowned striking coach Ray Longo’s International Martial Arts Academy as a wrestling coach and resumed his BJJ training under the Serra brothers in September, 2008. Under the tutelage of the Serras, Longo, and Sell, Weidman’ skills were improving at an astonishing rate, so Longo threw an enthusiastic Weidman right into professional MMA competition.

“Ray (Longo) just thought that it wouldn’t be fair for an amateur guy to go against me,” an amused Weidman explains. “He didn’t want to be responsible for that.”

“I’ve been around a long time, and what I see in this kid, I haven’t seen in a long time,” Longo says. “And he’s the strongest 185-pounder I’ve ever touched, and I’ve been in there with a lot of guys.”

In February, 2009, Weidman made his pro MMA debut against the Jorge Macaco-trained, BJJ brown belt Rubems Lopes in a 190-lb. match at Ring of Combat 23 in Atlantic City, NJ. Just seconds after the opening bell, Weidman landed a huge Greco-Roman throw, overwhelmed Lopes on the ground, and finished the Gold Team fighter with a keylock in the first round. The crowd loved it, and so did the former All-American.

Two months later, Weidman took on TUF Season 8 contestant Mike Stewart at ROC 24 and showcased his newly-honed striking skills.

“I want to show perfect technique on my stand-up. I want to show the technique where a kickboxing technician would be proud to say, ‘There’s a kickboxer,’” he declares. “I have the confidence to stand with anybody at this point.”

After ROC 24, many questions about the wrestler’s striking had been answered. Weidman punished Stewart early on with right and left hooks, pumped his left jab like a seasoned pro, and scored with knees from the clinch. Halfway through the first round, Weidman charged forward with a barrage of powerful, efficient punches that battered Stewart into the cage, dropped him, and forced referee Dan Miragliotta to call an end to the fight after 3:40 of Round One.

Two pro fights, two first-round stoppage wins, and his best was yet to come.

Weidman was scheduled to make another Ring of Combat appearance in June but was scratched from the fight because of a knuckle injury he suffered while training for ROC 24. Longo suggested that Weidman, whose grappling skills were becoming more dangerous by the day, participate in the Abu Dhabi Combat Club North American Trials. Weidman felt confident about his chances at the June 13, 2009 ADCC qualifying tournament, despite having only nine months of BJJ instruction under his belt (and a blue belt, at that.)

Weidman’s performance at the ADCC trials was dominant, just as Longo expected. He won the trials and earned a berth in the 2009 ADCC Submission Fighting World Championship in Barcelona, defeating all three of his opponents - submitting two of them and beating the other by a score of 12-0 – without having a single point scored on him. And he was the only finalist to earn a submission victory.

With the 2009 ADCC Championships on the horizon, Weidman has redoubled his efforts. He trains six days a week (at least once a day) under the Serra brothers and/or Renzo Gracie and plans on visiting renowned jiu-jitsu champion Pablo Popovitch’s Fort Lauderdale school to work out with accomplished grappler Jimmy Brasco, whom Weidman defeated in the finals of the ADCC East Coast Trials.

Weidman has passed each MMA and grappling test before him with improvingly brilliant colors, and the 2009 ADCC tournament promises to be his most difficult challenge to date. Ultimately, though, the recently married Weidman hopes that a strong performance in Barcelona will bring his MMA career to the next level. “A lot of guys in the UFC I think I’m ready to fight,” Weidman says with a confident shrug. “If the UFC offers me something, I’m taking it.”

Until the UFC comes knocking, Weidman remains focused on becoming the best, most complete mixed martial artist he can be – and that promises to be a special one, Ray Longo believes.

“Right now, based on what I’ve seen from him, he can definitely be a champion. There’s absolutely no question in my mind. If he stays healthy, he’s at the top of the MMA list for sure, no doubt about it. Believe me when I tell you that this kid’s at a different level.”

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