For most the temptation of indulging in celebrations after becoming a champion or winning an award is simply too strong to ignore. There is a certain pleasure that comes with grabbing a few adult beverages with the group of people who helped a person reach his or her goal.
But then there are some who understand when it’s time to put the drink down and get back to business in order to avoid a professional hangover.
In the case of UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, this is exactly the choice he’s made.
“As a champion, as an athlete, I do a lot of traveling and the more you create the habit of drinking everywhere you go, it’s not good for you. It breaks down your body. I think it causes injuries,” Weidman told me. “There are a lot of bad things that can happen, so I just tried to clean up my act and live a healthier lifestyle.”
The end of Weidman’s drinking days appeared to be a decision that was made in order to keep his weight down before his fight against Luke Rockhold on December 12th at UFC 194, but the champ quickly shot this notion down.
“The drinking thing didn’t really have anything to do with weight. I’m only going to be in this sport for so long. It’s going to be a quick trip in the grand scheme of life hopefully,” Weidman said. “So I’m just trying to make the most of it. I don’t want to look back and say that I was partying too much and maybe I could have reigned on top longer. I want to keep this reign on top as long as possible. I think that controlling my habits and having discipline will help.”
At the age of 31, Weidman is still reaching the peak of his fighting prime, which is something that he wants to prolong.
“I’m in my prime and I want my prime to last as long as possible,” he said. “And if being hungover and waking up tired is going to affect that and stop me from doing what I need to do, then I should focus on cleaning it up.”
But drinking wasn’t the only habit that the “All-American” wanted to clean up. There was a point in time when the amount of food he was putting in his body could reach extreme levels.
“If I was going to a pizzeria, I needed to get three different types of slices. I needed a chicken roll. I needed a spinach roll, or I felt like I wasn’t complete. I needed them. I just had these crazy habits. If I went to the bagel shop, I needed more than just one bagel. I’d need an egg everything bagel toasted with cream cheese and then I needed to get a bacon, egg and cheese.”
Due to the amount of food Weidman was consuming, his weight would balloon up so high that it was difficult to run around the block with his nephews.
“When Hurricane Sandy hit my house after I had shoulder surgery I was getting ready for a fight and I was at 235 pounds. I was trying to run with my nephews around my block and my lower back and calves were burning so bad I was like this is terrible. I can’t let this happen again,” Weidman said. ”For the last two and a half years, I haven’t gotten over 215. A lot of these other middleweights blow up to 215, 230, 235.”
Weidman admits that his wrestling background was a big proponent for his insane eating habits, but his indulgence also stemmed from his increasing bank account.
“I didn’t have that much money, so I wouldn’t be able to just get what I want if I was out with friends at lunch,” he said. “I was always worried about paying the bills and this and that, so finally when I had some money I said I need to eat and go hard.”
Weidman’s bank account will once again increase on Saturday night, but the only thing he’s concerned about is walking out of Las Vegas with the middleweight title, which means he’s going to have to defeat a formidable challenger in Rockhold.
The two are almost mirror images of each other. Rockhold is 6’3”, an inch taller than Weidman, but the champ has a slight reach advantage (78” to 77”). Rockhold’s wrestling and jiu jitsu are both extremely dangerous. Weidman has a black belt in jiu jitsu and was a two-time Division I All-American wrestler at Hofstra.
“He’s a little taller and I’m a little longer, but the difference is when I grab him, I’m going to be a whole different man than he is and if he doesn’t know that, he’s going to realize that,” Weidman said. “I think he’s heard stories, but when I get my hands on him, there is a big difference. I’m a bigger man than him.”
The parallels between the two aren’t just in the cage. When I asked Weidman if he believed Rockhold was the toughest fight of his career, he didn’t take long to respond.
“I’m going to finish him and I plan on completely dominating him.”
It was eerily close to what Rockhold said on the UFC 194 conference call: “I’m going to dominate him, and then I will finish him.”
Weidman wasn’t surprised to hear that his opponent delivered a similar answer.
“He copies everything I’ve ever done. He’s always been behind me throughout our whole careers,” Weidman said. “I’ve always been the number one prospect; he’s always been number two or three. I was the guy and he was always the guy behind the guy. So he’s been watching what I’ve been doing and what I’ve been saying for such a long time that he’s confused about who he even is. I’m going to give him a sense of reality.”
The champion is supremely confident going into Saturday, but also understands that defeating Rockhold isn’t going to be an easy task.
“I think he’s tough. He wants to press you with an aggressive style and I have that,” Weidman said. “He’s well-rounded and an open-minded learner because he’s well-rounded everywhere so you have to want to learn. I feel like I’m the same way. He’s got some tricky stuff and I have some tricky stuff.”
There won’t be any magic tricks on display from Chris Weidman at UFC 194 because he’s already made his unhealthy lifestyle disappear.