Sat. Jun 15th, 2024
Chris Weidman miraculously returns to UFC 292, plans to 'shock the world again'

It was barely a month after Chris Weidman said he suffered “the most terrible pain you can imagine,” that the one-time UFC middleweight champ was considering returning to the octagon.

Just seconds later on April 24, 2021, against Uriah Hall in Jacksonville, Florida, Weidman delivered a calf kick that thousands of fighters have thrown tens of thousands of times, in practice and in fights, without incident.

Weidmann wasn’t so lucky.

The force of the kick struck the tibia and fibula in his right leg. One of his bones broke the skin, leaving his foot dangling.

“The pain is unimaginable,” Weidman told Yahoo Sports. “What I went through, I don’t think anyone has gone through before. I’m the only one where bone has gone through skin like that. When that happens, it goes through muscles, it goes through nerves and it affects a a lot One of the things most people don’t think about.”

He’s endured four surgeries and an infection, and Saturday, almost miraculously, he will return to competition when he faces Brad Tavares in the main preliminary bout of UFC 292 at Boston’s TD Garden.

Not long after his injury, one of the most gruesome in recent sports history, Weidmann seriously began planning his comeback. But in the first days after the injury, he was more interested in everyday problems.

“At first, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to play with my kids,” Weidman said. “I was thinking that I wouldn’t be able to do everyday activities that we take for granted. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to play soccer with the kids or wrestle with them. Things like that were just in my head. At first, I wasn’t I’m really thinking about fighting.”

He’ll make the familiar walk into the octagon on Saturday, exactly 849 days after the worst night of his career. That night, he worried if he would ever be able to walk normally again. Fighting the toughest 185-pound in the world was the furthest thing from his mind.

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 17: (LR) Opponents Chris Weidman and Brad Tavares face off during the UFC 292 press conference at TD Garden on August 17, 2023 in Boston, MA.  (Photo by Paul Rutherford/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

After suffering a horrific broken leg in his final fight on April 24, 2021, former middleweight champion Chris Weidman is back in action on Saturday when he takes on Brad Tavares on the UFC 292 preliminary card at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Paul Rutherford/Getty Images)

Including the four surgeries he underwent to repair the injuries he suffered against Hall, Weidman has had an astonishing 23 surgeries in his life.

Just days after he returned home to South Carolina from Jacksonville, Florida, Weidmann was sitting on a sofa in his home, contemplating his future, recording the aftermath of his return home to a video he posted on YouTube. Those surgeries—mostly the last four—were heavy on his mind.

“Will I have the drive and passion to go through this long process again?” Weidmann said in the video. “It’s kind of scary, because I don’t know.”

He talked about his friends and training partners and his uncertain future. He was grateful for the outpouring of support he had received. He leaned back with his right arm behind his head and tears welled up in his eyes. He closed his eyes and spoke in a measured tone.

It was clear he wanted to be able to fight again, but after suffering one of the worst injuries in UFC history and having a barbell implant in his leg, there were more questions than answers. The pain was still great.

“I really want to turn this thing into something big positive that can help a lot of people in their daily lives,” Weidman said in the video. I feel like I’ve been so blessed by God, both physically and mentally, with everything I’ve been able to overcome in my life. I just don’t want this to be the end.”

Weidmann’s recovery gave him a glimpse into a side of life he wasn’t ready for: retirement. He had been struggling in his MMA career prior to his injuries. He has knocked down five of his seven exes in a Hall fight and was not his usual dominant self.

But he won his match against Omari Ahmadov on August 8, 2020, and went into the hall fight convinced that his career was about to change for the better.

“I got into that fight and the thing I had was win that fight impressively, fight another guy with a reputation, and put myself in a position where I could get another shot at the title and then put up a defense,” Weidman told Yahoo Sports. “That’s kind of what I had in my head. I’m a lot better now than I used to be though, and I felt good about where I was (headed) into the Hall fight. After winning the title again and putting up another defense, maybe it’s time to retire.” .

The injury changed things. He was given an unexpected and very useful help in his recovery from longtime rival, former Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. Silva suffered a similar leg injury, ironically in a match with Weidman, on December 28, 2013.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - APRIL 24: Chris Weidman of the United States breaks his leg attempting a kick on Jamaica's Uriah Hall during UFC 261 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 24, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)

Chris Weidman (on canvas) broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg just 17 seconds into the 2021 fight with Uriah Hall. Weidmann will return to work on Saturday. (Alex Menendez/Getty Images)

Soon after settling into the house, Silva reached out.

“He was really great,” Weidmann said of Silva. “He and I had that competitive relationship with each other. I didn’t expect us to become such good friends with him. I always respected him, but we fought each other for the title a few times, there was some bad blood between us. A little bit. We both want something we can’t have.” Only one of us.

“After my injury, we connected with each other and it was really helpful. I was in a bad place, especially in the beginning, and like I said, I was worried if I would be able to play with my kids. But he assured me that I would come back better than ever and it was all mental. It was a big help.”

When he finally got back into training, he knew he would have to give and receive a kick before he could fully commit to a fight.

He admitted it was temporary at first, but fighters are cut differently than a normal human and he knew he couldn’t put it off forever.

“I had to ask the guys to kick me a little bit,” Weidman said. “I went southpaw so it was my back leg. I got a kick and then I asked, ‘Kick it a little harder.'” Well, kick it a little harder. Kick it a little harder,” and then I got to the point where I realized how hard I was getting kicked and I was going to be fine. As I went along, it felt great. I feel like I have a titanium bar in there now.”

He was not given an easy test by any means on his comeback. Tavares is a strong fighter and a high quality professional.

This is the way Weidman wants it because he has big plans.

“You know, that’s part of the story yet to come,” he said, “but I really think this leads me down a path where I’m going to shock the world again.” “I am much better now than I was before I got hurt and I am really excited to write the perfect ending to this story. Believe me, I will be world champion again and I will shock the world. Bet on that.”

Once he returned to fight an elite opponent, Weidman had already shocked the world. Only time will tell what other magic he has in store.

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