ByDan Shapiro, writer at
Senior Editor, Champions
Dan Shapiro

NEW YORK — For the first time in his seven-year MMA career, former UFC middleweight champion is heading into a fight on the heels of a loss.

Fighting on the UFC 205 main card, Weidman takes on fourth-ranked , in what is most likely a number-one contender bout. And while the 13-1 Long Island native has already called the UFC’s debut at the "biggest fight of [his] life," his coach, Ray Longo, believes that his star pupil has all the tools to return to the top of the division.

“You have a really good wrestler who’s 32, against a really good wrestler who’s going on 40. I think that’s gonna be the difference,” offered Longo at the UFC 205 media day. “I think Chris could push out a good pace. It’s MMA, it’s not wrestling and Chris I think can blend the hands and the takedowns better than he can.”

For Longo, UFC 205 is a “dream come true,” commenting that “to be able to coach somebody at Madison Square Garden, it’s very exciting, and I think it’s gonna be the icing on the cake for what I’ve been doing all these years.”

Thus, he’s spent the better part of 2016 prepping Weidman for a comeback.

With Weidman initially slated to challenge former champion at in a re-match of their Fight of the Night, the “All-American” was forced from the bout due to injury. Longo has used the additional five months to hone and polish his protege’s skillset.

“He was gonna fight for the title anyway, but he got injured,” stated Longo. “I think he’s doing the right thing, fighting the guy who’s ranked number four, who’s very dangerous. He should get the title shot.”

And in addition to the striking drills, strength and conditioning, and -helmed Brazilian jiu-jitsu sessions, Longo has paid particular attention to Weidman’s mental game, helping the former champ re-focus after suffering the only loss in his professional mixed martial arts career.

“The way you deal with that deal with that is make you sure you had a good camp,” added Longo, who elaborated that the team made sure to “put in the hard work, build the confidence up through proper sparring and .... make sure you don’t have any confidence issues going on.”

Now, just days away from Weidman’s first fight in 11 months, Longo and the entire camp: Gian Villante, Al Iaquinta, and Aljamain Sterling; are “concentrating on one guy.” And regardless, of Romero’s recent run in with and six-month suspension due to a tainted supplement, Ray Longo is more confident in Weidman than he’s ever been.

“I think Chris will beat him on steroids or off steroids.”


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