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A day in the life: Training camp with UFC's Chris Weidman
For now, though, Baldwin's Chris Weidman can move among the Manhattan masses in relative anonymity. Challenger still, not yet a champion.
Each day of training camp leading into his middleweight title shot at UFC 162 is different in its details. One day could bring sparring and cardio, another could involve Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or biking, weightlifting or wrestling, or some combination of everything.
Each day of training camp is the same in his dedication and determination. The workouts may change, but Weidman, 28, must push himself today to be better than yesterday, to be better tomorrow than today. Title shots don't pop up often for most MMA fighters, and certainly not against Silva (33-4, 17-0 UFC), the man most consider the greatest mixed martial artist in the sport's history. In Silva's 10 straight title defenses, he has fought the same opponent -- Chael Sonnen -- just once.
On this particular day in training camp -- Memorial Day -- Weidman rode the LIRR into the city for BJJ training at Renzo Gracie Academy. The holiday represents a day off from work for most people, filled with hamburgers and hot dogs, beaches and baseball. The holiday for Weidman this year was simply Monday, the first in his six-day-a-week training regimen to prepare for the biggest fight of his life. His holiday cookout included a protein bar on the train ride into the city and a piece of salmon with brown rice and salad on the way home.
Weidman's Memorial Day morning started on foot instead of on wheels. Most mornings, he'll ride his new road bike around the Island. But on this day, Weidman marched in Baldwin's Memorial Day parade with his daughter's preschool. Father first, fighter second.
Once on the mats at Renzo Gracie's, Weidman drilled various moves in an advanced BJJ class led by John Danaher, a black belt under the academy's namesake who also is the instructor for welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre,
"He's an immensely talented kid," Danaher said of Weidman (9-0, 5-0). "One of the fastest learners I've ever seen. He's something of a phenom."
But Danaher isn't all about platitudes with his students. He was quick to keep Weidman focused during the entire session of drills and live training with different partners. At one point, Weidman was talking with David Branch, a veteran MMA fighter from Manhattan with a 12-3 record (2-2 in the UFC) as they went through drills.
"Who are you fighting again?" Danaher asked Weidman. "Anderson Silva, the second best mixed martial artist in the world? What are you talking to other people for?"
After roughly an hour or so of jiu-jitsu, and enough sweat to refill his gallon jug of water, Weidman boarded the train home. The reality of the task ahead for Weidman is understood, but perhaps not the magnitude.
"Not yet," Weidman said. "In reality, I'm fighting Anderson Silva for the title. But it hasn't sunk in yet. Maybe after the fight."
He spent about four hours at home, relaxing with his wife and two children, eating an early dinner (not to be confused with his late-night dinner after the next training session) and playing some video games.
"Just wanted to get my mind off things," Weidman said.
A mental reset before the night session with head trainer Ray Longo and strength and conditioning coach Jamal Hamid.
Inside Ray Longo MMA in Garden City, Weidman worked on his striking -- "hit pads" as they say. Jabs and crosses, uppercuts and hooks. Same as any fighter in training. After 45 minutes of punching, elbowing and kicking a padded Longo, it was time for Hamid to take over for what he called a "light" strength workout.
"Light" is a relative term. On this particular evening inside a warehouse gym on Commercial Avenue, it meant Weidman could swim in his own puddle of sweat by the time he was done.
Five short lifts of a 100-pound barbell, followed by holding it in place for 10 seconds. Next were 20 pushups in which after a full extension of the arm, Weidman had to lift a 25-pound dumbbell.
On to abs now.
Weidman hung from a bar and lifted his knees to his chest, then moved to what Hamid called a "closed eye" drill. Weidman laid on his back, brought his knees up and extended his arms toward the ceiling. With his eyes closed, Weidman had to react and resist Hamid as he pushed on Weidman's limbs in different directions.
Then Weidman put his lower back on a medicine ball and made a circular motion with his torso, a technique designed to work the oblique muscles as much as the abdominal muscles.
"Whew, deadly," Weidman said after a physical grunt that lacks the proper letters in the alphabet for correct translation.
Upon completion shortly after 11 p.m., Weidman changed clothes and shot the breeze with Longo and Hamid for a few minutes before driving home for a late dinner. It was a needed mental and physical cool down inside Ray Longo MMA. The life of a fighter -- and the next day of training camp starts in less than 10 hours.