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UFC Road to the Octagon: Weidman vs Gastelum



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A hero means to that they help people no matter what.

He always has my back.

My dad is brave because when he doesn't win, he doesn't give up on his fight.

He makes me feel happy because he makes me believe in myself.

Can't you see why he is my hero?

This award is presented to my dad, Chris Weidman, for being the best dad ever.

Love, Cassidy.

NARRATOR: From 2009 through 2015, no middleweight fighter was more successful than Chris Weidman with 13 straight wins, including a breathtaking championship victory over the fighter considered the greatest of all time.

In three subsequent title defenses, the all-American looked unstoppable.

However, his next title clash with Luke Rockhold and setbacks to the division's elite slowed his momentum, momentum that the proud Long Islander now seeks to reclaim as he readies to fulfill a lifelong dream.

CHRIS WEIDMAN: I'm born and raised about 12 minutes away in Baldwin.

Right now we're on the border of Garden City, Uniondale, and Hempstead.

That's pretty much where Nassau Coliseum is.

So this is the corner of all those towns.

I have such pride and love for being a Long Islander.

I was a huge Islander fan when I was a kid.

And the only place that I'd go to watch sports was really Nassau Coliseum.

And then I went to Nassau Community College, which was right across the street.

I went to Hofstra and lived across the street from Nassau Coliseum.

Just love it here.

And to be able to make that walk, it goes down in history no matter what that I got the headline in the first show ever at Nassau Coliseum.

For the rest my career, this is going to be a moment that I could reflect back on as one of the best moments of my career.

NARRATOR: While Weidman's history runs deep in Long Island, he is also continually looking to his future, a future that recently has been fueled by a cutting edge performance institute in nearby Staten Island.

CHRIS WEIDMAN: We went to Staten Island just about an hour away from Long Island.

And they have all this cutting edge technology.

MICHAEL GREENE: Little shock therapy.

CHRIS WEIDMAN: Shock therapy?

That works for my dog.

That works for me, I guess.

MICHAEL GREENE: So the sports science lab, my position here is I try and get athletes.

And I help athletes perform at a much higher level.

And the sports science in general, we basically look at all the athletes through a scientific lens.

We will break down trying to identify inefficiencies in movement patterns as well as weaknesses overall with an objective component to it.

Really looking through an athlete with a scientific lens allows us to train the athlete in a much higher capacity.

Instead of training harder, we're basically training smarter.

The beauty about this machine is it teaches just to create force and then slow that force down.

It's something that no other machine can do.


Quick, go quick.

CHRIS WEIDMAN: One thing I notice is with that punching accuracy thing-- as opposed to someone holding pads for you, it just really burns your shoulder out, your shoulders out more because it's nonstop punching.

I think it really does help the fights.

MICHAEL GREENE: Within a short amount of time, Chris had made tremendous progress.

Chris has made an unbelievable improvement in his cardio as well as his timing and his reaction time.

We've seen about a 20% to 30% increase in Chris' reaction time in only a couple of sessions.

- We've got 5, 4-- CHRIS WEIDMAN: I'm going get better and improve to win fights.

- 10, 9.

CHRIS WEIDMAN: That was easy.

NARRATOR: As one of only two UFC champions ever born in Long Island, Chris Weidman is a local hero.

However, he hasn't done it alone.

And one of his secret weapons is longtime training partner, Gian Villante.

[MUSIC - GOODING, "SHAKE"] CHRIS WEIDMAN: Villante, very, very talented hard worker, life of the party.

He's a really good brother and teammate, you know, throughout everything.

GOODING: Take me to the place where the flowers-- GIAN VILLANTE: Me and Chris knowing each other since 10th grade.

And we were friends, you know.

Don't get me wrong.

We were buddies, and we see each other.

We'd all be friendly with each other.

But then we started at the same level.

So we're kind of maturing at the same level or anything like that.

And you do something like this with someone-- I don't care if it's your worst enemy.

And you start doing training with them every day, the ups and the downs, you become really close.

And you become-- become family.

And that sounds weird, but it just the ups and downs of the sport.

It's the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

- High.

[CLAPPING] CHRIS WEIDMAN: I feel like I'm way more evolved than the fighter that fought Anderson Silva.

You really see who the real champions are with how they come back and how they come back from setbacks and tough times.

And that excites me, you know.

I'm not going to be the guy who gives up and curls up in a ball and was the guy who accomplished it.

In the beginning, [?

that ?

] [?

fell off.


] I have way more to go.

I have a lot more energy to put into the sport.

I have a lot of talent and potential that hasn't been shown to the world yet.

NARRATOR: On the opposite coast, a California-trained talent readies for what's being hailed as the biggest fight of his life as he seeks to complete a remarkable ascent from rising star to champion.

KELVIN GASTELUM: My goal has always been to fight the best, to keep climbing up the rankings, to eventually get that title shot.

I want to get through as quickly as possible.

Winning the Ultimate Fighter gave me that confidence to know this is something you're good at.

This is something you should pursue.

And this is something that I'm going to dedicate my life to.

To Be honest, the opponent doesn't really matter.

What matters to me is I'm going to destroy.

I want a title shot.

I want to fight for the championship.

This fight just gets me closer to the rankings.

I'm confident in my abilities to know that I can compete with anybody in the world.

NARRATOR: Kelvin Gastelum burst onto the scene in 2013 by routing all of his opponents on the Ultimate Fighter and defeating Uriah Hall to win the season's middleweight tournament.

In the UFC, Gastelum has looked even better, earning Fight Night bonuses powered by his excellent speed and finishing instincts and beating former UFC welterweight champion, Johny Hendricks, at UFC 200.

At UFC 206, Gastelum stepped up to middleweight and unleashed his hard-charging style and wicked combinations on Tim Kennedy, a win that earned Gastelum a shot against UFC legend, Vitor Belfort, just four months ago in Brazil.

KELVIN GASTELUM: The Vitor fight, it was-- it was an amazing fight.

I came out well prepared, confident.

I went out there, and I performed and got my hand raised, which is the goal, you know, always.

NARRATOR: However, victory was short-lived, as Gastelum failed a medical exam.

And his triumph was changed to a no contest due to a positive test for marijuana.

KELVIN GASTELUM: My personal life got affected.

My work life got affected.

This just gave me an opportunity to learn from my mistakes and things that I've done.

NARRATOR: Now Gastelum seeks to leave his recent setback behind as he once again surrounds himself with greatness at King's MMA.

KELVIN GASTELUM: King's MMA was just something that happened.

I got introduced to Rafael Cordeiro when Fabricio Werdum and I were training together in altitude in some cabin in the middle of the woods in Mexico, you know, rocky style.

RAFAEL CORDEIRO: It was in our first camp in Mexico.

We started training with Fabrice when Fabrice fought against Mark Hunt.

He train hard there.

And he look at the training.

He trained one day.

KELVIN GASTELUM: They just made me feel like I was one of them.

I needed something like that.

And sure enough, like six months later, I made the move to Hungtington Beach.

FABRICO WERDUM: He's amazing guy, training hard.

And he's motivated strong.

This fight coming up versus Chris Weidman, I just say, man, [INAUDIBLE] your job.

You've trained very hard for this.

And I believe you will one day [INAUDIBLE] the championship one day.

KELVIN GASTELUM: I'm going to go in there and try and finish this fight as quickly as I can.

I want to go in there and get out.

You know, if it was up to me, I'd finished this fight in five seconds.

But I'm going to be prepared for a 25-minute war with Weidman.

I predict first round, one of us is going out because I know he wants it.

I want this win.

It's going to be two guys who really want this win going at it.

NARRATOR: Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Gastelum is his age, an age where many fighters are just beginning their ascent.

Yet for him, the pinnacle is already in sight.

KELVIN GASTELUM: The good experiences, the bad experiences, I'm finally putting it all together.

I feel at peace, and I feel like I'm free.

And I've had 12 fights in the UFC.

And I'm only 25 years old.

I feel like I'm just getting started.

With Weidman, I'm going straight to his backyard.

And in Long Island, where he grew up, I'm mentally prepared for it.

All the boos and people telling on me that I suck or that I'm not going to win because I've had it worse.

I went to Brazil.

And they told me they were going to cut my head off.

So I'm prepared for a Long Islander, whether the fight is on the ground, whether the fight is standing.

I'm very confident in my abilities to finish the fight just like I did in Brazil.

NARRATOR: Chris Weidman's family has long been accustomed to the kind of success most other fighters can only dream of, yet the family's bonds have proven even stronger in times of adversity.

CHRIS WEIDMAN: My wife, she's a rock.

We've been together since high school.

She's kept me grounded.

And when I did reach the heights of success, and then she was there with me in the lows.

She was the one who made it OK.


I don't know how this is going to work.

CHRIS WEIDMAN: You're not on my-- you don't know if you're my eyes.

I bet I'd look.

You kidding me?

MARIVI WEIDMAN: So I don't watch the fights.

I've never watched a fight.

I go in, and I keep my head down.

And I just pray.

And I've never seen him after his first loss that, like, hit before.

And I've never been to an emergency room.

So that was a first.

We had a lot of firsts that night.

I was just more worried about him mentally.

And I knew what his mental and emotional challenge was going to be was our kids because they're everything-- for both ways.

Like, you know, they're everything to him, and he's everything to them.

And I just remembered being in the emergency room and him was like, what am I going to tell the kids?

It just-- what it meant to them was that all he cared about watching him process that was killed me because I couldn't do anything to help him.

CHRIS WEIDMAN: I look like an ultimate warrior?

MARIVI WEIDMAN: You look like [INAUDIBLE] shedding.

[LAUGHING] And I just think, I know him since we were kids.

So like, I know when he's putting on a front.

I know when he's-- what's going to hurt him.

I know when he really is hurting, and he's trying to be brave for everybody else.

I know it matters to him.

So as long as I can be there to help him get through those times, so that way when I'm going through things, he can be there to be the one to hold our family up at those times, too.

NARRATOR: Through thick and thin, Weidman has always boosted his family with a sense of humor.

And that humor is on display at C.


Weidman's fifth birthday party with the assist from Gian Villante.

CHRIS WEIDMAN: My long-term goals are to win this belt and just create a legacy within the sport, but more importantly, with my family, people that support me.

Stay grounded through success, which is always the hardest thing to do.

Since I have reached a lot of success and then came off and back up, and you know, you want to always try remember where you come from and remember to thank everybody who got you there.

All these people have really made me who I am.

And I got a lot of people that molded me to who I am.

So I just want to always make sure that no matter how successful I get that they are able to share it with me.

CHARLIE WEIDMAN: Now that's a scary dad right there.

CHRIS WEIDMAN: [INAUDIBLE] helping me run wild on you, brother.

[MUSIC PLAYING] This is a very important fight for me.

Obviously I was on top, a lot of naysayers to prove wrong, a lot of people to prove right.

I can't go down.

- (SINGING) It's a riot.

It's a movement.

CHRIS WEIDMAN: Both of us are very motivated to win and both of us-- I know I'm very confident that I'm going to win.

- (SINGING) It's like a motion.

Set it into motion.

CHRIS WEIDMAN: I'm not getting beat up.

I'm a Long Islander for my home crowd.

I just can't do it.

- Yes, yes.

RAY LONGO: He's coming off the controversial decision.

You know, what happened in the past is over.

And it's-- it's really focusing on really what got him here in the beginning.

It's really just a lot of hard work and no outside distractions to me.

CHRIS WEIDMAN: I'm very motivated to make good out of bad.

The inspirational people, when you get knocked down, you get back up.

I feel like all the greats have hidden adversity and came back that much better.

That's what I want to do.

There's no question it's going to be an amazing fight.

None of us-- neither one of us are going to back down.

NARRATOR: On October 24, 1991 in California, Kelvin Gastelum was born to Patricia Encinas.

And on that day, one of the biggest fights of his life began.


Very cool to have my mom here spoiling me, making me food, treating me like a king.

I was born with meningitis in the brain.

I had needles all over my body.

Even in my head, there was needles.

The survival rate for that was really low.

A lot of people don't make it.

So that's just one thing about me, man.

I don't give up even since I was a kid.

I'm a fighter.

I'm a fighter.

My mom, she's the backbone of my family, of me.

She worked two or three jobs, was a single mother for a really long time.

And I get a lot of my ethics from her.

PATRICIA ENCINAS: [SPEAKING SPANISH] I'm so proud of hard work he put in.

The more thing that I like that Kelvin is because he is so humble.


We're making something out of nothing, you know.

And I'm sure she's proud of me but always wants me to keep doing better, which is good, I guess.

You need people to push you.

PATRICIA ENCINAS: Kelvin is going to be the champion very soon, definitely.

I know.

I can feel it.


The world may live or die.

But I will rise.

- One.

HIDDEN CITIZENS: (SINGING) I'm on the warpath.

- Two.

KELVIN GASTELUM: I see a lot of dangers in Weidman.

He's a great striker, good wrestler, good jiu-jitsu.

I just don't see anything that I haven't seen before.

- Six.

KELVIN GASTELUM: Nobody wants to lose in their backyard.

- Eight.

KELVIN GASTELUM: Nobody wants to lose in front of their mom.

- Nine.

KELVIN GASTELUM: He's going to be coming in ready to win this fight.

- (SINGING) I will rise.

I'm on the warpath.

KELVIN GASTELUM: This is going to be the best Chris Weidman there has ever been because he's fighting for much more than just a W.

He's fighting for his job.

The point after the fight, they give me that microphone.

When I get to choose my fight, that's the moment that I train for.

HIDDEN CITIZENS: (SINGING) I was made for war.

I'm on the warpath.

KELVIN GASTELUM: These monsters they keep putting out in front of me, those are the guys that I'm looking to fight next in order for me to be fighting for the championship.

- 40.

KELVIN GASTELUM: For the next 5 to 10 years, I've still had a lot of room to grow.


KELVIN GASTELUM: This is only the beginning for me.

HIDDEN CITIZENS: (SINGING) I'm on the warpath.