NEW YORK — Former middleweight champion Chris Weidman had been waiting his whole career for Saturday night.
It didn’t go anywhere near the way he expected.
Weidman was knocked out by Yoel Romero in the third round of a main card bout of UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden.
The finish came after a brutal flying knee by Romero that ripped Weidman’s face open and abruptly ended what Weidman hoped would be a storybook evening.
It still couldn’t completely ruin the moment.
“I’m still up here smiling and answering questions,” the Baldwin, New York, resident said early Sunday morning at the post-fight news conference.
Weidman was an instrumental figure in the UFC’s efforts to get professional MMA events legalized in New York. It was nearly a decade-long process that cost the organization millions in lobbying efforts after it became a political football in the state.
He traveled each year to speak to legislators and even embarked on a bus tour across the state to help rally support.
A bill to legalize the sport finally passed this year and Weidman was the only native New Yorker on what was one of the most stacked cards in UFC history.
When it came time to finally make the walk to the cage on the historic night, Weidman took a brief pause to take in the atmosphere.
“It was a dream come true,” Weidman said. “It was everything I imagined…Until I lost.
“But that walkout was truly special to me, just an ultimate dream being realized. I’ve had so many ups and downs in the sport and so many times where I thought this was going to get legalized and I imagined fighting here in New York. For it to finally happen and have the crowd give me that kind of support after traveling around the world and fighting everywhere else besides my home state, it was a dream come true walking out.”
A win would have made it that much more special. Weidman was looking to bounce back from losing his belt to Luke Rockhold last December and had split the first two rounds with Romero.
Then came the flying knee that landed just as Weidman dropped down for a takedown, causing a nasty gash and spilling blood all over the mat.
“I probably broke the record,” Weidman joked when asked how many stitches he received for the cut.
Still, Weidman will remember the event for the rest of his career.
“It was a very tough night,” he said. “This was not the way I imagined this going, but I still find the beauty in the little things I got to experience. The walkout, the weigh-ins, every part of it I felt the love so that was nice.”
Romero likely earned the next title shot against Michael Bisping with the victory, according to White.
The UFC president also said it’s likely there will be a rematch between Stephen Thompson and welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
Though there was some controversy in the way the scores were read, their fight at UFC 205 on Saturday night ended in a draw. Woodley maintained the belt with that result.
White said it only makes sense for them to fight again, particularly since Saturday’s fight was so good.
“You rematch, man,” White said. “I think that it was a draw and the fight was ridiculous. It was the fight of the night. Let’s do it again.”
NO REST FOR THE WEARY
Even after such a historic night for the UFC, the show must go on.
In fact, the organization will hold two events on different continents on the same day this week. UFC Fight Night 99 will take place in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Saturday morning with UFC Fight Night 100 to follow that evening in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
A middleweight bout between Gegard Mousasi and Uriah Hall will headline the early card, with Reno native Ryan Bader taking on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in a light heavyweight bout to headline the evening card.
The early card will stream exclusively online through UFC Fight Pass. Both the preliminary and main card for the Sao Paulo card will air on Fox Sports 1.
Contact Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter.
Invicta FC 20 (UFC Fight Pass)
Nov. 18, Kansas City, Missouri
UFC Fight Night 99 (UFC Fight Pass)
Nov. 19, Belfast, Northern Ireland
UFC Fight Night 100 (FS1)
Nov. 19, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Bellator 165 (Spike TV)
Nov. 19, San Jose, California
UFC Fight Night 101 (FS1)
Nov. 26, Melbourne, Australia