Ultimate Fighting Championship star Chris Weidman grew up in Baldwin, New York, just a short train ride from New York City. But for years, the fighter never got a chance to compete in the five boroughs because mixed martial arts (MMA) was illegal in New York State. “It’s been a long road,” he says of the battle to legalize his sport, which was won earlier this year. “I was kind of thinking it wasn’t going to happen.”
Now that it has happened, UFC 205—the first locally held event—will take place at Madison Square Garden on November 12. Naturally, Weidman is on the card with a bout against Yoel Romero. “It’s a dream come true,” he says, “being about to go out there and do what I love in front of everybody in my hometown.”
On the day UFC announced he’d be fighting at the Garden, Weidman gave us a call to talk about why he loves New York City.
For tickets to UFC 205, visit ticketmaster.com.
What are your early memories of NYC?
Chris Weidman: My uncle—my mom’s brother, who I’m very close to—lives in the City. He’s lived there his whole life. So I grew up going to see him a lot, spending weekends with him, going all over. He’d take me to Rangers games, even though I became an Islanders fan. We’d walk around and get Papaya King hot dogs.
How has your relationship with the City changed over the years?
CW: I’m married with kids now, so if I go to the City with the kids and the wife, we’re doing Rockefeller Center and walking around. And usually if we’re going, it’s because we have family in from out of town and we’re doing tour stuff with them, showing them around. If it’s just me, usually it’s business, doing media, some sponsor stuff, or training. I’ve done a lot of training at Renzo Gracie’s jiu-jitsu gym on 30th Street, basically right where you get out at Penn Station.
Where do you go with your out of town guests?
CW: We took the Staten Island Ferry, we looked at the Statue of Liberty. We rented bikes in Central Park and rode around. We went to Artichoke for pizza. Things like that. We were going to take them to L&B Spumoni Gardens, but we ran out of time. That’s one of my favorite pizza places, in Brooklyn.