Chris Weidman offers Conor McGregor advice coming back from broken leg after struggling to pull trigger in his own return

Chris Weidman did everything possible to ensure he was ready to return at full strength after suffering a gruesome broken leg in 2021, which included a compound fracture.

More than two years and four surgeries later, the former UFC middleweight champion felt like he was back to his old self, but it wasn’t until he set foot in the octagon this past August that a harsh realization set in. Despite all his preparation, training, and rehabilitation, Weidman couldn’t account for what unfolded once he actually started trading strikes with Brad Tavares.

“There were some surprises in there for sure,” Weidman told MMA Fighting. “We weren’t worried about leg kicks at all, which is stupid as hell. You come off breaking your leg in half and you’re not worried about leg kicks? I get it. Coaches and us, I never really struggled with leg kicks before in fights, and we just didn’t think it was a real issue that I had to worry about. So when I got in there, I was more thinking that he was going to try to come to brawl, move around, and then really look to get inside the pocket with boxing, and that’s when I would try to go into my takedowns.

“I was thinking I was keeping the range with Tavares, front kicks, me kicking more from the outside. He comes inside, instead of me exchanging in these punching exchanges from the inside with boxing, I was going to be looking for takedowns.”

The leg kicks from Tavares were bad enough, but then Weidman was unable to pull the trigger and fire back at him, which he knew was a key element to stave off the attacks and also get past his own mental blocks fighting for the first time after such a devastating injury.

To make matters worse, Weidman suffered a hairline fracture on the opposite leg to the one that was previously broken, and that pretty much doomed him.

“I was surprised I was so hesitant to throw my right leg,” Weidman said. “Because usually when you’re getting kicked, you’ve got to kick back. My brain wouldn’t let my body just throw that damn kick. I actually tried. I tried so hard to throw it in the second round and it was like I babied it, I didn’t go all out. That was a tough one to get over.

“By the time I tried taking him down, my other leg was already broken, my good leg, because he fractured it, gave me a hairline fracture on my leg,” Weidman said. “Probably in the first round or the beginning of the second, it’s hard to really tell when my leg went out, but either way my legs were not underneath me anymore. … Before you know it, by the second round, when I felt good, I had to fight southpaw and I had no drive behind me to get the takedowns. I was really compromised. I don’t think I fought a bad fight. I thought he fought a really smart, strategic fight and it kind of caught me off guard.”

Having gone through that experience, Weidman offers the same advice he now tells himself to anybody coming back from a similar injury — something former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor will attempt to do when he fights again.

There are only a handful of fighters who have ever experienced a severely broken leg in competition, which is why Weidman knows McGregor already took some helpful lessons away from Weidman’s last outing. Watching want went wrong for Weidman probably serves as the best possible cautionary tale to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen to McGregor.

“I know he watched my fight,” Weidman said of McGregor. “I think he probably learned a lot watching my fight. Some of the red flags of what to be prepared for, for whoever he fights, and also maybe you’re not going to be able to throw [the kicks] back as much as you want. Or now, be prepared that could be something you have to deal with, so really train on kicking back.

“Because you want that to be second nature when you’re in there. For me, I thought I was good with that, but I wasn’t. I would have really worked at it more and realize there is a psychological effect when you break your leg in half like that. So you need to really get that habit back strong and focus on that. I don’t really think I need to say much. He should just watch my last fight and learn from that.”

With his next fight booked against Bruno Silva at UFC Atlantic City on Saturday, Weidman took a different approach to his preparation this time, as well as the strategy he’s developing with his coaches.

Of course, Silva isn’t Tavares, so there’s no telling for certain if the Brazilian will even employ leg kicks as a major part of his arsenal. But Weidman promises he’s ready for whatever gets thrown at him this time.

“I am very ready for someone to do that again to me,” Weidman said. “I will not be fooled twice. In this fight, I do expect Bruno Silva to try and take out my legs. He’s got powerful punches and kind of swings unorthodox-ly, but I will be prepared for leg kicks big time. My goal is to be able to kick back. I really thought I was going to be able to kick back in that last fight.

“I’ve really been working on throwing that back in retaliation for being leg kicked, so hopefully I’ll be able to do that in this next fight.”

Stylistically, Weidman appreciates that Silva is the kind of fighter who comes forward and goes headhunting with his punches. In a perfect world, that would allow Weidman to then counter with his wrestling, which remains arguably the best part of his entire game.

“If he does come at me, it’s a dangerous game for him too, because I will be throwing punches,” Weidman said. “I’ve got heavy hands too. I will be throwing in that pocket, but that will also open up my wrestling game.

“Ultimately that’s where I want to be — on top of him — and that’s where he doesn’t want me. That’s one thing he has to decide. If he’s going to be the Chute Boxer, walking forward, you’ve got to be really careful of takedowns. He’s got a lot on his plate as well.”

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