"I wanted to take the little popularity I have and the support I have and
try to use it for a good cause – not for myself, but for other people
going through the same thing and even worse." - Chris Weidman
After getting hit by a disaster such as the hurricane that hit the east coast last week, it’s easy to feel like you’re all alone, especially when you’ve lost power, lost phone and internet service, and are left with what remains of your house and the neighbors who have experienced all the same things you have.
UFC middleweight contender Chris Weidman was no different than anyone affected by Hurricane Sandy. The house in Baldwin, New York that he had shed blood, sweat, and tears in the gym and the Octagon to buy for himself, his wife, and their two children was battered and broken, and while the family had a place to stay with Weidman’s parents, the time after the storm was spent trying to salvage what he could and remove the walls filling rapidly with mold.
He had his community around him, and they all shared this experience together, but it was as if the rest of the world was moving on without them, unaware what was going on in Long Island.
Then Weidman would go to his parents’ house and check a computer.
“I don’t have any phone service by where I live now, but when I would get home I would see all these mentions on my Twitter and stuff like that with all these people caring about me,” he said, calling the support that he received “overwhelming.”
On Wednesday of last week, Weidman emerged, tweeting “Thx 4 the support! Could've been a lot worse, everything's replaceable there are a lot of people who r worse off. family is safe & healthy”
Since then, Weidman has used his Twitter account to keep fans and followers not just abreast of his situation, but how people can help those devastated by the storm. He also invited MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani out to Long Island to film a harrowing video showing the scope of the damage done by Sandy. It’s not something you would expect anyone to do after trying to rebuild and cope with their own losses, but Weidman, always a class act, is doing it to promote awareness while also deflecting any good wishes for his actions. The way he sees it, he was one of the lucky ones.
“I’d go back to my house the next day (after seeing all the positive messages), where it’s basically a warzone, and I see all those people suffering, and there’s not too many people giving them the support like I’m getting,” he said. “I’m getting so much love and everyone’s offering everything in the world to me, and my next door neighbor’s 75 years old and he has no flood insurance and his wife is a little sick right now. So I wanted to take the little popularity I have and the support I have and try to use it for a good cause – not for myself, but for other people going through the same thing and even worse. It made me want to help as many people as I can with the support I get.”
It’s been a life-altering week for so many in the area, but for Weidman, he only expected some possible flooding when forecasts came in for Sandy on the weekend of October 27-28. So to prepare, he got his family out of the house, called his cousin in, and the two prepared for some issues, but mainly a night of video games.
“My family wanted me to leave, but we had to stay because we knew that when it went from high tide to low tide, the dock was gonna get caught up in there and break our bulkhead,” he said. “We had an issue with that before, so we knew that was gonna happen. But we were ready to play games all night and just have a good time.”
It didn’t turn out that way.
“Last year with (Hurricane) Irene, it was the worst flooding we ever had on Long Island, and that didn’t even get in my garage,” said Weidman. “It filled up my crawlspace, it ruined my backyard, and my house is pretty high compared to some other people on the street. So now they’re saying this is gonna be bad and that there was a possibility that it could be even worse than Irene with the flooding. So we threw sandbags in front of the garage, did all the taping and plastic stuff on the garage, and I was thinking, worst case scenario, maybe a couple inches in the garage. And I stacked everything really high in heavy bins and I figured I was gonna be good. Then it came up belly button deep in the garage and it was something we just never expected. I had my cousin with me and we were running things up and down, and we just couldn’t believe it. We were in shock.”
At one point, with the water rising rapidly, Weidman and his cousin ran outside to work with the dock that they expected would give them problems. It was then that they really began to see the frightening scope of the storm.
“We were running out there and chopping the dock and sawing things, then my cousin fell in the water up to his knees and I pulled him back in,” he said. “And it was so windy, it was scary. And any second a tree could fall down. Trees were falling everywhere, right next to us, and it was chaos. That was the scariest part. I’m in waist deep water trying to fix this dock, and it was definitely an experience.”
Once back inside, the madness wasn’t subsiding, it was getting worse.
“The next thing I know, we’re like ‘this might come in the house.’ Then we’re duct taping the doors and locking ourselves in the house, and the water just started pouring in the house, and not just from the doors, but through the pipes and the floor. So it was a good thing we were there, and not just for the bulkhead, but we ended up saving furniture and some clothes by bringing it upstairs. A lot of stuff got ruined and the house is shot, but I’m glad I stayed and no one got hurt. That’s the most important thing.”
The first floor of the house was extensively damaged, and after taking out whatever they could that had mold on it, the waiting game begins, as insurance companies now come to assess the damage. Weidman says he and his family are coping well with what happened, and happy just to be safe and with a warm place to stay. As for the man of the house, he got back to work on Monday, taking the train into New York City to work at Renzo Gracie’s Academy to prepare for his December 29th bout against Tim Boetsch.
“I just need to get my life organized,” said Weidman, whose regular work at Ray Longo’s gym was altered because there was no electricity there (there is now) and because with the local gas shortage, he needs to conserve the quarter tank he has left. “That’s the most important thing, and then I can start focusing on Boetsch. I started today (Monday), so I’m trying to get serious.”
He’s got eight weeks to go and far from an ideal situation staring him in the face. How does he kick into fight mode? Like most resilient New York and New Jersey residents, he’ll find a way.
“It’s not gonna be easy,” Weidman admits. “It’s gonna be tough. The last week, I haven’t trained once. I’ve been worried about my family and doing as much work as I can in the house every day. So today (Monday) was my first day working out, and I just know that I’ve worked so hard to get where I’m at and I don’t want to have anything get in my way of keeping that going. I just have to stay positive, and I have my family around me and they want me to stay focused now and get ready for my fight, so while it’s definitely not easy, this is gonna motivate me to work harder. I’m in a hundred percent for this fight, and I’ll be ready to go.”