Chris Weidman, Anderson Silva share heartfelt conversation after leg injury: ‘I want to apologize to you’

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva may have once been fierce UFC rivals, but as their time in combat sports creeps toward an end, their relationship has evolved into something more.

After Weidman suffered a horrific leg break in his April bout against Uriah Hall, Silva reached out to the American and offered his support. The injury, of course, was eerily reminiscent of the broken leg Silva suffered in his 2013 rematch with Weidman. Silva’s legendary career was never the same after that setback, and at age 37, with a 2-6 record over his last eight fights, Weidman’s own future outlook isn’t looking particularly encouraging.

But Silva has been an unlikely source of encouragement for Weidman since his April injury, and on Friday the two former rivals spoke at length on Weidman’s new podcast, “Won’t Back Down,” where Weidman extended a heartfelt apology for the way he reacted to Silva’s injury in 2013 and any perceived lack of empathy he showed Silva in the aftermath.

“The first thing that popped into my head when I broke my leg, as soon as I hit the ground — actually as soon as I looked at my leg and I saw it flop around, the first thing that went in my head was, ‘I cannot believe (this).’ Like, I thought about you,” Weidman told Silva. “I thought about, ‘This is Anderson Silva. Like, my leg looked like Anderson Silva’s leg. What the hell? There’s no way that’s my leg right now.’ And then all of a sudden the pain’s coming in. And I remember when it happened with you, I didn’t know your leg broke as soon as it happened. I thought you were just in pain.

“I circled around and I remember hearing the screaming, like someone was being murdered, and then I came over and I saw you holding your leg. And I just couldn’t not believe it. And as time went on, I tried to get in touch with you that week, I felt terrible about it, but as time went on you kind of forget. And I feel terrible now, because now I understand the pain that you went through, all the trials and tribulations that you went through, and it just makes me empathize with you so much more, with those situations. And to honest, I’ve never even said this out loud but it’s been on my mind really since this happened, but I want to apologize to you.”

“It’s (OK),” Silva replied. “Don’t worry about that, because I know everything that happened to you in the moment when I broke my leg, I know you didn’t realize. (You knew) I was feeling pain but not (that) I broke my leg. But I want you to understand, don’t say sorry. Because when the people judge, [they] don’t understand what happened inside (the cage).”

“I appreciate that but I still have to get it off my chest, because it is — in my mind, it’s almost therapy for me,” Weidman responded. “Because one of the things that bothers me a little bit about the situation is that there were times, I remember right afterward doing all these fan meet-and-greets … fans would want me to take pictures with me checking a leg kick and them doing it. And I remember saying at first, ‘No, no, no, I’m not doing that, that’s disrespectful, that’s disrespectful.’ And then as time went on, I was like, ‘Alright, whatever, I’ll do it,’ and then I started taking pictures like that.

“That bothers me inside because now, going through what I’m going through, I’m like, the pain that [you] and [your] family had to go through, just the long road that it took to get back, and then being able to speak to you and the way that you handled the situation — you could’ve been a real prick about this situation. You could’ve killed me and I wouldn’t have even held it against you, but it would’ve hurt. But the way you handled it right afterward with your post — I mean, there weren’t too many things I was looking at, I was in so much pain, but when I saw that from you it really meant a lot to me.”

Weidman said in April that he expects his recovery to take up to a year before he’s close to returning to an active schedule. Though he’s still a long way away from that benchmark, he was able to return to the gym for the first time earlier this month and work on some low-movement boxing.

Weidman has cautioned that there could still be chances for further complications within his leg, including possible amputation, but has nonetheless been adamant about his plans to return to the UFC and fight again once his leg is back at full strength.

That’s a goal Silva achieved after his own injury — and it’s a goal Silva is now encouraging Weidman to believe in as he works through the day-to-day angst of his recovery.

“You calling me and just giving me advice was super inspiring for me,” Weidman told Silva. “We had that phone call in the back of my wife’s minivan with my four kids in the car, and you’re telling me your timeline and you told me you started going to the gym at four months, and I was like, ‘Holy shit, that’s possible?’ It just made me feel so much better, so I really appreciate that. I wanted to get that off my chest.”

“Come on, Chris, you don’t need to say nothing about that,” Silva replied. “[We’re] human beings. You have a family, I have a family, and my job and your job is very tough. People don’t understand. People who don’t do the same don’t understand how much it’s hard, how much you need to dedicate (yourself) for this sport. And you’re amazing, because when people are talking about the situation, they don’t understand how much you’re suffering, how much you’re working hard, how much you leave your family alone for training, how much you have problems.

“People don’t remember when you lost your house (to Hurricane Sandy), everything. And every single problem, you put it inside your mind and transform it into power when you go inside the cage. And that’s the point. I don’t judge and I don’t say nothing, and I talk to the people and say, ‘Stop talking about this guy, because this is not easy.’ It’s easy to judge but it’s not easy to go inside and fight, and you do your best. Don’t worry about that. I’m happy because you recovered your leg. Take your time, and I’m going to see you fight very soon.”

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