From anonymous Long Islander to UFC limelight

Chris Weidman used to watch UFC champions getting interviewed on television a few years ago and shudder. There was nothing he wanted more than to win a title and become a star in the sport. But the prospect of doing live TV? He was terrified of it.

“I remember thinking I would never be able to do that,” Weidman told The Post. “I didn’t think I was much of a public speaker. I would think to myself, ‘Man I don’t think I want to win any more fights’ out of fear it.”

Just a few months ago, Weidman was anonymous — just another middle-class, square-jawed kid from Long Island who happened to be an MMA fighter. Now, his life has been turned on its cauliflowered ear.

Weidman was the most interviewed athlete at ESPN’s Bristol studios in 2013. He’s recognized wherever he goes on Long Island. But hey, that’s what happens when you knock out the greatest UFC champion of all time and take his middleweight title.

The 29-year-old did in July what many thought impossible: end the seven-year reign of Anderson Silva atop the 185-pound division. He will be the underdog once again Saturday night when he grants Silva a rematch at UFC 168 back at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the scene of Weidman’s championship victory.

Going into the first fight, many experts thought Weidman, with his Hofstra All-American wrestling pedigree and sponge-like absorption of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, could beat the 38-year-old Silva. But the casual fan didn’t really know who he was. They do now.

“I’m definitely more recognized,” Weidman said. “There are times where I know I’ll need to have my wife go to the store instead of me. Because I know if I go it’s going to take longer.”

Nevertheless, Weidman will trade the inconvenience of celebrity for the security of his family any day.

“It’s where I wanted to be,” Weidman said. “I wanted to be champion. I know fame comes with that.”

One of the first things he did after becoming champion — and earning a new UFC contract — was move from Baldwin to Dix Hills with his wife, Marivi, and two kids. It’s the first time the Weidmans have had a home to themselves. Previously, they lived with Weidman’s cousin.

Hurricane Sandy destroyed Weidman’s former home in Baldwin last year. The months of rebuilding weighed heavily on him before the first Silva fight. On top of that, he was coming off two shoulder surgeries and a year-long layoff from the octagon and going right into a bout with Silva, who had won 16 straight fights, including 10 title defenses in a row.

“It really wasn’t the best situation to fight Anderson Silva,” Weidman said. “This fight, there’s none of that. No question marks. No reason why I should lose this fight.”

In the first fight, Weidman was as confident as anyone could realistically be against the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He’s even more confident now.

Silva, as he has been known to do in his fights, dropped his hands and dared Weidman to hit him. Weidman obliged, knocking him out cold. He doesn’t care if Silva produces the same theatrics Saturday night.

Weidman has shown the ability to focus solely on himself and not his opponent. He already has beaten the greatest of all time and showcased a skill set that could put him among the UFC elite for years to come.

The celebrity and attention have come along with it. But not everything is different for the family man.

“I still gotta take out the garbage,” Weidman said. “I still gotta do the chores.”

When he’s home, the champ has to check his belt at the door.

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