Saturday, Nov 16, 2002
Welcome To The Fast Track:ufc Newcomer Travis Wiuff Set To Make His Debut
Welcome to the Fast Track:
UFC Newcomer Travis Wiuff Set To Make His Debut
By Loretta Hunt
Eight months ago, Travis Wiuff had nothing to do with mixed martial arts at all. Finishing up his law enforcement studies at Minnesota State University, Wiuff was well on his way to becoming a city cop — but it’s funny how things work out sometimes. A chance meeting put this accomplished wrestler on the fast track of MMA competition and in a few short months, his career has started to take form. Now, with only five days to go, this 24-year-old is heading for the bright lights and big stakes of Las Vegas to compete on one of the most influential cards in the history of the sport. By Friday night, Wiuff will be a UFC 40 veteran.
Minnesota. A midwest winter wonderland and a breeding ground for high school and college wrestlers. This is where Travis Wiuff flourished as an amateur, taking home two All-American titles in freestyle competition. At 6’2" and 280 pounds (at the time), it didn’t take much for fellow wrestler Brad Kohler to pick Wiuff out of a crowd. Kohler, a 3-Time UFC veteran and MMA competitor the world over, was scouting venues for his local event Ultimate Wrestling Minnesota. "I had no idea there was MMA in Minnesota, let alone at the venue I was at," recalls Wiuff. With a common camaraderie from wrestling, the two struck up a conversation, but at the time, Wiuff says his interest in MMA was minimal. When Kohler invited the youngster to come out and compete in his show, Wiuff resisted, explaining to Kohler that he had never gotten into a fight in his life. Still, the two exchanged numbers and life went on for Wiuff as it always had.
Persistence has a way of always coming out on top, though. Two months later, Wiuff got a call from Kohler asking if he’d changed his mind. Wiuff again insisted that he "was a wrestler, not a fighter," but it was the wrestler in Wiuff that eventually got the best of him. With his eligibility in the sport completed, Wiuff says he yearned for a way to stay active as an athlete and eventually made the two hour drive down to Kohler’s Lions Lair gym to try out a training session. It was a perfect fit for the wrestler, who was now being exposed to boxing, submissions, and most importantly, an opportunity to compete again. Through the UWM shows, Wiuff’s natural prowess and instinct quickly rose him to the top of a novice pool of fighters and gained him some crucial ring time in the process. An overpowering and aggressive specimen within the ring, Wiuff was dubbed "Diesel" by his training partners.
Wiuff’s growing ability was tested last April when he ventured out to Hawaii to compete in Superbrawl’s second talent-laden heavyweight tournament. Although he did not come out victorious, an impressive performance against Wesley "Cabbage" Correira placed Wiuff’s name on a short list of heavyweight up-and-comers. The young fighter returned home and took up training with another Minnesota standout and tactical ground specialist, former UFC middleweight champion Dave Menne. With a pro record of 10-2 now amassed from appearances in Extreme Challenge and the Victory Fighting Championships (among his pro UWM fights), Wiuff was to meet his most experienced adversary on November 23rd. Slated to fight UFC legend Dan Severn at the VFC, "the big call" came last Sunday night while Wiuff was at home unwinding with video games. MMA manager Monte Cox, a longtime friend to Brad Kohler and a bit of a guardian angel for Wiuff, had suggested Zuffa take a look at the promising fighter when scheduled heavyweight Frank Mir had to drop from their upcoming card with an injury. Zuffa was ready to negotiate, if the Minnesotan was interested. It was a restless yet exciting night for Wiuff, who says he didn’t get the final 100% confirmation until that next Monday afternoon. Then, without any time to lose, it was off to Iowa and the Miletich Martial Arts camp for some last-minute training, courtesy of Cox’s invitation.
For the past week Wiuff has rolled and pummeled with the likes of Tim Sylvia and Ian Freeman (visiting from England for his upcoming UFC 40 bout with Andrei Arvloski) , learned to utilize his guard passes more effectively with Jens Pulver, and talked strategy with one of the best in the business in Pat Miletich himself. "The small things are what make the big difference," Wiuff says of what he’s learned in the last week. "It’s the small things–especially when you’re fighting someone good."
"Good" is definitely one word that can describe Wiuff’s opponent Vladmir Matyushenko, but "experienced" might be a better choice for this world-renowned Belarus wrestler, who hails out of the rAw Team. Matyushneko’s last appearance with the premiere organization was at UFC 33, a last-minute match-up he took on two week’s notice against current UFC light-heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz. The fight went to a five-round decision in the champ’s favor. Now fighting up a weight class and having trained for a lighter opponent up to this point, Matyushenko has been estimated to come in somewhere in the 225 to 230 pound range. Although Wiuff will have a discernible weight advantage when he tips the scales at a svelte 255 to 260 pounds, he has no misgivings of what he is up against. "I know Vladdy is an unbelievable wrestler with tons of experience. From what I’ve seen, he always comes in prepared. He’s tough." Tough, but not impossible to beat. With similar wrestling skills, it seems Wiuff might be hoping for a little magic on his feet. "I think his boxing is like mine–kind of like any wrestler where it’s kind of wild–so I think they’ll definitely be opening for things." Known for some audience-pleasing wrestling slams in the past (he slammed Cabbage two times during their match), Wiuff may get his chance to shine even when the chips are down.
With the "ultimate" opportunity to make a name for himself just days away, one can only imagine a slew of miffed heavyweights at their gyms, taking it out on their punching bags. "I’ve thought about that a lot in the last couple of days," says Wiuff. "Watching the last UFC, they were talking about somebody training since they were 7-years old and studying jiu-jitsu for years. It just blows my mind that people have been doing this for years and I ended up being the right person at the right time."
Travis Wiuff’s parents will be watching nervously from their home in Owatonna, Minnesota, along with the scores of other MMA fans that tune in for the fights this Friday night. With concentrated coverage through cable television, radio, Internet, and the mainstream press, UFC 40 has a good chance of garnering the largest live audience attendance in its nine year history. Surprisingly, that’s not a scary thought for this wrestler turned mixed martial artist. "Obviously, the media is completely different than what I’m used to. All of the coverage, especially with the main event, is unbelievable. As far as the fight itself, I think once I get into the Octagon, my instincts will take over." True to his midwestern roots, and not like his nickname at all, this polite and down-to-earth Minnesotan fighter has a humble attitude with regards to his big break in the business. "If you told me eight months ago I’d be in the UFC, I would have laughed at you," he quips. "If you told me eight days ago, I would have laughed." Stop laughing Travis, and welcome to the fast track.
Bitetti Combat on the Rise
After the huge success that was MECA 7, the newest event in Brazil is rapidly approaching bringing with it high expectations. Bitetti COMBAT NORDESTE will be held at the Machadinho gymnasium on the 28th of November in the beautiful city of Natal. With an expected attendance of around 10,000 spectators and a card full of Brazil’s Northeast fighters, along with the presence of the Brazilian Top Team, promoters Amaury Bitetti and Conrado are expecting nothing but success and are already planning new ventures. The idea of creating a new NHB event for Brazil’s Northeast began with a Jiu-Jitsu tournament promoted by Conrado in September, in which Bitetti was the referee. Conrado was already working the idea of an NHB brand called NATALFIGHTERS, and joining with Amaury to put on a well organized NHB show seemed like the perfect opportunity. According to promoter Conrado himself, a bigger show is already in the plans for February, with more known fighters from teams like Brazilian Top Team and Chute Boxe, and NHB veteran fighter Mario Sucata is likely to appear on the card as well. Natal is a tourist city, with wonderful beaches and people travel from all over Brazil to spend time in Natal during the summer, therefore it’s easier to promote events and attract sponsors during this period of the year (bear in mind that since Brazil is located in the Southern Hemisphere, summer is from December through March) and the promoters are using it as a tool to help the event become a success. The plan is to turn the city of Natal into the country’s Northeastern center for NHB, along with the WVC in Recife.
As for the first edition of the event itself, the eight-fight card on the 28th of November will have some slightly different rules from MECA. Since NHB was banned for a while in Natal, promoters are being careful with the first edition of the event and foot stomps and kicks to a downed opponent are not allowed. The fights will also be comprised of three 5-minute rounds, in a 6×6 meter ring — a little bit bigger than the MECA ring. Other than that, the rules are the traditional NHB and Amaury Bitetti will be the referee for the fights. The card is sure to attract the local public since it features some local rivalries. The first fight of the card is a rematch, with Chic
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