by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
By his own admission, lightweight prospect Matt Wiman did not make wise choices early in his career. Promoters liked his any time, any place attitude, but as his career began to take off, it didn’t serve him well.
“When I was younger, I would get in over my head, because I would just take any fight, any time and not even really prepare for it,” he said. “I was fighting guys with three times as many fights as me. I was taking fights on short notice. I was taking fights just to make a dollar and have a challenge.”
Wiman points to his UFC debut against Spencer Fisher as the most salient example of his recklessness. He was moving from Oklahoma to Florida when he got the call to fight Fisher on nine days notice. Twenty-five pounds overweight, he barely made the 155-pound cutoff for the UFC 60 fight, and was finished in dramatic fashion by the Miletich-trained fighter early in the second round.
“I could have won that fight, but Spencer Fisher was Top 10 in the world at that time, and he’d training for three months,” Wiman said. “I don’t know if I deserved to win that fight or not.”
Then came his appearance on the fifth season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” where he struggled to stay healthy, and sane, in a situation far from reality. Wiman made it to the quarterfinals, but fell short against powerful grappler Manny Gamburyan.
While it was clear Wiman had talent, he could be his own worst enemy. With little time to prepare against top-level fighters, he didn’t fight to the best of his abilities.
“It would be overwhelming,” he said.
Wiman says his TUF experience was one of the first steps in maturing as a fighter. He threw out his piecemeal approach to preparation, and began taking training camp seriously. Now, he is confident of his skills because he’s put in the time to sharpen them.
“I’ve gotten a good rhythm in to where it’s not overwhelming, it’s just the course,” he said.
On a four-fight winning streak, Wiman is gaining traction among UFC lightweights. His next fight, against Frankie Edgar at the UFC’s “Fight for the Troops” event on Dec. 10 promises to be his biggest challenge yet. Edgar, a wrestling standout from New Jersey, is poised to enter the upper echelon of the division with wins over several top-tier competitors, including Wiman’s first UFC foe, Spencer Fisher. In five UFC fights, Edgar has fallen short only to Xtreme Couture standout Gray Maynard.
“He’s beaten some tough guys, but I feel like this is a great match-up for me at a great time,” Wiman said of Edgar. “This one will be a huge step forward.”
In his key victories, Edgar has used his wrestling to wear his opponents down. Wiman is well aware that he needs to stay off his back.
“I’ve been preparing for his wrestling and his position,” he said. “I feel like he’s good, I’m just a little better at it all. Everywhere he tries to take the fight, I’m going to give him problems. If he shoots in, I’m going to sprawl and punch him in the face. I really think I’m going to finish him.”
At 25, Wiman is technically a spring chicken, but he feels older. On the fifth fight of a nine-fight contract, he’s more than able to make a run at a contender slot.
“As I get older, my mind is maturing and wrapped around the whole aspect of competing and fighting, mentally getting stronger,” he said. “With age comes wisdom, I guess.”