by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
For most fighters going 6-2 in a year could be considered a good year, but not for Travis Wiuff. Over his career of nearly 50 fights, Wiuff had only lost four fights in four years and had won 18 straight heading into 2005. Now after having taken the first few weeks of the New Year off, Wiuff is ready to return to action and put last year behind him.
“I think it was a very disappointing year for me,” Travis told MMA Weekly of his 2005. “I got to the UFC, which was definitely a goal, obviously that didn’t turn out how I hoped (it would), I was hoping for a better performance. I had a couple of decent fights, but the year ended on a disappointing note with the loss to Jason Lambert. He’s very tough, very good, a good fighter, but I thought I’d do a lot better against him. Overall I felt it was a very disappointing, I lost just those two fights, but they were two fights – especially the Lambert fight – that I should have won.”
While things didn’t go quite as well as Wiuff would have liked in the ring last year, outside the ring he flourished, especially when it came to training with one of the sport’s best teachers. “Obviously any time you train with a guy that’s as talented as Jeremy Horn is, you’re going to pick up stuff. I was out there about six months total and I learned a ton of stuff. He opened my eyes to a lot of small things that I normally didn’t pay any attention to, or that people had told me about in the past, but I hadn’t listened to. Maybe because it’s Jeremy, he made it much easier to pick up.”
Travis continued, “Also I learned a lot of new very good training techniques and I got to train with a ton of great people. It’s not very often you get to train with Tim Sylvia, Rich Franklin, Matt Hughes, Justin Eilers and Joe Riggs. There’s a lot of talented people who train out there. It was very beneficial for my career.”
Wiuff intends to continue to work with Horn as well as an MMA legend for the bigger fights that he has coming up this year. “I think any time I have something big, as long as it’s okay with Jeremy and Monte (Cox, Wiuff’s manager), I’d like to go back out there. Or, I’d be interested in going down to Davenport and train with Pat (Miletich), I guess it just depends on what Monte thinks. Where he thinks I should be, where I should go, I’m going to listen to him and take his advice.”
Even though Wiuff hasn’t fought yet in 2006, he did manage to get in a fight at the end of last year in his hometown against a very tough fighter.
“I fought the last week of the year in December,” said Travis. “It was a good opportunity because it was right in my hometown. It was a good fight, Ron Fields is a very tough opponent, he’s fought a lot of tough people, he doesn’t have a great record but that’s because he’s fought a lot of tough people and has never turned down anybody. Just the fact that he was willing to come to my hometown and fight me shows just how tough he is. I ended up finishing him in the second round, but it was a good opportunity, especially at the end of the year when it’s tough to fight something. It ended up going really well.”
Next up for Wiuff is a fight against a rising young prospect from the Brazilian Top Team at a show, that despite some rumors may not be happening, is still going on according to Wiuff’s knowledge. “I’m fighting on February 17th in Atlantic City against Fabiano Capoani. It’s not in Euphoria and as far as I know it’s not in the IFC either. I’m not really sure, I’ve been learning a little bit more lately, but the IFC I think was affiliated with it in the beginning but isn’t anymore. Just from what I’ve read the show is still going on, but the IFC is not promoting it.”
Travis has always been known for his solid wrestling and excellent ground ‘n pound style, however that may not be the best strategy against a BJJ expert like Capoani is. In Fabiano’s last fight against Team Quest’s Aaron Stark, Capoani used Stark’s aggressive wrestling style against him in a submission victory. According to Wiuff, Capoani’s style isn’t something he’s worried about and he should be well prepared heading into their fight.
“I’m going to pretty much train the same,” explained Travis. “I’m always trying to improve my game, obviously I’m going to roll a lot more and I have a really good Jiu-Jitsu guy named Mario Roberto to train with who is a BJJ Black Belt and his ground game is amazing. His BJJ is awesome, so it’s a huge benefit to have him where I live. Obviously I’m going to roll with him just to help my ground game, I’m not going to be looking for a submission, if it’s there I’ll take it, but it’s more for submission defense that Mario and I will concentrate on.”
Wiuff further commented, “That’s one of the things I’m going to concentrate on this year is my submissions. A perfect example of that transition is Matt Hughes. When he started out a lot of people thought he was just a wrestler, but I think he’s won his last four fights with submissions. So a wrestler is definitely capable of learning submissions and that’s my goal this year is to finish people with submissions instead of just using ground ‘n pound and finish fights early.”
As for what he has planned for the future, Wiuff hopes to get in as many quality fights as possible and work his way to the top of the 205lb division. “It’s funny it seems like I call Monte seriously once a week and ask if he has a fight for me. I would fight a couple times a month if Monte would allow me to. Obviously that’s not beneficial for my career but I like to stay active. I train all the time so I’m always trying to improve my game and I’m ready to fight. That’s why I’ve sometimes taken fights on short notice. I’d like to fight every six weeks and the level of competition you’re fighting depends on how often you fight. If I have something tough I like to have some time to prepare for it, but I like to stay really active.”
Travis continued, “I’d definitely like to get back to the UFC, but it’s not the main goal. I’d like to go out and improve each time I fight and continue to compete with the top-level guys. The other things are going to happen if I continue to do well in the second-tier shows like the IFC, Euphoria, Gladiator Challenge, and the UFC will come calling back. The main goal is to continue to do well and things will turn out like I hope.”
When it comes to the 205lb division in the US, there are two very recognizable top fighters in UFC Champion Chuck Liddell and living legend Randy Couture, but after that there is a wide array of young contenders all jockeying for position. While Travis has respect for everyone near the top, he intends to make his mark on the division and be right up there with them before too long.
“Randy and Chuck are definitely at the top but they’re not getting any younger,” admitted Travis. “Even Chuck is getting up there, he’s in his mid-30′s and I’m not saying he can’t be the champ for a long time, but age is going to catch up with those guys. Tito (Ortiz) is still around and I think he’s a great fighter and talented. Babalu (Renato Sobral) I think is very underrated and is very good and is going to surprise a lot of people, I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not the next champion of the light-heavyweight division because he’s the most well-rounded 205lb fighter in the UFC and maybe the world. I think I’m definitely at that level, given the right time to prepare and train with the right people I think I can hang with those guys. I just need to be given the opportunity and I don’t think I’m going to be given that until I start beating some top-level guys.”
Wiuff concluded, “I want to thank Sprawl; they’ve always helped me out a lot. Definitely want to thank Monte, I know I probably get on his nerves when I call all the time and see if he’s gotten me fights, but he’s helped me a ton. And as a local sponsor I have here in Rochester is Billy Pointon, he helps me a ton and allows me to do as well I do. For the fans, just keep your eyes open. This is my make or break year, I finally got into the UFC last year and if I get back there this year a lot of people will be surprised how evolved of a fighter I’ve become, so just keep your eyes open.”