by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
When YAMMA Pit Fighting debuts Friday night in Atlantic City, N.J., the promotion will be looking to bring back a former staple of the American mixed martial arts scene to the big time of Pay-Per-View, the heavyweight eight-man tournament.
Originally debuting with the Ultimate Fighting Championship over fifteen years ago, the tournament format has disappeared from the major American landscape, only to be seen on smaller shows, conversely flourishing overseas.
With the return of the tournament format to Pay-Per-View, heavyweight fighters from all corners, both known and unknown have turned out, including former UFC and Pride FC veteran Travis “Diesel” Wiuff.
Wiuff, coming off one of the longer streaks of inactivity in his career, is looking to use the YAMMA tournament to kick-start his year and return to the form that once had him performing on the big stages of the sport.
“It’s been the longest layoff of my life and I’m itching to get back in there,” he said of the four-month gap since his last fight. “It’s just the way it turned out, but I stayed busy and just continued training.
“I hope I won’t feel any ring rust or anything like that. I like to stay busy because this is how I pay my bills and I’ve got to get back in it now.”
Not one to take the easy route, Wiuff chose one of the tougher ways to return to action after time off, competing in a single night tournament.
“It’s looking like a pretty tough tournament,” he commented. “There’s some tough guys in it, like some new guys that haven’t gotten a lot of exposure yet and some that have good names.”
Among those whose names people will recognize are fellow UFC veterans Sherman Pendergarst and Ricco Rodriguez, a one-time UFC heavyweight champion who has made a name for himself lately appearing on the VH1 reality series “Celebrity Rehab.”
Wiuff’s first-round opponent is one of two possible Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialists that he could be facing in his half of the eight-man bracket.
“In the first round I have the Brazilian, Marcelo “Pato” Pereria, and in the second round, the top half of my bracket, is George Bush versus Ricco Rodriguez,” said Wiuff.
“Fortunately I train with a pretty good group of ground guys, so I feel pretty confident. A fight’s a fight, so I’ll just see what happens.”
When asked what kind of changes he made to his training regimen to prepare for the tournament format, Wiuff replied, “I did a lot more cardio.
“The way the tournament is set up, in the first two rounds of the tournament it’s one five-minute round; so it’s just a full-out sprint. You don’t have time to feel out your opponent, you’ve got to get right to work. You’ve got five minutes to get the job done, so I worked a lot of cardio to keep my energy up (during the fights).”
Another interesting aspect of the event is YAMMA’s retooling of the traditional angular cage format by introducing their “pit,” a flat, round surface with elevated corners surrounded by a circular cage.
“It really doesn’t matter to me if it’s a cage, a ring or if I’m fighting in my back yard,” exclaimed Wiuff. “I’m going to do the exact same things I’d normally do.
“The only way it’s going to matter is if you’re on your back or backing up, and I don’t plan on doing either of those.”
Should he perform well at YAMMA, Wiuff hopes to parlay it into the much-wanted promotional consistency he has lacked over the course of his 60-fight career.
“I just want to stay busy,” stated Wiuff. “I’d like to sign a contract with a major organization, instead of jumping around from show to show.
“I’d like to kind of find a home and stay there for a while. That way at least I’d have a better idea of when I’m fighting and what’s going on. Right now the main thing is this tournament, so I’m not going to look past it.”
With the return of the eight-man heavyweight tournament to PPV at YAMMA Pit Fighting on Friday night, both veterans and newcomers alike are hoping and make an instant statement with a win, none more insistent than Travis Wiuff.
“I want to thank Warrior Wear for their help,” closed out Wiuff. “Definitely come check out the show, it’s going to be exciting with this new pit, this new surface; I think it’s going to make fights really exciting.”