UFC veteran ready for his time in the spotlight
If you were asked to name the fighters who populate the UFC lightweight division, how long would it take you to arrive at Matt Wiman?
Despite having been a contestant on Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter and holding six wins from nine trips into the Octagon, the Denver native has remained under the radar in the extremely deep 155-pound division. Most recognizable to fans for his early stoppage victory over Mac Danzig at UFC 115 last summer in Vancouver, Wiman has a chance to emerge from the middle of the lightweight pack with a win over Cole Miller in the opening bout of Saturday’s Fight for the Troops 2 event on Spike TV. While the lack of recognition would eat away at some fighters, Wiman relishes the role and keeps his focus on the future.
“I don’t get caught up looking at others’ successes or failures. I think I’m a little bit of a wild card and like it better that way,” admitted the 27-year-old veteran during a break from training last week. “If the UFC fed me with a silver spoon, I might not be the fighter I am today and I’m happy with where I’m at. I’m proud to have my tenth fight in the UFC and look forward to many more. Seven wins in the big show sounds good too, and I’m very much looking forward to fighting Cole.”
Like Wiman, Miller was a part of the cast of Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter, bowing out to Joe Lauzon in the quarterfinals. Since that time, the American Top Team product has worked his way to the fringes of contention by taking home back-to-back Submission of the Night awards and calling out fighters who employ a “point fighting” approach inside the cage. Despite having collected three-straight Fight of the Night awards not all that long ago, Wiman has remained a fixture on the preliminary portion of events, but hopes to change that with a victory over his outspoken opponent at Fort Hood.
“It will be a great step forward beating Cole; he’s a tough, technical fighter with good momentum and he hasn’t been decisioned or submitted, so that’s an exciting challenge that I’ll be ready for,” Wiman says. “I’ll be looking for the knockout.”
Wiman is the lone fighter to compete on both Fight for the Troops events, having earned the second of his three-straight Fight of the Night awards while dropping a unanimous decision to Jim Miller back in December 2008, and it’s an opportunity the 12-5 lightweight does not take for granted.
“I’m honored to fight for the troops again, of course; it’s an added bonus for sure. I know several Army guys that are the toughest and smartest people on the planet, mentally, physically and spiritually, so they are certainly people to look up to and people that set the bar very high. It’s definitely motivating, knowing how tough they are.”
The UFC lightweight division has added even more depth to its ranks over the last few months with the addition of several lightweights from both the WEC and Season 12 of TUF, not to mention international arrivals like Williamy “Chiquerim” Freire, who debuts earlier in the card on Saturday. Recently released veteran Antonio McKee said the pressure to win and put on a good show caused him to stray from his usual approach on New Year’s Day, but the man who made his debut at UFC 60 on two weeks notice says there is no point to worrying.
“I don’t worry about [those things] because it’s like everything else – you can sit there and worry all day but it makes no difference; God has provided everything I could ever want and need my whole life, so I know I’m always in good hands. I fight with fire in me and it’s enjoyable to watch, so I’m lucky I guess. To be honest, if people didn’t like what they see, I wouldn’t lose sleep over it.”
With eight Fight Night awards between them from 17 fights, chances are Wiman and Miller will kick-off Spike TV’s Saturday night telecast in entertaining fashion. And who knows – maybe a win over Miller will be just the trick to finally get “Handsome Matt” a little more time in the spotlight.