It’s a life most can only dream of – young, in love, traveling the country and staying wherever your next whim takes you. It’s brought UFC lightweight Matt Wiman and his wife Courtney to Colorado, the latest stop on their personal magical mystery tour.
“My wife and I wanted to enjoy the mountains a little bit and see what Colorado has to offer,” said Wiman. “We were on the west coast for a while and we decided while we were young and don’t have kids, let’s travel a little bit and live in all the different places that we want to live.”
Their stay in Colorado follows a stint in San Francisco, where Wiman trained with Gilbert Melendez’ Skrap Pack, but when a broken arm sidelined him and forced him from a September bout against Efrain Escudero, he decided to pack his bags and hit the road again to maximize his down time.
“I was very happy with my training in San Francisco, but when I got hurt I was looking down the pipe of a three month recovery and I said you know what? Rather than just sitting here and spending a bunch of money sulking, let’s try something new, let’s try something fun and exciting. We were thinking about Colorado, so we said why not do it now while we’ve got some down time.”
Ironically, it was a bit of a homecoming for Wiman, who was born in Denver and lived there before moving with his family as a child. But once the Wimans were settled in and Matt healed up, it was time to find some training partners in his new hometown, which isn’t always the easiest part of a move for a professional fighter.
“It is very tough,” he said. “I want to put my family first and our lives first, and my job is my passion, but I don’t want my entire life to revolve around it because you can get burned out. Denver’s a huge area and I had heard there was good training out there, so I knew I’d find training partners out there. I’m not the biggest jerk in the world and I’m pretty easy going, so I figured I could start a few relationships out here with no problem. A couple gyms took me in, I found some good training partners, and anything that I lack, I’ve been importing some talent from a few different states, as well as some of my old training partners, and they’ve been helping me out a lot.”
Working mainly with the Easton Jiu-Jitsu team in Arvada, Wiman has had to turn away from the picturesque views and mountain hikes in order to train for this Saturday’s bout against his castmate from The Ultimate Fighter 5, Cole Miller. It’s a pivotal matchup for both men, who know that a win will elevate them from prospects to contenders. For Wiman, it may mean even more, because a victory will help him erase the memory of a year that saw him win his lone fight against Mac Danzig in controversial fashion in between bouts with injuries.
“I think I had a rough go at things,” he said. “I hurt my knee and then I hurt my arm, and it’s hard. It’s not one of those things where you can just push through it, and it does get you. I got kinda depressed when I got hurt, and you think it’s the end of the world. You say I can’t put up with another injury. And what happens is, time goes by, and you just forget about it. I’m fine, I’m alive, fighters get hurt, that’s what happens, and you get over it. But at the time, it feels like the end of the world. It feels like everything’s falling apart, your body’s falling apart. I was ready for Danzig, I was in great shape, I had a great training camp and I was very confident, and then the outcome you want you don’t get. I was so ready for that pot at the end of the rainbow, you work your hardest to get there, and then you don’t get it and you feel so unfulfilled. I was depressed about that for a little while, then you just get over it – crazy stuff happens in the fight game, let’s just put it behind us. When you win a bunch of fights and do some good things in the future, it all goes away.”
Against Danzig at UFC 115 last June, Wiman started strong, and when the bout hit the mat, he sunk in a tight guillotine choke. It was so tight that after a few seconds, referee Yves Lavigne erroneously stopped the fight, believing that Danzig was unconscious. He wasn’t, but the ruling stood and Wiman was awarded the victory. He agreed to an immediate rematch, but an injury to Danzig scrapped the UFC Fight Night bout. Escudero stepped in to face Wiman, but then it was Wiman getting bit by the injury bug when he broke his arm in training. In short, it was a mess, and one of those times when you have to wonder ‘do I really need all this?’
“Sometimes when life gets pretty hectic you think man, I could definitely settle down and slow down,” said Wiman. “But then you get there and you’re like ‘what’s next?’ I haven’t got to the point where I want to settle down yet. I want to do things and travel and have new experiences and live a life a little less predictable. But I do think I definitely will get to the point where I’m like ‘enough with the rollercoaster.’”
That point isn’t anywhere in the foreseeable future, especially since he will get an immediate boost to his career by beating Miller, who Wiman would have faced in the semifinals of TUF5 had both fighters won their quarterfinal matches on the show. It didn’t happen then, back in 2007, but it will this weekend. It’s a possibility that was always in the back of Wiman’s mind.
“It’s one of those things that you accept a long time ago and assume that everybody’s an option,” he said. “A lot of those guys (from TUF5), I like them as friends, I like them as acquaintances, and I like them as fighters. Then you get to thinking, what if I’ve got to fight ‘em? You’ve got to accept that fact.”
When approached with the fight, Wiman wasn’t too sure about it given their friendship, but after speaking with Miller, he signed on the dotted line.
“I didn’t think he’d want to fight me, so I called Cole and said ‘you really want to do it?’ He told me he didn’t really have many options of big name opponents, and that I was the biggest name that they offered, so he didn’t want to fight a guy that didn’t have anything going for him. I said ‘If you’re down, I’m in. Good luck.’”
On paper, the Wiman-Miller fight is the perfect opener for the Fight For The Troops 2 card at Fort Hood. Both fighters have a lot to gain (and lose), and both bring it from start to finish. Wiman’s excited to see how it all plays out.
“He’s a very talented, very technical fighter,” said Wiman of Miller. “He’s young and he’s got a momentum now after that big win over Ross (Pearson), so I see a great fight ahead of me. You don’t want to fight a guy that doesn’t have things going for him, you don’t want to fight a guy who’s coming off a bunch of losses, you don’t want to fight a guy who’s on a downhill slope. I think fighting Cole, you get the fight you want because you get to fight a guy with momentum and he’s got a bright future, and that’s the guy you want to beat. I’m excited about fighting him, and I think I’ll have a good style matchup and gameplan against him.”
And as far as any pressure to be exciting on fight night goes, Wiman doesn’t even concern himself with such matters.
“I definitely think my style can’t be boring, and I don’t think Cole’s style can be boring either, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is to win, whatever it takes. Sometimes you run into these fighters that are so good that you can’t finish them in 15 minutes. I’ll be trying my hardest to knock him out or submit him, but I’ll be happy with a decision win too. If you can beat someone, it’s all the same.”
That’s why the win over Danzig is just as valuable as his Fight of the Night victory over Thiago Tavares in 2008. In this game, you keep winning, you keep moving forward. That’s all Matt Wiman wants to do in 2011.
“I’m not really much of a planner because plans always can change,” he said. “I just want to keep stepping forward. Let the cards fall where they may, but I think beating Cole would be a huge step forward.”
Wandering Wiman Keeps Moving Forward
"Sometimes you run into these fighters that are so good that you can’t finish them in 15 minutes. I’ll be trying my hardest to knock him out or submit him, but I’ll be happy with a decision win too. If you can beat someone, it’s all the same.”