The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Lightweight (Handsome) Matt Wiman has something to say in the cage
MONTREAL - He may be the only fighter who carries a list of people to thank in the cage after a win, as if accepting an Oscar. But (Handsome) Matt Wiman's reasoning is simple.
"A lot of people put efforts in, not just me, so I try to like thank people and mention people," explained the Dallas-based lightweight.
Wiman, 25, hopes to get the opportunity for a few more shout-outs Saturday night when he takes on Sam (Hands of Stone) Stout of London, Ont., on the preliminary card of UFC 97 at the Bell Centre (available on pay-per-view).
Stout (14-5-1) is a fine striker who is better than his recent record shows. He is coming off two losses and has only won one of his last five in the UFC, although he has won three bouts outside the UFC during that stretch. Wiman (10-4) is an all-action fighter whose string of four wins was snapped last time out in a loss by decision to Jim Miller in December.
"I like them both . . . . When have you ever seen either one of those kids in a boring fight?" asked UFC president Dana White. "I think this is going to be fireworks from the minute it starts."
A cast member of Season 5 of "The Ultimate Fighter," Wiman made it to the quarter-finals before losing to eventual runner-up Manny Gamburyan.
His actual entree into the UFC came before that in May 2006 when, as a last-minute injury replacement, he faced hard-nosed Spencer (the King) Fisher at UFC 60.
The good news was he had his foot in the door. The bad news? "Hey look, you're fighting a monster, on short notice."
"Spencer Fisher is not a guy who's going to take you down and try to tap you out. He's trying to rip your head off," Wiman said. "I mean it was a tough fight to take but it kind of really benefited me because I didn't get to start off easy and I didn't get babied at all. I got fed to the wolves and I think it just made me tougher and stronger and just set a good precedent - that there are no easy fights for me and let me know that the UFC is where the best fighters are and this isn't going to be an easy little sport. This is going to be the real deal."
Wiman lost by second-round TKO. But after "The Ultimate Fighter," he won four straight against Brian Geraghty, Michihiro Omigawa, Justin Buchholz and Thiago Tavares.
He also began to show off his game - and character. After a frantic three-round war with Omigawa at UFC 76, Wiman did pushups on the cage floor while his exhausted Japanese opponent struggled to stand.
And he turned heads at UFC 85 last June in London, when he stopped the talented Tavares cold with a hammer-like right at the fence. The win came just days before his wedding.
The impending nuptials and explosive ending to the fight made for an emotional list of thank you's in the cage that night in the O2 Arena.
There was more emotion in December when Wiman, whose brother Scott is a Green Beret, took part in the UFC's "Fight for the Troops" card. He was supposed to fight Frankie (The Answer) Edgar but ended up facing Miller after Edgar was hurt in training.
"I was training for a boxer-wrestler and I got a jiu-jitsu player who's a southpaw," he noted.
Wiman was soundly beaten but showed great resilience in the face of a lot of punishment and never quit. In losing a unanimous decision, he won the respect of Miller.
"Matt's as tough as hell," Miller said in the cage afterwards. "I've never hit someone so hard, so many times and have them still standing there."
Wiman was less than happy, however. He's still not sure what happened that night.
"I always compete really well, the harder I try the better I do," he said. "I just felt off and I felt flat and I felt I didn't have anything in me.
"I just felt like I was just fighting a losing battle. Everything I attempted wouldn't work and everything he was trying was working. He fought well and I fought poorly. The outcome kind of took care of itself.
"About all I showed in that fight was my heart and my character. I was pleased with that part but I was very unhappy with my physical performance."
It's been a long wait for redemption.
"People don't know how much time's invested in that 15-minute fight - and that's the maximum (time). The fight could end in two minutes and you could have trained, I don't know, 300 hours for that fight."
Born in Denver, Wiman left Colorado at seven and grew up mainly in Oklahoma, although he spent time in Florida and Texas.
An athletic kid, he liked "any sport that was difficult." The martial arts fit the bill.
"I played all the sports and I just thought that this one was a little bit more hardcore and demanding and very difficult."
He found Mikey Burnett's MMA school in Tulsa and liked what he saw.
"There was a bunch of old-school guys . . . They just beat me up a lot, and I enjoyed the challenge and the competition," he said. "I decided I'm going to pursue this sport and see how well I do in it.
"I think it's a perfect sport for me because of my mentality and my heart, I like sports that the harder you try at, the more you get out of it. Like golf is very frustrating for me, even though I enjoy golf, because the harder you try the worse you do. And that's not really my style."
Eventually he decided it was time for a new challenge, so he moved to Texas where his fiancee was in nursing school.
"Tulsa was kind of a dead end for me," he said. "I had trained at all of the gyms, I just felt like I wasn't getting better or getting pushed there."
He knows Stout will push him Saturday.
"I think he's a lot better than his record is because his last two fights (against Rich Clementi and Terry Etim), some could actually score them a win. . . . He's tough and he's young and he's strong.
"That being said, I'm just a bad matchup for him because I've got more tools in the shed than he does. I've actually got more knockouts than he does in the UFC (Wiman has two to Stout's none). I think that wherever the fight goes. I'm going to beat him."
Shawn Tompkins, Stout's brother-in-law and coach, predictably sees it differently.
"Matt Wiman's an aggressive guy, he's going to come forward and he's going to want to bang a little bit and Sam Stout I don't think is the right guy to want to do that with."
Wiman, for one, thinks he already won when it comes to nicknames.
"I had a few when I was in Tulsa and I hated the other ones so I really kind of pushed for this name because it wasn't as bad and it kind of has a personality . . . I just thought it was funny that everyone has a mean nickname and I've got a funny, goofy nickname . . . It shows my personality, so I enjoy it because it's not like something mean."
Like Hands of Stone?
"Yeah, I mean if you've got Hands of Stone, people will see it. You don't got to prove it by saying it."
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