Light heavyweight veteran Travis Wiuff (Pictures) has had his share of ups and downs, particularly of late with the Minnesotan splitting his last four bouts.
One performance that stands out came in February of this year, when Wiuff suffered a shocking 39-second loss to longtime King of the Cage fighter James Lee.
"I was very disappointed," reflected Wiuff on his bout at PRIDE 33. "It was a huge setback. Once I got the PRIDE contract I was very excited. I had trained for about a little over three months for that fight. As far as the outcome, they changed my opponent about two days prior to the fight and I think that had a lot to do with the outcome of the fight."
"I was training for (Kazuhiro) Nakamura, who is a different type of fighter than James Lee was," he added. "They're both tough guys and I don't want to make excuses, but they are two different styles completely. I got caught right off the bat and it happens to the best fighters. It's just unfortunate for me that it happened in my PRIDE debut. It was disappointing but I'm still around. I'm still alive and kicking."
The rough patch hasn't turned Wiuff away from fighting, and this Saturday he makes his IFO debut for the organization's light heavyweight title against fellow UFC veteran Sean Salmon (Pictures), who dropped two consecutive fights inside the octagon.
"Salmon (11-3-0) is a tough guy and I don't care what anybody thinks," Wiuff said. "He was knocked out by Rashad Evans (Pictures) but that doesn't mean he's a bad fighter. He's a got pretty good stand-up and he was doing well against Rashad until the knockout."
Salmon, 29, replaced Chris Price, who was forced to pull out due to an unspecified reason.
"I don't try to focus on who I'm fighting when I train," Wiuff revealed. "I try to work on my weaknesses and my biggest weakness is my boxing. I spend probably about 80 percent of my training on boxing. I've incorporated a little bit more wrestling this time around as I don't want to be on my back at any time during the fight. I'm sticking to the things that I've done well with, when I have beaten good guys, but I'm really working more on my cardio and my weaknesses. But I do expect Sean to be just as ready as I am and it should be a good fight. He's probably just as hungry as me."
While both men enter the cage with much to prove, Wiuff said he's excited just to compete.
"My last couple of fights have been in much smaller shows, very small local shows," he said. "I enjoy fighting. I enjoy the competition and when it is in a larger show with bigger crowds and more things to market itself around, it's always nice. It makes training a little bit easier knowing more people are going to see you and that it'll be covered (by the media) well.
"As far as the IFO goes, I'm excited to be fighting for them. I think every fighter's goal is to eventually get to the top level, which right now is the UFC, but it's not my ultimate goal. The sport is getting so mainstream and so big that the paydays are getting better for everybody with every show. When I first started fighting I'd fight in a small show for a couple hundred dollars and was happy with it. But nowadays, there are more people seeing it and coming out to the shows that the paydays are getting better, even in the smaller shows."
And with that comes an important realization for the 29-year-old fighter.
"I'm taking this basically as my last shot to do something in the sport," he admitted. "I don't want to be considered a journeyman who could never win a big fight. I want to win this one, get back to Vegas next year and defend the belt and do well for the IFO. I want to compete for them as a champion that they could be proud of."
Wiuff (44-11-0) said that he hopes to keep fighting well into the next decade, and joked about how young he really is despite most people thinking he's fought since the dawn of time.
"I don't consider myself a veteran at all," he said. "Whenever I do interviews and stuff, people call me a veteran and I'm like, 'man that's crazy!' Jeremy Horn (Pictures) is a veteran; that guy's been fighting forever. I have fought quite a bit and I have fought in some big shows, but I can see myself doing this at least another 10 years."