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The Diesel: This is his life Print E-mail
Written by Ben Pherson   
Friday, 05 February 2010 10:45

Extend your right arm out in front of your chest. Now spread your index finger and thumb about one inch apart.

That’s how close Travis “Diesel” Wiuff was to fighting Chuck Liddell for the UFC light heavyweight title back in 2006.

Yet when most MMA fans think of Wiuff, they think “journeyman.” And that’s understandable for fight fans who are new to the sport. After all, Wiuff will be chasing his 60th professional victory when he takes on Mike Kyle at King of the Cage “Vengeance” on Feb. 12 in New Mexico.

But most fight fans don’t truly understand how close Wiuff was to a title shot and the stardom that surely would have followed.

In April of 2005, Wiuff fought Renato “Babalu” Sobral at UFC 52. That same night Liddell defended his title against Randy Couture.

The winner of the Wiuff-Sobral fight was expected to earn a shot at Liddell. And he did. But that man wasn’t Wiuff.

After a tight first round (Wiuff said he believes Sobral might have won the first with a late, 10-second flurry), Sobral locked in an armbar and Wiuff was forced to submit.

Wiuff said the submission happened so quickly, he had very little time to react.

The loss was tough to swallow. But what made matters worse was that Wiuff and his agent, Monte Cox, took a major gamble before the fight. Knowing he likely would get a title shot with a win against Babalu, Wiuff passed on a three-fight deal the UFC had offered, instead opting to sign a one-fight contract.

They knew a win and a title shot against Liddell would bring a big-time payday.

So they gambled. And lost.

“Our thinking was, knowing the fight after Babalu would be for a title, if we signed a three-fight deal, we’d be fighting for not much money,” Wiuff said. “I think I had won like 19 straight coming into that fight with Babalu. We thought we’d win and it would be a really big payday. It backfired, but it was a chance we had to take. Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t get caught in that armbar?”

What did happen was that Babalu went on to fight Liddell for the light heavyweight title at UFC 62, and Wiuff was released by the UFC.

The Rochester resident and Owatonna native hasn’t fought for the UFC since.

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