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Saturday Sports Q&A: Kasson's Wiuff still as hungry as ever as he navigates the next chapter in his career

Travis Wiuff, a veteran professional fighter from Kasson, recently came back from Las Vegas where he won a Greco-Roman style wrestling national championship at 130 kilograms in his age division. He says he still wants to continue doing mixed-martial arts events but at age 44, he recognizes those opportunities are becoming scarce.

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Professional mixed martial artist Travis Wiuff works out Sept. 13, 2019, in the Kasson-Mantorville High School wrestling room in Kasson. Wiuff most recently won a Greco Roman national championship in Las Vegas as he navigates the next chapter in his career.
Joh Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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KASSON — Being a professional fighter has taken Travis Wiuff places he never fathomed seeing.

With more than 100 professional mixed-martial arts fights over a two-decade career, the Owatonna High School graduate and Kasson resident has been all over the world, fighting in Tokyo, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates and Dubai among others.

He still wants to fight, but now at the age of 44, Wiuff understands those opportunities are going to be fewer and farther between. Yet, his body still feels great. He recently won a Greco-Roman style wrestling national championship in Las Vegas and hopes to do a fight in Billings, Mont., in July as he begins to navigate the back end of his career.

Post Bulletin: You recently came back from Las Vegas after winning a Greco-Roman style national championship. What was that experience like? 

Wiuff: That was fun. It was a national tournament. They break it up into age divisions. It goes from Masters A, which I think it starts at 25 years old and then it goes all the way up to Masters E, which is 60-plus masters and it was Greco-Roman wrestling, which is kind of all upper-body stuff and throws. I was in Masters C and wrestled four guys and it was good. It was something I did last year for the first time. Last year it was in Tampa, this was the first year it was in Vegas. My girls came and it was a lot of fun. It takes me back to my roots. I wrestled since I was a little kid. It's something I can do for years to come. Like I said, there's 60-year-olds doing it. So it definitely keeps me motivated. Excited to train and then there's even a World Tournament later in the year, in October (in Bulgaria). So that's kind of my next goal is to wrestle there and try to be a world champion.

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Kasson resident Travis Wiuff poses with his championship plaque after winning a 2022 U.S. Open Masters Greco-Roman national championship in Division C at 130 kilograms.
Kasson resident Travis Wiuff poses with his championship plaque after winning a 2022 U.S. Open Masters Greco-Roman national championship in Division C at 130 kilograms.
Submitted photo

PB: Are you still looking for mixed martial arts fights or is the Greco-Roman style wrestling the next chapter in your career?

Wiuff: As we get older there's just less and less competition. And I still feel really good. I just turned 44, but I feel really good. I wish I had more opportunities to fight because I still think I could do pretty well, but I'm realistic also. There's not a lot of opportunities for a guy. you know, close to his mid-40s. Looking at it from my opponents point of view, if you’re an up-and-coming fighter, you can’t lose to me. That would kill your career, but at the same time if you beat me, it doesn’t really mean a whole lot. So the wrestling is definitely something to keep me active. And, you know, keep that competitive drive, which I still have. I think I always will. So it's definitely something motivating me to train and continues to motivate me more to work out every morning. Things like that. So I think that's a huge part of it. Then doing the world championships, it would be cool to call yourself a world champion.

PB: What’s your training regiment look like and how does being the strength coach at Kasson-Mantorville help with that? I would imagine you’ve been a great resource for the kids and it’s been beneficial for you as well. 

Wiuff: A lot of days I'll be working with the guys. That's some motivation, you know, to keep up with the younger kids. It's definitely something that motivates me too. And it's definitely a lot of fun for me, I really enjoy it. I like helping athletes achieve their goals. And it's also frustrating too, because when I see like some kids that are really athletic or could really do great things and they don't do the right things, and I can see I can see potential, that's frustrating to see kids with potential that don't ever reach it. So yeah, I definitely enjoy it. I like helping kids.

PB: In March, you were scheduled to take place in a professional bare knuckles boxing match that was canceled at the last minute. What does bare knuckles boxing entail?

Wiuff: They're saying it's the fastest growing sport in the world. I don't know if that's true. It's definitely becoming more popular; 2018 is kind of when it really started, started to get on pay-per-view. There was a major promotion that started in the United States. I've kicked around the idea — not really ever overly enthused — but I think I could do pretty well and honestly, it sounds a lot more brutal than it is. It’s actually pretty safe. It just doesn't sound like it. You don't get nearly the concussions or things like that. You get a lot of cuts and broken hands. Those are the two big things but I guess they've said they've done studies and concussions are way lower in bare knuckle boxing. So I got offered a fight. And it was definitely something I was excited to do. And I was training for it and it was going really well. It was in Florida and the athletic commissions that govern the sport said I had to get an MRI on my brain and an EKG. I didn't pass the MRI. They said I've had too many concussions, that's what they said. But I feel fine. I don't think I've shown any signs of too many concussions, but I guess for their liking for their condition in passing the MRI.

PB: How tough was that to hear?

Wiuff: I wouldn't say I was devastated. I was upset, disappointed. But I know that's how it goes with the fight game. Until that first bell rings, there's so many things that can change. You just never know. And that's their decision. You know, like I said, I feel fine. I've passed other MRIs, one in California in 2019. So, I mean, I don't really worry about it as far as my health. I feel just fine. I don't show any signs of it. We have contracts and I did a bunch of interviews and trained for it. But until that first bell rang, I mean, you never know.

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PB: With less fights now, has that given you more time to reflect over your career? You've had more than 100 professional matches and you have been all over the world. The experiences, the cultures and things you must have seen had to be incredible.

Wiuff: I'd definitely say that was the biggest, one of the best things that came from from me being involved in the sport, because I got to see the world. I got to see things I've never even thought about seeing. You know, I got to go to Abu Dhabi in the Middle East. A couple days prior to the fight, we drove out to the middle of the desert. Like, what are we doing out here? The guy we were with was like "just wait." All of a sudden, there's like herds and herds of camels running around. Just seeing crazy things like that.

PB: Holy smokes, you really have seen the world. 

Wiuff: I was in Abu Dhabi and Dubai for about 10 days. That's the most bizarre place I've ever been. It’s a completely different world. I look back at it now. And I think some of the situations we were in were pretty dangerous. I just remember when we flew into Abu Dhabi, I got pulled into this room. And they kept on asking me questions. Obviously, I don't speak Arabic. I just kept saying, raising my hands up, like I don't know, they started getting upset. And they kept pointing to my passport picture. The reason they were so upset is because I 'd been training and I got two black eyes and on my passport picture I obviously don’t have black eyes. I still think about that. Finally, we figured it out and I walked out of the room and I had two guys I had in my corners and we hugged and shook hands, we didn't know. I was like, holy cow. I gotta get out of here.

PB: There’s probably so many stories from all the places you’ve been. 

Wiuff: I've been asked to write a book and I don't know, I thought maybe a little bit about it, but sometimes I'll look at like my record. Each fight has a story behind it. you know? And yeah, there's just some crazy times and some wild stories. But you know having daughters and working in a school system — some of the stories I should keep to myself. I probably don't want my daughters reading it or some of the students I work with.

PB: Yeah, that’s a good point. They’re probably some stories that aren’t meant for kids.

Wiuff: Yeah, you know I was young and full of testosterone. I never had a job. You know, I went from college right to fighting. Being up there at the high school in Kasson, that’s the only job I’ve ever had other than fighting. It’s pretty crazy. I didn’t worry about a lot of things. I didn’t have my daughters or a family, nothing to tie me down, so we had some good times. But it’s weird because I look back on it now and for a long time — we’re talking 12-13 years — that’s all I did was fight. Obviously, I didn’t get rich, but I was able to do OK.

Alex VandenHouten has been a sports reporter at the Post Bulletin since Sept. 2021. He loves to go hiking, biking, snowshoeing and just simply being outdoors with his wife Olivia. Readers can reach Alex at avandenhouten@postbulletin.com.
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