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After introspection phase, healthier Matt Wiman plans to keep fighting

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

One of the game’s most introspective competitors, Matt Wiman, made a successful return to the Octagon last Saturday night after nearly two years away. Wiman was able to defeat Isaac Vallie-Flagg via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night 57 in Austin, getting his first taste of victory since a Sept. 2012 submission of Paul Sass in England.

It’s been a long, long time.

So, what’s taken him so long to return to action after suffering a knockout loss to lightweight T.J. Grant in early 2013? A very honest, very candid Matt Wiman talked about the nerves he had to overcome to step in the Octagon again -- nerves that played a factor in him contemplating whether or not he wanted to continue fighting at all. He appeared on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour to talk about his hiatus and his return.

"I didn’t feel that rusty to be honest with you, I don’t know what it was," Wiman told host Ariel Helwani. "I think maybe the nervousness of it all was the hardest part. Getting through the nerves of that it’s actually happening, anticipating something every night for four months, because I knew about the fight probably four months in advance. It’s a daunting thing, you know? I go in there prepared for whatever. You might have to fight with your arm being broken, or fighting somebody who is trying to knock you unconscious trying to steal your will. It’s a hard thing to get up for.

"I don’t feel like it’s a sport like everybody else, where it feels like it’s just getting ready for game day. I’m thinking I’ve got to get prepared to go past my limit of my actual will…it’s a hard thing. Maybe I’m over-analyzing it, blowing it up bigger than it is, but it’s always a fight to me. It doesn’t feel like I’m going out to compete necessarily."

The 31-year old Wiman said that the idea of retiring has crossed his mind plenty of times in his career, but after the Grant loss he spent time healing up, living life and restoring things. Though he was private on the matter, Wiman alluded to some of his family happenings. He also relocated from Denver to the Portland area with his wife during his time away.

All of his life changes and introspections ultimately led to the fight with Vallie-Flagg in Austin.

"After several of my fights I’ve said, ‘I don’t think I’m ever doing that again,’ because it takes a lot out of you and sometimes is crazier than you feel like you can handle," he said. "It’s a little hard to handle sometimes. And then you’re like, in hindsight that was a pretty crazy experience…maybe I’ll do that again. But after several of my fights I’ve said I don’t know if I’ll do it again, it’s not healthy, it’s not sustainable, it’s like crazy, madness.

"So after that [Grant] fight, I think I was, I was just swimming upstream too long. Everybody deals with injury in the sport, but I think I just ignored my body for too long and just pushed through injuries. So I said to myself, I’m going to fix up my body a bit and see what happens."

Wiman, who before his loss to Grant had won a pair of fights in a row against Mac Danzig and Sass, has stayed out of the public’s eye for the last couple of years. He was reluctant to do interviews at all leading up to his fight with Vallie-Flagg, but relented when the UFC insisted.

He said that the process he underwent to get back in the cage was a long physical and mental preparation process, with emphasis on the latter.

"It’s silly, you have all these fears," he said. "I talked to Brian Stann, and he said he had the same questions, these little things that pop up in your head, ‘do you have it anymore?’ You always have to prove to yourself [that you do]. You have to constantly reinvent yourself and make sure you have it, make sure you’re still working as hard, make sure you’re still capable, and not only that, but make sure you’re better.

"It’s a hard thing. I tried to leave that door open. And eventually I started getting healthier, and started getting kind of itchy, and I’ve got to do something. I’ve got to make money and do something, and I thought, you know what, I have a career, and I actually like my career. So there I was training for another fight."

As for whether or not he’d like to keep going now that he’s come back successfully, Wiman (16-7) said he felt good.

"I think so, yeah," he said. "This is what’s humbling, is like I think I’m big and tough…there’s some nights I can’t sleep because my toe is so painful. Suffering from a broken toe. And that’s annoying. Your quality of life is just obnoxious. That wasn’t the injury that I needed surgery on, but that was the one that humbled me. It’s like, you can’t sleep because your toe hurts, really? I need to get up tomorrow morning and spar."

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