CHESTER - Friday night at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort, eight 205-pound fighters begin their quest to become $100,000 richer and earn a shot shot at the Bellator Fighting Championships light heavyweight title when Bellator kicks off its Summer Series with the quarterfinals of its light heavyweight tournament at Bellator 71.
Sitting as a favorite to win the tournament is veteran mixed martial artist Travis "Diesel" Wiuff (66-14, 1 no contest).
What makes Wiuff a favorite isn't his impressive fighting resume consisting of 66 wins, appearances in the UFC and Pride, and fights in the United States, Brazil, Japan, Canada and Mexico.
"I think I'm the favorite because I beat (Bellator light heavyweight champion) Christian (M'Pumbu)," said Wiuff. "I beat the champion and I know he's beaten a couple of the guys in the tournament.
"I think that makes me the favorite and the guy to beat in the tournament."
Though he earned a unanimous decision win over M'Pumbu in October 2011 at Bellator 55 in a non-title match, Wiuff holds no frustration over having to go through the tournament to get a shot at his belt. His eyes were wide open when he signed with Bellator and accepted the fight with M'Pumbu.
"Going into the fight with Christian I knew how Bellator did their tournament format," said Wiuff. "I knew in order to become their champion you have to go through the tournament and then beat their champion.
"I was just grateful to get the opportunity to fight in Bellator and fight their champion right off the bat, but I knew that eventually I'd have to go through the tournament to become their champion."
Though it wasn't for the Bellator championship, Wiuff counts the M'Pumbu win as one of the most important of his lengthy career.
"The fight with Christian was really big just because at that point I was just bouncing around from organization to organization," he said. "I didn't really have a home.
"I didn't plan to ever drop back down to light heavyweight. I was walking around at about 270 pounds, fighting heavyweight, which I was happy with. I fought at light heavyweight, 205 pounds, years prior with mixed results. Had some good wins, had some tough losses, but I never wanted to cut weight again so I got as big as I could because if I did that there's no way I could drop back down.
"In 2011, when I fought Christian, it was a tough year. I only fought twice and normally I fight five to six, or even seven times a year so I took the fight on five weeks notice. I was weighing about 260 pounds and the only reason I took it was because I had only fought one time prior.
"We were having a really tough time finding fights, financially I was desperate, and I was desperate in need of a good win. I knew if it went well I could call Bellator my new home, and do things really well in that organization.
"I cut a lot of weight, made weight, fought Christian, it went well, and I feel like got a home here now at Bellator."
Wiuff begins his run to the title with a quarterfinal matchup with Chris "The Professional" Davis (10-3). Davis is one of the fighters Wiuff spoke of who lost to M'Pumbu, having lost by technical knockout in the third round in the quarterfinals of the previous light heavyweight tourney. Davis is an explosive fighter whose 10 wins have all come by knockout or submission.
Don't ask Wiuff for details about Davis though as he likes to keep the focus of his training on himself.
"I don't really know much about my opponent, and I don't care to know much about him," said Wiuff. "I try to worry about myself. I don't try to worry about things that are out of my control, what he's going to do, and what he's done in the past.
"I know my strengths and I work on my strengths and weaknesses. The result will take care of itself. I worry about myself and that's the most important thing to me."
That focus on self carries over into the entire tournament as well.
"You try not to look forward," said Wiuff. "You do a little bit just to kind of get an idea about who else is in the tournament.
"I honestly don't know a lot about any the other fighters. I kind of do that on purpose, I don't like to know a lot about them."
At the end of it all, just like his competitors, Wiuff hopes to come out at the end of the tournament tunnel victorious and ready to fight for the championship. If he doesn't it may be the last time you see the 81-fight veteran.
"If this tournament doesn't go well for me then it's time to, probably, start looking into something else," said Wiuff. "I'm 34, I've got a fiancee, I've got a step-daughter, and I've got a daughter that's five years old.
"I can't be messing around at smaller shows trying to build my career back up. This isn't my last big shot, it's my last shot at doing something, I would say, great in this business.
"I think Bellator has got a lot of great things coming down the pipeline and it would be an honor to be a champion in their organization."