ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Arizona cagefighter Ray Robinson’s nickname is not “Sugar,” which doesn’t mean an upset of New Mexico’s Coty “Ox” Wheeler on Sept. 4 wouldn’t be sweet.
Wheeler, though, has his own motivation: the thrill of another victory in front of his many Albuquerque fans, and the lure of a new contract with World Extreme Cagefighting.
The Wheeler-Robinson match was formally announced Tuesday as the main event of Jackson’s MMA Series II, scheduled for next month at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Albuquerque.
On the undercard, Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter Henry Martinez of Santa Fe is matched against Matt Madrid of Silver City. Jackson fighters Matt Leyva and Julie Kedzie also are on the card.
Based on the two 135-pound fighters’ records, Wheeler (12-3) rates as a huge favorite over Robinson (6-8). But all six of the Tempe, Ariz., native’s victories have come by submission, and the Mescalero fighter said he respects his opponent’s ground game.
“I’m not looking past Ray,” Wheeler said. “He’s tough. I’m just getting ready to get the show on the road.”
That road, Wheeler’s said, leads to a new WEC contract. He was 3-1 during his first WEC pact, including a spectacular victory via flying arm bar over Del Hawkins at the Santa Ana Star Center in February 2008.
“They (the WEC) want to re-sign me to another four- or six-fight contract,” he said.
Could an upset loss to Robinson scuttle that deal? Is this fight worth the risk?
“Any fight’s gonna be a risk,” Wheeler said, “because if I lose it looks bad on my behalf.
“But I don’t train to lose, and I never fight to lose. I go in there and leave my heart in that cage.”
That cage might seem more like a lion’s den for Robinson, who’ll be facing one of New Mexico’s most popular fighters on his home turf.
Robinson, a former college wrestler, said he welcomes the challenge.
“Pressure doesn’t ever affect me, and I come to fight,” he said.
Wheeler, too, welcomes any pressure created by performing in front of his fans.
“The following I have,” he said, “I can’t put into words what it means.”