VALiant efforts or delusion for Woodburn

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Val Woodbrun holding the Combat Night MMA middleweight belt. Photo courtesy of @val_the_animal via Instagram.

Val “The Animal” Woodburn is set to replace Tresean Gore in Saturday’s pay-per-view opening middleweight bout against Bo Nickal at UFC 290 in Las Vegas.

   Woodburn, a former Combat Night MMA middleweight champion, debuted as a pro out of Florida in 2020 and has accrued a 7-0 record since. The 29-year-old Jamaican was scheduled next month for Dana White’s Contender Series. 

   “I got off a long day of work [landscaping],” Woodburn said. “I didn’t think twice about it.” Woodburn was first notified about the fight around 2 a.m. Monday. Short-notice fights are nothing new, as Woodburn built his amateur career upon them.

   Although the UFC debut falls upon International Fight Week, the road is far from easy. 

   Nickal, a star in the making, is a three-time NCAA Division I wrestling national champion out of Penn State. The 27-year-old’s debut took place in March for UFC 285. Nickal beat Jamie Pickett via first-round submission to now sit 4-0.

   “This is what I work for, and this is why I put in all the hard work,” Woodburn exclaimed. “It’s all about the mindset… It’s all about how hungry you are. It’s all about how bad you want it.”

   As a young kid, Woodburn watching his father box at the dirt rings in Jamaica influenced the young Jamaican to have the “gladiator mentality” he has now.

   The motivated Woodburn shared that the opportunity was not just a coincidence but began in his youth. “My dad was a boxer… in the backyard [we had] a dirt spot, ropes around, and I’ll watch [the fighters] go at it,” 

   The 29-year-old has made his UFC dream a reality and looks forward to “put on a show” and “be the bad apple Saturday night.”

   However, Nickal commented on the situation stating, “It doesn’t really matter who I’m fighting. I’m just going out there to do my best.” The undefeated wrestler is a -2400 favorite via DraftKings Sportsbook as of July 6, making Nickal the largest betting favorite in UFC history.

   “I’m gonna shock the world,” Woodburn said. “I’m known for ruining guys’ records… known for the upset, I love being the underdog.” 

   Inside T-Mobile Arena, the middleweight bout is set to begin the main card for UFC 290 at 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 8. Pay-per-view is available on ESPN+ for the main card.

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