Travis Clay certainly isn’t shy about taking on more-experienced opponents.
He made his professional Muay Thai debut at Lion Fight 27 against Jared Papazian, who had already been in 30 mixed martial arts bouts including a three-fight stint in the UFC. No matter, Clay figured, and he backed it up via a strong showing that ended up going in his favor with a convincing unanimous decision.
Clay’s next task is perhaps even more daunting. He faces Julio Pena at Lion Fight 29, an opponent who is coming off back-to-back spectacular knockout victories. But Clay isn’t bothered or concerned about the path of destruction Pena has left in his wake.
He’s more than ready for the next challenge that awaits him.
“I’ve never shied away from any opponent,” said Clay. “My coach always makes sure that I’m being challenged whenever possible. I take on any opponent with the mindset that they are the best. I train with that in mind to push myself to be the best. I’m always ready to test my skills.”
Clay’s Lion Fight debut was the opening bout on the card last January at Pechanga Resort & Casino. The fact he performed so well combined with Pena’s recent efforts made it easy for Lion Fight officials to place the pair in a matchup that is high up on the main card.
On Friday, May 27th at Foxwoods Resort & Casino, the Clay-Pena clash will take place just before the co-main event featuring the return of former lightweight champion Ognjen Topic as well as the main event showcasing super welterweight champ Jo Nattawut defending his belt against former WBC International champ Armin Pumpanmuang.
“I didn’t know I was going to have a prominent spot on the card. I’m just happy to be invited back and they always make sure I’m well taken care of,” offered Clay. “They always put on a good show. I am really blessed and grateful to have a great team to work with.
“Not many people get their pro debut on such a large stage especially on AXS TV Fights and to win was icing on the cake. I’m happy with the win although my performance in the first and second round was a bit too slow. My nerves got the best of me for a minute.”
But once that minute passed, Clay went straight after the battle-tested Papazian utilizing his edge in speed and precision. The Chandler, Arizona, native dropped Papazian with a knee to the body and secured the win by keeping up a frenetic pace. The stylish victory not only drew a standing ovation from the packed house in Temecula, California, but also caught the eye of many in the Muay Thai game. The comments afterwards quickly called Clay a notable name to keep an eye on. He’s raised interest and he can take it a whole new level should he put an end to Pena’s explosive run.
“It does mean a lot to be considered a high-end prospect because my goal is to be the best not only in America but in the world,” said Clay. “It’s my dream to compete against high-level fighters. That kind of praise gives me hope that I’m working in the right direction.”
The new attention hasn’t affected Clay’s training regimen as he remains steadfast in a six-days-per-week program at Sitan Gym. He’s still focused on improving event aspect of his game plan.
“I have always tried to be a well-rounded fighter and to be able to adapt to any opponent I may have,” added Clay. “Every fight shows us something we need to improve on and I think I’ll be able to show that in the next fight.
“My biggest strength has always been my legs. I love to kick. What can I say? It’s Muay Thai.”
Tickets for Lion Fight 29 are on sale now at www.foxwoods.com or by calling 800-200-2882 or by visiting the Foxwoods Box Offices.
The main card will air live on AXS TV Fights with a special start time of 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT. with commentary from renowned duo “The Voice” Michael Schiavello and UFC Hall of Famer Pat Miletich.