Tim Williams' truck has E-ZPass.

His life does not.

It only took the 29-year-old about 45 minutes to make the drive on Route 40 and the Atlantic City Expressway from his home in Millville to Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa, where he was set to fight Anthony Smith on Saturday night for the Cage Fury Fighting Championships middleweight title.

His mixed martial arts career path has been a much rockier road, filled with the kind of potholes that can flatten tires and dreams.

"It hasn't been easy for Tim," CFFC president Rob Haydak said.

Anything but.

For starters, he doesn't possess the background of most MMA fighters. Former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, of Toms River, was a top wrestler at Toms River East High School and Clarion University in Pennsylvania.

CFFC middleweight Mike Wilcox, who was scheduled to have fought on Saturday's undercard at Borgata, was also an outstanding wrestler at Buena Regional High School and Delaware Valley University.

Williams did his fighting on the street.

"I always thought I was tough, but I didn't play sports in high school," the 2004 Millville High School graduate said. "I wish I would have wrestled or played football. But I was young and stupid. My mind just wasn't in the right place."

Neither was his body. When he was 18, he was involved in a near-fatal car accident.

As he was recovering, he realized he could not continue on the same road.

"When I was 18 or 19, I knew I had to do something positive with my life," Williams said. "I needed a goal, something to give me balance."

He found it with mixed martial arts. The sport provided an avenue for him to satisfy his competitive instincts while also teaching him mental and emotional discipline.

It also saved his life.

In 2009, Williams was getting ready to make his pro debut when a prefight CT scan uncovered an eight-millimeter-sized brain aneurysm that required emergency surgery.

Williams underwent an endovascular repair at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia and was sidelined for six months before being given medical clearance to start training again. He is still required to undergo MRIs twice a year.

Inside the cage, he has experienced success mixed with frustration.

On several occasions, he has been on the brink of signing with the UFC, only to come up short. Two appearances on "The Ultimate Fighter" television series on Fox failed to earn him a contract, though he impressed UFC president Dana White with his aggressive style and menacing appearance that features a clean-shaven head.

"(Williams) looks like he's got some bodies buried in a basement," White said of Williams during the show.

More like skeletons in a closet.

That closet has been empty for a while, however. While he presents a scary image in the cage - he's nicknamed "The South Jersey Strangler" - Williams is in reality a nice, hard-working guy.

Between fights, he works as a union carpenter with Local 8 in Philadelphia, where he primarily builds scaffolding. He has a home on a quiet street in Millville, where he lives with his fiancee and two dogs.

Like everyone else who grew up in Millville, he knows he lives in Mike Trout's hometown. Williams didn't watch the All-Star Game but caught the highlights on ESPN and is a big fan of the reigning American League Most Valuable Player.

"He's the best player in the game," Williams said. "And what he's doing has also been real big for Millville."

Williams hopes to do big things in MMA, but if it doesn't happen, it won't crush him.

Just being healthy and happy is enough.

After years of traveling along a bumpy road, he's finally enjoying a smooth ride.

(David Weinberg's Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in the sports section.)

Contact: 609-272-7201

Twitter @PressACWeinberg

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