“Man, I wish I would have wrestled in college,” said every MMA fighter that didn’t wrestle.
As a young aspiring MMA fighter and a lifelong wrestler I was faced with a very difficult question: Should I wrestle in college and get and education, or pursue my dreams to be an MMA fighter? Answer: Why not both?
For the last few years that is exactly what I did. I wrestled for Lindenwood-Bellville University, while earning a degree in Business Administration, and while competing as a professional MMA fighter. When I was going to school at LUB, I earned a 3.5 GPA, won a national championship in wrestling, and I went 6-0 as a pro MMA fighter. I am not saying this to toot my own horn but rather to offer up an interesting opportunity for young aspiring MMA fighters: You can do it too!
*Note: There are only certain schools that will allow you to compete as a professional athlete while competing in a collegiate sport. For example, you cannot do this for any NCAA sanctioned schools. However, the NAIA and the NCWA will allow it. I wrestled in the NCWA.
I truly believe that I would not have been nearly as successful on the mat if I wasn’t getting it done in the class room as well. I would not have been as successful in the cage if I wasn’t getting it done on the mat.
Wrestling provided me with the most intense and well-structured fight camps that I could ever ask for. Wrestling also gave me an abundance of dedicated training partners coupled with phenomenal coaches. Training for wrestling is much harder than training for MMA. The constant grind with little to no time off includes; strength/conditioning workouts, hard/technical drilling, live sparring, and more.
After my wrestling workouts I would train MMA with current UFC contender Tyron Woodley (he has a gym near my school). I fought, on average, once every other month. By doing this I earned enough money to pay my rent and put food on the table (but not much more than that). It was also cool because all my teammates, classmates, and teachers were following my career and watching my fights. I would go over my fight contracts with my law professor and I developed a strategic MMA marketing plan as a class project. My professors were all very supportive. One day I was checking out a book and the school librarian asked me if I was excited to go to California and fight for Tachi Palace. I thought that was pretty cool since I had never even told him I was a fighter.
So, most days I was training 3 times a day. This system made for extremely hard and exhausting training. With that said, being an athlete is NOT a full time job. Any athlete, even the most intense ones, can only train so many hours in a day. The question is what do you do with the rest of your day? I suggest focus on something else other that training. Something that is still challenging but allows you to shift focus and keep you from getting burned out on training. That something, for me, was business.
I found that the better I did in the classroom, the better I did in competition. By succeeding in school I was able to compete with a lot less pressure on my shoulders. One of my favorite quotes is, “The probability of achieving your goal drastically improves when you let go of the need to have it.” A full-time fighter NEEDS to win because fighting is all he has. When I stepped into the cage I knew, win or lose, I still had an education and other things going for me. This thought process allowed be to compete free of worry, which made me fight a lot better and win a lot more.
So, if you want to be an MMA fighter I strongly suggest you take the same route. Find a college with an NCWA or NAIA wrestling program. Then find an MMA gym nearby. Train hard at wrestling, train hard at MMA, and above all… get your education!!!
If you have any questions about this idea, or need some advice, feel free to contact me through our contact page or via Facebook. I will be glad to help!