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Best NCAA Wrestlers Turned MMA Fighters

December 3rd, 2011 by Tom

By Brian Lopez-Benchimol

Of all the bases of martial arts to build upon a budding, MMA, career, wrestling has been one of the truer and more dominant.

Over the years, we have seen a steady increase in the amount of accomplished wrestlers entering the sport today, with some reaching great heights in becoming world champions in their respective organizations.

The NCAA wrestler represents the upper echelon of competitive athletes who have garnered praise from their conferences, often times having been scouted by larger universities due to their obvious prowess.

So, among the world's best MMA fighters today, who came from an NCAA background?

Ben Askren

Current Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren, who recently defeated former UFC and Strikeforce veteran Jay Hieron in the first defense of his title, comes from a long and very prestigious background as an athlete.

Wrestling for the University of Missouri, Askren earned two state titles as a high school wrestler prior to his entry into the big leagues. As a collegiate wrestler, Askren became a runner-up at 174 pounds at the NCAA Division I championships in both 2004 and 2005. He later claimed the title in 2006 and 2007"making him one of the more accomplished athletes to have ever been as successfully competitive.

Askren parlayed his skills toward the 2008 Olympics. Though he came up short there, he has since rebounded with the success he has reached now, becoming an undefeated and highly touted mixed martial artist.

Joe Warren

Current Bellator featherweight champion-turned-bantamweight hopeful Joe Warren has enjoyed a lot of success as an MMA fighter while he is still gunning for a competitive amateur career as a wrestler.

Warren attended East Kentwood High School, where he won two state titles before attending the University of Michigan. His star really shined afterwards.

Warren took gold in two World Cup tournaments before earning first once again in the prestigious Pan American Games in 2006, making him an early favorite in the 2008 Olympic Games. However, Warren failed to qualify for the prestigious tournament after he had tested positive for marijuana in the pre-drug screenings.

He will now look to accomplish the feat that had slipped his grasp in years prior, as Warren will look to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games.

Chuck Liddell

The former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell came from a long history of athleticism as a youth.

At the age of 12, Liddell began Koei-Kan Karate and later took up football in high school, become a four-year starter at San Marcos High.

Liddell would later attend California Polytechnic State University, transitioning his skills to the mat, where he became an NCAA Division I wrestler for the school, though he failed to acquire any real title recognition.

No matter, as Liddell has since used his wrestling base, coupled with knockout power, to become one of the most recognized and popular fighters in the world of mixed martial arts. He has since been inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.

Cain Velasquez

The current UFC heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez comes from a rich background as a wrestler.

Velasquez took to sports early, as he wrestled all four years at Kofa High School, winning the 5A Arizona Wrestling Championship twice, compiling an astonishing 110-10 record in those formative years.

Velasquez attended Iowa Central Community College, where he wrestled for one season and won the NJCAA National Championship.

The heavyweight great went to the prestigious Arizona State University, where he became a standout early on the NCAA Division I scene, placing fifth in the country in 2005 and fourth in 2006 while compiling an overall record 86-17.

Now, Velasquez enjoys the success of his MMA career, where he remains undefeated and presides as the UFC's undisputed heavyweight ruler.

Matt Hughes

The former two-time UFC welterweight champion built his illustrious career as a mixed martial artist thanks to his extensive wrestling background.

Hughes attended Hillsboro High School, where he became a two-time IHSA Class A State Wrestling Champion at 155 pounds. Next, Hughes attended Eastern Illinois University, where he immediately earned NCAA Division I All-American honors, placing eighth and fifth in his final two years at 157.

Though collegiate titles escaped him there, Hughes has since become one of the more accomplished mixed martial artist to have ever lived.

Randy Couture

How do you follow after such an illustrious photo like that?

As a youth, Couture wrestled early in life beginning in middle school before attending Lynwood High School, where he became state champion in his senior year.

Couture later attended Oklahoma State, where he became a two-time runner-up for the NCAA Division I championship while earning All-American honors. After his collegiate career, Couture went on to become a three-time Olympic alternate before transitioning to the world of mixed martial arts.

There, Couture first claimed the UFC heavyweight title in just his fourth bout as a professional. Since then, Couture has acquired a total of five titles in the organization"three in the heavyweight class and two as a 205-pounder, a feat that has been unmatched since.

Josh Koscheck

Koscheck comes from a long and rich background as an amateur wrestler and, on paper, was one of the best to enter the Octagon.

Coming into prominence at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Koscheck won all of his 42 matches as a junior, going on to become the Division I champion at 174 pounds.

The enigmatic Kosheck earned All-American honors after coming in fourth, second, first and third, respectively, in his four years at Edinboro. His accomplishments helped earn him three PSAC Wrestler of the Year awards while earning the Eastern Wrestling League Achievement Award on two separate occasions.

Since then, Koscheck has been regarded as one of the top-five welterweight fighters in MMA, having defeated the likes of Diego Sanchez, Paul Daley and Matt Hughes in his career, while challenging for a world title in the process.

Kevin Randleman

The future UFC heavyweight champion was always a powerhouse, even in his earlier days as a youth.

Randleman attended the prestigious Ohio State University, where he competed at 177 pounds. Randleman became the two-time NCAA Division I champion, earning All-American honors after his incredible and storied run of becoming one of the few men to earn the title back-to-back (in 1992 and 1993) after becoming a runner-up in 1991 as a sophomore.

After his collegiate career, Randleman moved into the world of mixed martial arts, where he first came into prominence in the UFC and became the undisputed champion in just his third bout with the organization.

In his career, Randleman holds notable victories over the likes of former champion Maurice Smith, Pedro Rizzo, Renato Sobral and former Pride great Mirko Cro Cop.

Phil Davis

One of the more promising stars in the mixed martial arts world, Phil Davis first built his star on the foundation built as a collegiate wrestler.

He began that career at Penn State, finishing fifth at the NCAA Division I championships in 2007. Davis would later earn the prestigious title in 2008 as a senior, graduating as a four-time All-American while compiling an overall 116-17 record.

Since then, Davis has gone on a tear as a professional mixed martial artist. Davis went on a 4-0 run is less than one year's time before being called up to the UFC, where he defeated former WEC champ Brian Stann in his debut.

Since then, Davis remains undefeated and has gone 5-0 inside the Octagon, with his last bout earning him top-10 status after defeating former Pride star Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

Shane Carwin

The powerhouse in Shane Carwin first built his base as a collegiate wrestler.

Carwin attended Western State College in 1996, where he became the NCAA Division II runner-up both in 1996 and 1997. Eventually, Carwin earned the NCAA Division II heavyweight national championship in 1999 and later became a volunteer coach for the University of North Colorado.

It was in that area where Carwin linked up with the Grudge Training Center, headed by top trainer Trevor Wittman. Since then, Carwin has earned world recognition, beginning his career with an 8-0 start before making his way to the UFC.

There, Carwin has earned knockout victories over the likes of Christian Wellisch, former title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga and former champ Frank Mir"the latter of which earned Carwin the interim title in the process.

Matt Hamill

Though Hamill competed on the Division III circuit in his amateur wrestling career, he deserves recognition nonetheless since he accomplished much while being deaf.

Hamill attended Rochester Institute of Technology in 1996. In 1997, 1998 and 1999, Hamill earned the NCAA Division III championship, competing at 167, 190 and 197 pounds, respectively.

Invited to the 2001 Summer Deaflympics, Hamill won a silver medal in Greco-Roman and gold as a freestyle wrestler.

Hamill then transitioned his skills to the mixed marital arts scene, where Hamill joined the UFC on the heels of his stint on The Ultimate Fighter on Season 3. Hamill became a top contender in the 205-pound class, where he earned impressive victories over Keith Jardine, top contender Mark Munoz and former champion Tito Ortiz.

Mark Coleman

Former UFC champ Mark Coleman, much like all successful heavyweight hopefuls, built his career on his collegiate career as a wrestler.

Beginning wrestling as a teen, Coleman attended Miami University in Ohio, where became the two-time Mid-American Conference champion. In his final year, Coleman transferred to the prestigious Ohio State, where he won the NCAA Division I title and clinched his spot as an All-American athlete.

Coleman earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic wrestling team, placing second at the FILA Wrestling World Championships and seventh overall at the 1992 Summer Olympics.

Coleman would later be labeled as the "godfather of ground-and-pound, "when he transitioned to the MMA scene, winning the UFC 10 Tournament in his debut as a pro in 1996.

Coleman would win the subsequent tournament before becoming the organization's first heavyweight champion by besting Dan Severn with a first-round submission. A subsequent Grand Prix title in the Pride organization built Coleman's star, where he was eventually inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.

Mark Munoz

On paper, Mark Munoz could very well be the best wrestler to ever enter the UFC.

Attending Vallejo High School, Munoz earned the California State Wrestling Championship twice at 189 pounds and the 1996 NHSCA national high school championship as well.

Munoz was later scouted and recruited by Oklahoma State University after having been one of the most-sought-after wrestlers in the country. Munoz earned two Big 12 titles while taking home the prestigious NCAA Division I title in his senior year.

Munoz also took his skills into international waters when he earned the silver medal at the FILA Junior World Wrestling Championships in 1998.

Since then, Munoz has become of the fast rising contenders in the middleweight division in the UFC, having bested the likes of Kendall Grove, Aaron Simpson, C.B. Dollaway and most recently Demian Maia, besting the former title challenger by decision.

Tyron Woodley

Current Strikeforce phenom Tyron Woodley came from humbling backgrounds as a youth.

Born 11th of 13, Woodley grew up in Ferguson, Missouri. When he was at McCluer High School, Woodley was a natural athlete, becoming a two-time state wrestling finalist before earning his first official title as a senior when he totaled a 48-0 record.

Woodley attended the University of Missouri, alongside Ben Askren, where he earned NCAA Division I honors and All-American stature. He became team captain from 2003-2005, earning the Big 12 title in 2003 before becoming runner-up in 2005.

Since then, Woodley has been coveted as one of the top prospects in MMA. Woodley is undefeated as a pro, holding notable victories over the likes of Andre Galvao, Tarec Saffiedine and former UFC contender and Strikeforce title challenger Paul Daley.

Mo Lawal

An international success in every sense of the word, "King "Mo first took to the MMA scene on the heels of a very extensive wrestling career that extended past his collegiate efforts.

Growing up in Texas, Lawal became a two-time high school state runner-up in 1997 and 1998 before taking the title in 1999 at the Texas state championships.

Lawal attended the University of Central Oklahoma, where he competed for three years in the Division II circuit, becoming the 2001 runner-up before taking the NCAA Division II title in 2002. He later earned the Big 12 title in 2003 before moving up to Division I.

Lawal took third before he went on to the international circuit, where he earned a litany of titles and totaled well over 20 medals and/or titles. Once an Olympic hopeful, Lawal transitioned to the world of mixed martial arts in 2008.

Lawal took a big splash in his MMA career when he defeated UFC veteran Travius Wiuff in his debut, knocking out the touted heavyweight in a little over two minutes. Eventually, Lawal became the Strikeforce 205-pound champion when he defeated Gegard Mousasi by decision.

Cole Konrad

A successful collegiate wrestler-turned-world champion"this story sounds familiar.

Cole Konrad began his career as an accomplished wrestling standout at Freedom High School, compiling an overall 101-15 record winning the Wisconsin state championship in 2002. Konrad entered the Junior National Championships, earning titles in both Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling.

Konrad attended University of Minnesota, where as a junior, Konrad went undefeated, eventually parlaying his success to the NCAA Division I championship. Konrad again repeated the amazing feat as a senior, going undefeated again and taking the prestigious title in 2007.

At the Pan American Games in 2005, Konrad won the freestyle wrestling title in the 120 kg division.

Since then, "The Polar Bear "has become a hot MMA prospect. He has found lots of success as a pro, earning the Bellator heavyweight championship after defeating a bevy of opponents in the organization's first tournament.

Victories over Damian Grabowski and UFC veterans Neil Grove and former title challenger Paul Buentello anchor his list of accolades.

Don Frye

MMA great Don Frye has become one of the more notable fixtures in all of the sport, thanks to his moustache, persona and overall fighting skills that rely on his wrestling background.

Frye attended Buena High School in Sierra Vista, where he first found wrestling, and attended the prestigious Arizona State University, where fighters such as Cain Velasquez, C.B. Dollaway and Aaron Simpson have all called home at one point.

Frye won three Pac-10 titles in college, earning Division I All-American honors for his efforts which he later parlayed into Olympic run. In 1987, Frye won both the freestyle and Greco-Roman events during the Olympic qualifier, where in his senior year he finished out his career at Oklahoma State.

Since then, Frye has been recognized as a pioneer in MMA, winning the UFC 8 tournament upon his mixed martial arts debut and the heavyweight tourney in December of 1996. For some time, Frye held the record for fastest knockout in the UFC after he finished Thomas Ramirez with a KO punch in just eight seconds.

Jon Fitch

Despite convincing himself that he is not an athlete but a tireless worker, Fitch does come from a competitive background as a wrestler.

Attending Carroll High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Fitch wrestled at Purdue University as a walk-on. Fitch wrestled while under the watchful eye of mixed martial arts icon Tom Erikson.

A four-year letterman, Fitch became team captain of the Boilermakers, compiling an overall 97-12 record and earning NCAA Division I honors.

Though he went relatively unaccomplished as a collegiate athlete, Fitch has since become one of the more notable figures in mixed martial arts. He is considered universally as the consensus No. 2 fighter in the welterweight division.

Fitch has compiled an overall 13-1-1 record inside the Octagon and holds notable victories over the likes of Thiago Alves (twice), Diego Sanchez and Paulo Thiago, while having challenged for a world title against current champion Georges St-Pierre, turning in a "Fight of the Night "worthy performance in defeat.

Johny Hendricks

Hendricks attended the highly touted Oklahoma State University on the heels of a long and accomplished wrestling career in high school, where he earned three Oklahoma state titles whilst competing for Edmond Memorial High School.

In 2005 and 2006, Hendricks took home the NCAA Division I title, wrestling then at 165 pounds.

Hendricks finished second in 2007, making him a four-time All-American at the university, polishing off his career with three Big 12 titles before making his way to the world of mixed martial arts.

Since entering the Zuffa fold, Hendricks has gone 8-1 under both the WEC and UFC banners. He holds an overall 11-1 record, and his lone defeat comes at the hands of contender Rick Story.

Hendricks holds impressive wins over The Ultimate Fighter Season 7 winner Amir Sadollah and Charlie Brenneman"knocking out both men before the final bell.

Jake Rosholt

UFC veteran Jake Rosholt remains as accomplished as they come on the collegiate scene.

Beginning his career at Sandpoint High School, Rosholt would win three Idaho state titles and the national title in 2001 at 189 pounds.

Rosholt attended Oklahoma State University, where he won the NCAA Division I title in his freshman year, a feat that is rare.

Rosholt again claimed NCAA fame again in 2005 and 2006, earning All-American honors all four years of college while making him a legend in the wrestling scene. He's one of only a few men to earn three NCAA titles.

Following his accomplished collegiate career, Rosholt moved to the world of MMA, where he went uncontested in his five outings. He entered the UFC on the heels of his brief stint in the now-defunct WEC promotion.

In the organization, he picked up a convincing victory over perennial contender Chris Leben, submitting the heavy hitter with a third round arm-triangle choke.

Brock Lesnar

When Brock Lesnar was born in Webster, South Dakota, a star was born.

Lesnar picked up the wrestling bug at an early age when he attended Webster High School, securing a 33-0 record in his senior year.

Lesnar attended the University of Minnesota on scholarship, where he would take second place at the NCAA Division I championships. Lesnar vindicated himself in 2000 when he took the title, earning All-American honors in his final two years at the university.

In his four years as a collegiate wrestler, Lesnar compiled an astounding 106-5 record overall.

Though a stint as a WWE star soon followed, Lesnar eventually made his way to mixed marital arts, where he joined the UFC in February of 2008. In just his second professional bout, Lesnar took on former world champion Frank Mir, besting him early before succumbing to submission.

Eventually, Lesnar earned the heavyweight title when he defeated UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture and later avenged his defeat to Mir by successfully defending his title, TKO'ing the jiu-jitsu expert on second-round strikes.

A victory over Shane Carwin followed, legitimizing Lesnar's place a world-ranked MMA fighter.

Minnesota wrestlers climb into the cage

November 15th, 2010 by Tom

Minnesota Wrestlers

With heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar as a role model, college wrestlers are finding that mixed martial arts gives them a chance to compete and make money after school.

By MYRON P. MEDCALF, Star Tribune

When Division I football coaches called, Joel Bauman listened. But the sport didn't fit into his plan -- to become the greatest fighter in the world.

So Bauman, who rushed for 2,941 yards as a high school junior at Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg in west-central Minnesota in 2008, pursued his other love -- wrestling.

The Gophers freshman, a two-time prep state champion, would love to earn a few titles in college, but he ultimately chose the sport because he said he believes it will prepare him for a career in mixed martial arts (MMA).

It's a familiar path through an expanding pipeline for Minnesota-based wrestlers who strive to emulate the success of former Gophers star and current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar.

"It's really cool because it just gives you hope that there's something out there, "Bauman said about Lesnar's accomplishments in MMA. "I love wrestling and it's my passion, but in the back of my mind I always have, 'Be the best fighter, be the best fighter.'"

Lesnar, who defends his crown against former All-America wrestler Cain Velasquez at UFC 121 Saturday in Anaheim, Calif., has always credited his amateur wrestling background for his success.

"In wrestling, there's so much involved, there's a lot of wrestling in the cage, in the Octagon, "Lesnar said during Wednesday's prefight news conference. "Wrestling is the backbone, I believe, in this sport."

The multitude of wrestlers dominating MMA proves as much.

Randy Couture, a former Olympic alternate and collegiate standout, sparked the movement more than a decade ago. His rise to champion in multiple divisions inspired a generation of wrestlers to climb into the cage.

Sean Sherk, a St. Francis native who started wrestling when he was 7, won the UFC's lightweight title in 2006 and remains a top contender. And Minneapolis' Dave Menne, who wrestled for Iowa, was the UFC's first middleweight champion in 2001.

Roger Huerta, who wrestled for Augsburg, fights for Bellator Fighting Championships, a Florida-based operation that airs fights on Fox Sports Network. Former Gophers All-America Jacob Volkmann joined the UFC last year and Nik Lentz, another former Gophers wrestler, quit school to pursue a pro fighting career.

But Lesnar's transition to MMA three years ago helped spur interest among some younger wrestlers.

Konrad turns to MMA

After winning back-to-back NCAA titles, Cole Konrad didn't have a lot of appealing career options. His attempts to continue competing after his decorated Gophers career -- including a tryout with the New York Jets -- fell flat.

Then he found his way to MMA. Konrad, who trains with Lesnar in Alexandria, Minn., earned $100,000 after winning Bellator's heavyweight tournament earlier this month. He said MMA offers wrestlers a chance to compete and make money after college.

Before MMA, Konrad said, you'd work hard, achieve success "and the next day, it's no longer there. It's gone."

Alec Ortiz, a Gophers redshirt freshman who has trained with MMA standouts Chael Sonnen and Matt Lindland, said he understands that he has limited opportunities to wrestle after college, so he's already thinking about an MMA career.

"I'm going to wrestle for as long as I can, be competitive, try to make Olympic teams, but I've seen wrestlers make really good transition to mixed marital arts, so I'd like to try that out and see how I fare, "Ortiz said.

Wrestlers have the skills

Seasoned wrestlers know how to control matches. They're conditioned for long fights. Multiple rounds don't scare them. They are masters at dictating pace. And they develop high-level cardiovascular strength at an early age.

"You've got all these martial arts ... but as soon as you get on the ground, everything changes, "Gophers coach J Robinson said.

Marty Morgan was entrenched in Gophers wrestling as a top assistant when Lesnar asked his former coach to lead his MMA training two years ago.

Morgan said he has seen an increase in the number of young wrestlers who want to pursue mixed martial arts.

"I know amateur wrestling has been hoping for that and they're trying to kind of hook themselves to it a little bit, "Morgan said.

Bauman might represent that new breed of wrestlers.

Some coaches and wrestlers envision a future in which pro MMA operations become the natural destination for the best wrestlers.

"Wrestling has never had a pro facet to it and that's what MMA is becoming, "Robinson said.

And that's exactly why Bauman joined the Gophers.

"Oh yeah, that's my dream, "he said. "Be the best fighter in the world. That's what I tell these guys all the time."

Brock Lesnar Acts Like a Clod

July 27th, 2009 by Tom

LAS VEGAS "So Brock Lesnar, in the parlance of pro wrestling, had gone straight heel.

After bludgeoning Frank Mir to retain the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight championship at the hyped UFC 100, the former pro wrestling star decided to put on a real show.

Lesnar ran around the octagon flipping off the Mandalay Bay Events Center crowd with both middle fingers. He shouted at Mir as the challenger sat on a stool trying to regain his equilibrium. Mir stood up and they went sort of nose-to-broken nose before Lesnar cackled with laughter.

In the post-fight interview, Lesnar encouraged the booing fans to "keep going" before continuing to taunt Mir.

No one and nothing was spared. Lesnar even turned his attention to the UFC itself, which paid him an estimated $3 million for the fight, pointing at the giant Bud Light advertisement in the middle of the octagon.

"I'm drinking a cooler full of Coors Light, Coors Light because Bud Light won't pay me anything."

Anything for the children at home, big guy?

"Hell, I might even get on top of my wife tonight."

With his clown-show antics, Brock Lesnar just became the greatest villain in modern fighting. From refusing to tap gloves prefight in a sportsmanlike ritual to this over-the-top rant that came right out of the silly wrestling circus.

"Straight WWE," said a stunned Dana White, the president of the UFC. "Brock went so far over the top tonight I can't even describe it. I don't think in the history of the UFC we've ever done anything like that."

Postfight, White pushed his way into Lesnar's crowded locker room and took the big guy into the bathroom for a private "discussion." Lesnar himself described it as "a whip-the-dog session."

"With women in here you don't want to know what I said," White said. It worked, Brock showed up at the press conference smiling, supposedly contrite and even drinking a Bud Light.

"First and foremost I want to apologize," Lesnar said. "I acted very unprofessionally after the fight. I screwed up and I apologize. I apologize to Bud Light. I'm not biased, I drink any beer."

It was mostly a chance for laugh lines, but it was still an apology. Lesnar said the pent-up energy of avenging a loss to Mir caused him to go crazy. "I'm a sore loser," he said. "I don't like to get beat. I believe I gave that fight to him. So there was a lot of emotion in this fight for me.

"Man, I was so jacked up. I'm used to selling pay-per-view tickets. I come from a business that is purely the entertainment business."

And so that was the excuse. Lesnar didn't flip, he just flipped the switch back into Vince McMahon's operation where nothing is too over the top. The UFC, however, is real and it has tried to position itself not as a blood sport but one based on sportsmanship and mutual respect.

Lesnar did the UFC no favors in that regard. And neither did veteran Dan Henderson, who dropped a vicious forearm smash on an already knocked out and prone Michael Bisping on the undercard. Henderson then admitted he did it on purpose to avenge prefight trash talk. The UFC even went on to award him its $100,000 "knockout of the night" bonus. White also gave Henderson a talking to, but Henderson still said it "felt good."

The damage done to the UFC's mainstream momentum remains to be seen. While some will be repulsed, others will be drawn in. It's cage fighting, after all. Things get out of hand.

That this occurred on the promotion's biggest night, when the numerical significance of the card was expected to bring in a large first-time audience, wasn't appreciated by the UFC. The night was electric and highly entertaining. And while it is likely to most offend people who weren't disposed to giving mixed martial arts a chance in the first place, White was aghast at Lesnar's act. This isn't what he built. This isn't what he wanted.

"What he's doing out there tonight is not real," White said. "You don't have to act like something you're not. This isn't the WWE. I don't ask these guys to act crazy so we get more pay per views. That's not the business I'm in."

In the meantime, the cementing of Lesnar's reputation as the promotion's most hated man is done.

"Brock hasn't made himself very loveable," White said. "They hate Brock." For the UFC, a classic villain is business gold. He's the ultimate leading man for the organization. Some loathe him. Some love him. No one can ignore him. For those seeking his comeuppance however, there isn't a WWE storyline that can be written to stop him.

Lost in the antics was Lesnar's performance, a brilliant effort that showed both his growth as a mixed martial artist and the immense potential. The question becomes, who the heck can tame this mountain of a man from the Minnesota woods?

Shane Carwin? Cain Velasquez? Mir in a final chapter of a trilogy of fights? No doubt they'll get a chance, and no doubt they stand a chance.

The greatest beneficiary of each Lesnar snarl, however, lives in Stary Oskol, Russia, a man named Fedor Emelianenko who is considered the No. 1 heavyweight (if not pound-for-pound fighter) in the world. If anyone has the knockout power to stop the 6-3, 265-pound Lesnar, it's Emelianenko.

Fedor doesn't fight in the UFC though. He's with its rival promotion, Affliction. He'll fight Aug. 1 in Anaheim, Calif., in what is the last match of his contract. Affliction is hoping to re-sign him until 2012, but the UFC will come hard after him. More now then ever. And that means money, big money.

"Eventually Fedor is going to be here," White said. "I want Fedor. We'll end up getting that deal done and then we'll do Brock vs. Fedor and we'll do a huge fight."

Time will tell, but the pressure to sign the elusive Russian has been ratcheted up. A villain was born and there isn't an obvious superhero in sight. The UFC brought Brock Lesnar over from the WWE for just this kind of a sensation. And the big man has delivered "the good, the bad and the embarrassing.

Only Dana White has no scriptwriters that can contain him.

Filed under Amateur Wrestling, WWE having 1 Comment »

Brock Lesnar Credits God for His Physique

July 6th, 2009 by Tom

The former University of Minnesota wrestling All-American and current Ultimate Fighting Champion heavyweight title holder in an interview credited God -- and not steroids -- for his physique.

By PAUL WALSH, Star Tribune

Former University of Minnesota wrestling All-American Brock Lesnar, the current Ultimate Fighting Champion heavyweight title holder, took a swipe at President Obama in an interview and bragged that he is "built like a black man "as he credited God -- and not steroids -- for his physique.

Lesnar's smorgasbord of comments came in an interview with Maxim that was published in May and posted Friday on Fightline.com, a website that covers mixed-martial arts, ultimate fighting and other forms of professional wrestling.

Lesnar was a two-time All-American and 2000 NCAA heavyweight champion for the Gophers. His post-college career took off when he became a star with the WWE for two years, a part of his life that he recalled with some regret.

"You live a double life, "the 285-pound Lesnar said. "I was tired of trying to be who I was in the ring and then coming home for two days to be normal. They didn't allow you to be. The guys who get out are the smart ones, really and truly."

Lesnar also took a swipe at President Obama when talking about having money for the first time in his life while in the WWE.

"I acted foolishly, "he said in the interview, noting the he owned four homes (one in western Hennepin County), a private plane, two Hummers and a Mercedes. Asked whether he has saved for retirement, he responded: "That's private. But if Obama keeps spending our money like this, I'll have to fight till I'm 50."

Concerning steroids and his ability to stay ripped, Lesnar said.

"I bet you I've taken over 60 steroid tests. In college, I had 15 random drug tests in two years. I've taken drug tests for the NFL, the WWE, the UFC. I must be pretty good at masking steroids. God gave me this body: Are you jealous of it or what? Give me a break.

"I got the genetics of--not to get into racism or anything--but I'm built like a black man. Would you say so?"

One day before his 32nd birthday, Lesnar defends his UFC title vs. Frank Mir on July 11 in Las Vegas. Lesnar won the championship from Randy Couture last November.

Filed under Amateur Wrestling, MMA, WWE having 1 Comment »

Kole Conrad to the NFL?

March 15th, 2009 by Tom

Among several Vikings and other football prospects working out for seven NFL scouts Wednesday at the Gophers' indoor facility was Kole Conrad, a two-time NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion for the Gophers.

Conrad, 24, who has received interest from the New York Jets, checked in at 6 feet 3, 316 pounds. He gave up football as a high school freshman in Wisconsin to focus on wrestling but now wants to become an NFL guard or center. He would love to play for the hometown Vikings but would welcome a chance anywhere.

"I wanted to be the best at what I was doing (wrestling), but I got to the point in my life where I wasn't sure I wanted to continue, which means I definitely should not continue," Conrad said. "Football has always interested me, so I figured I'd give it a shot and see where I stand."

None of the two dozen prospects who worked out were overwhelming, which is why the best they probably can hope for is to be a late-round pick in next month's NFL draft or to get free-agent opportunities.

"Rough," Conrad said of his workout. "I feel like a lot of the steps were in place, but I don't know if I was nailing them as well as I have. I've been working on this stuff for six weeks."

Conrad bench-pressed 225 pounds 21 times.

"Not great," he said. "But I'm just going to keep plugging, and I hope they understand where I'm at, but more importantly where I can get to."

Conrad works out with another former Gophers NCAA champion heavyweight wrestler, Brock Lesnar, who now competes professionally in mixed martial arts. Lesnar had an unsuccessful tryout with the Vikings as a defensive end in 2004.

"I don't want to look back and say I didn't give football a try," Conrad said.

Marty Morgan Leaves U of Minnesota To Prep Lesnar For Next MMA Bout

September 6th, 2008 by Tom

 Marty Morgan was the top assistant under head coach J Robinson at Minnesota for 13 of his 16 seasons on staff. While at Minnesota, Morgan helped secure the program's status as one of the most successful collegiate wrestling programs in the nation.

Head assistant wrestling coach Marty Morgan resigned from his position at the University of Minnesota on Tuesday afternoon after 16 years with the program. Morgan will go on to train former Gopher All-American wrestler Brock Lesnar, a popular Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) competitor, on a full-time basis.

"I'm going to step back for a year to help Brock [Lesnar] train and I'll see where I'm at next summer. I've been working with Brock [Lesnar] the past few years on his training and now I've been offered a unique opportunity to work with him full time. "Morgan said. "This has definitely been a difficult decision, considering that I have been involved with the program for 20 years as an athlete and coach. I am happy to have a great relationship with the University of Minnesota administration, J Robinson, the wrestling staff, past and current team members, and numerous fans around this great wrestling state."

A native of Bloomington, Minn., Morgan began his collegiate wrestling career at North Dakota State where he won a Division II national championship as a true freshman before transferring to Minnesota. Morgan was a three-time All-American for the Gophers and won a national title at 177 pounds as a senior in 1991. With a 39-0 record during his senior season, Morgan became the first wrestler in school history to finish with an unblemished record and is one of just three wrestlers in Minnesota history to accomplish that feat. He capped off his career with the Big Ten Medal of Honor, which is awarded to a Big Ten student-athlete who demonstrates excellence in academics and athletics.

Morgan was the top assistant under head coach J Robinson for 13 of his 16 seasons with the program. During his time at Minnesota, Morgan helped secure Minnesota Wrestling's status as one of the most storied and successful programs in the nation. Under Morgan's watch, the Gophers attracted some of the nation's most sought-after recruits on a regular basis and won national titles in 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2006-07. The Gophers have also captured six Big Ten Conference championships under Morgan's tutelage.

"Marty has been around Minnesota Wrestling for 20 years, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him to step away for a year and to see what else is out there, "head coach J Robinson said. "I think it's important for people to see different opportunities that life has to offer from a different perspective and a year away from the program can provide that perspective for Marty. He will be obviously missed this year with the way we do things, but we look forward to working with him in the future."

The Gopher wrestling program, which boasts one of the nation's highest-rated recruiting classes again this year, begins its 2008-09 season with the Bison Open in Fargo, N.D. on Nov. 15. Minnesota's first home wrestling event comes when the Gophers host fellow perennial national power Oklahoma State in a New Year's Day dual at the Sports Pavilion.