Nearly 13 years ago Dan "The Beast" Severn became the first elite wrestler to enter the Octagon. Though he lost in the championship match of the UFC's then single elimination one day tournament to Royce Gracie, he still gained a ton of respect for both himself and the sport of wrestling on that day in terms of 'real fighting'.
Great wrestlers have been proving their sports' worth in mixed martial arts ever since.
Think of the names: Randy "The Natural" Couture, Matt Hughes, Dan Henderson. . . These guys are all household MMA names. They also so happen to be former wrestlers. There's no one out there with any knowledge of the sport that can refute this fact.
Wrestling is a great breeding ground for mixed martial artists. Along with this, there is a new management company that seems to understand this and is capitalizing on it by recruiting top flight wrestlers into the MMA world under their care. The name of the company is Team Takedown. Their motto: "Turning great wrestlers into ultimate fighters."
And two of their elite wrestlers turned fighters? Jake Rosholt and Eric Bradley? took the time to talk with MMAFighting.com before their respective MMA debuts on July 21st at the Masters of the Cage XV event in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (Bricktown Coca-Cola Event Center).
GETTING TO KNOW ERIC BRADLEY AND JAKE ROSHOLT
Bradley is a former three time New Hampshire high school state wrestling champion and national high school All American. Great success followed him to Penn State University as well, where he went on to become a two time Division 1 All American, two time Big Ten wrestling champion, and National Collegiate Boxing light heavyweight champion. Interestingly, Bradley was the number one ranked wrestler in his division during much of his senior season before injuries hampered his progress.
On the effect that past college injuries had on Bradley's decision to start an MMA career: "My college wrestling career is kind of a sore subject for me. I left it unfulfilled. . . I'm still on a quest to be a champion and I wasn't about to leave sports without reaching the pinnacle."
On training at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas: "I've been training with guys like Mike Pyle and a bunch of other guys. Randy Couture's been getting ready for his fight so we've been able to get in there and spar a little with him. (We've) gotten a lot of work in, working on our striking, our ground game, and overall MMA."
On recent training in Texas: "Training's been going great. I've been working out with Guy Mezger over at the Lion's Den in Dallas."
On why he decided on MMA over going for a Masters in Chemistry and Law School: "For me, I like to compete. . . I enjoy working out. . . I get to make a living doing what I love."
On his boxing background: "I won the National Collegiate Boxing Championship. I wasn't able to wrestle one year and I ended up joining the boxing team. . . I had twelve amateur fights? they're all wins? and I was able to get some pretty good boxing skills."
On how his boxing background has helped him transition to MMA: "Definitely a big leg up for me, being able to be comfortable on my feet."
On his opponent (Troy Allison) and strategy at Masters of the Cage XV: "I've watched him a little bit, he's a brawler. . . I'm just gonna bring my game to him and I'm really confident in what the outcome is going to be."
On Bradley's prediction for the fight: "I'm going to let my fists and my technique do the talking; but I'm predicting me coming out a winner. That's how I go into everything I do; I predict myself making it to the top."
Rosholt won three Idaho state wrestling titles and a national championship (2001) as a high school wrestler. In college, it was more of the same as he took home the 184 pound NCAA Division 1 wrestling title in 2003 and the 197 pound title in 2005 while competing for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. All told, Rosholt accumulated three divisional championships, one Big 12 Conference Championship, and four All American honors during his college days.
On Rosholt's relationship with fellow Oklahoma State alumni Randy "The Natural" Couture previous to training at his Xtreme Couture gym: "I moved to Las Vegas like three months ago and started training at his gym. . . I went out there about a month before that? a month and a half before that? and met him for the first time ever.
I wasn't a huge follower of MMA; I was always sort of a fan but I don't ever watch too much of anything. But Randy Couture is definitely one of the people that I knew and cheered for."
On his recent training in Texas: "We have been in Dallas with Guy Mezger. For the last week and a half or so, he's been helping me and Eric get ready for our first fight."
On how his wrestling background has helped him transition to MMA: "The fact that I'm used to one on one combat type of sports; the mental part of it, the hard work that it takes and preparation."
On how wrestling doesn't always help the transition: "In wrestling you want to hold on all the time, and that's not necessarily a good thing."
On his improved striking: "If you saw me the first time I threw a punch, I've come a long ways. It was very awkward. . . It gets better everyday. I have a long way to go, but as long as I keep getting better all the time that's the thing."
On learning submissions: "I've learned stuff here and there. . . None of this happens overnight and I knew that going into it. It took me twenty years of wrestling to get where I did. I know that it takes time to be great at something, so I just have to keep trying to pick up a little bit at a time."
On dealing with his opponent, Dusty "Dream Killer" Miller's, kickboxing background: "I think that I'll be able to deal with that (him on his feet). I also think my wrestling's gonna be way better than his. . . The ground: that will be where I'm definitely going to have the advantage."
Prediction for his fight at Masters of the Cage XV: "I don't have a prediction. I'm just going out there and fighting and whatever happens, happens. I feel confident. Other than that, that's pretty much it."