Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs knew what would happen if he sent the tweet. After all, it’s not every day that one of the greatest freestyle wrestlers of all-time announces a desire to test their mettle in MMA as definitively as Burroughs did in late October when he wrote that he wanted to have at least one fight before he retired for good.
Burroughs has had a complicated relationship with MMA over the years. He first flirted with making the transition in 2012 after his Olympic gold medal campaign, but ultimately stuck with his singlet and became one of the most decorated wrestlers alive. In October, he captured his fifth world championship and shut down any lingering doubt about his legacy. Now, at age 33, the question of how he’d do in the cage is one of the last questions left unanswered for Burroughs — and it’s also one he’s starting to seriously consider.
I want one MMA fight before I retire. Just one.— Jordan Burroughs (@alliseeisgold) October 27, 2021
“I feel like I have this calling where I’m like, deep down inside, when it’s all said and done and my body’s banged up for good and I’m walking away and putting away my wrestling shoes, I’ll always have that thought, like, ‘Damn, what would it be like if I would’ve gotten into the cage?’ And I don’t want to live with regret,” Burrough said Monday on The MMA Hour. “So ultimately for me, really positioning myself now where I’m like, does this make sense? How does it make sense? And really just entertaining offers.
“OK, can we do this? Is this even possible? Will someone even take me on for a singular event? And does it make sense timeline-wise? Does my wife agree with it, number one? And then I think lastly is, can I still be the best wrestler in the world and go out and commit to training for a fight simultaneously? Sometimes when you chase two things, you don’t get either. So I’m hoping that I can still maintain my position in the wrestling world by being the best at what I do, my craft that I intended to be the best at, but also I just have a desire, bro. I just have a strong desire to get in there and see what I’ve got.”
For Burroughs, it’s a tricky discussion. He’s not the type of person who’s going to approach anything halfway, and his primary focus continues to be preparing for the 2024 Olympic cycle. It’ll be Burroughs final Olympic cycle and he’s determined to win a second gold medal after barely missing the cut to Kyle Dake in the 2020 U.S. Olympic team trials.
But it’s also a yearning that he feels deep inside, a question that Burroughs feels he needs to answer for himself before it’s too late. In many ways, amateur wrestling is a thankless and unprofitable pursuit, and Burroughs has seen plenty of wrestlers less accomplished than himself earn life-changing money by turning in their singlets for four-ounce gloves.
“I’m just getting older,” Burroughs said. “I really think as time passes and I start to feel how my body feels after each championship, every year I feel a little bit older, it aches a little bit more, the injuries linger a little bit longer. So I’m like, damn, how long can I do this? And to be honest, I went and I won another world championship, a record-tying championship, and I won $50,000. So I’m like, I worked hard all summer, dedicated, focused, I was dialed in — and my paycheck was less than $100,000. And I’m like, I could go out there and do this and fight ultimately for three, four, five times that. So I think that’s kind of where I stand.
“This gives me an opportunity to elevate my brand, to have respect in all circles in the MMA community if that’s something that I want to pursue,” he continued. “But then also it’s the ability to just like garner financial resources relatively easily. It’s not easy, it’s not an easy sport. But from all accounts that I’ve heard from wrestlers, former wrestlers that are in MMA world, they’re like, ‘It’s a lot different. The training is not as rigorous. It’s a lot more sharpening.’ And I’ve seen guys that I’ve competed with go on and be successful.
“I watched Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler in the ring last week [at UFC 268] and those guys are phenomenal fighters, but I’ve been able to compete with both of them in wrestling. And so I’m like, if they can do it, I believe I can do it. I’ve got a unique set of skills, so I think I could do that.”
For Burroughs, the devil is in the details. He said Monday that with “the right opponent, for the right price, with the right timing,” he would “definitely” be interested in making the jump. It’s something he first started truly considering as a viable option this summer after losing to Dake. He’s not sure if it’d strictly be a one-off situation or if he’ll be motivated to continue fighting after his professional MMA debut, but he’s keeping his options open.
His main concern would be to figure out how to strike a balance between the two sports so his wrestling skills don’t suffer while he takes his detour to the cage, but he also wants to know what it’s like to feel deserving of the nickname “champ” when people throw it his way.
The real champions, he said, are found in the combat sports world.
“I’m not just trying to ruffle the feathers. I don’t try to draw attention that’s unwarranted,” Burroughs said. “I tweeted that because I’m serious about it and I want to kind of entertain offers. Like I always hear, people are like, ‘OK, yeah, if you fight, you can make this. Or if you tried it, you could do this.’ But I’m like, OK, well let me hear these [offers]. Let me actually hear what the professionals in the business would have to say about it, because a lot of people would tell me one fight but then they’ll be like, ‘OK, we need to sign you to a two-year, four-fight deal,’ and I’m like, eh, that’s not really what I’m interested in.
“So I’ve been listening. I’ve been keeping my ears to the pavement, seeing what there is out there and seeing if this is something I can actually get into.”
Burroughs will be 37 years old by the time the 2024 Olympic Games roll around, so he knows that the next four years are his time to make a now-or-never decision.
So if the question of whether one of America’s greatest wrestlers will finally try his hand in MMA before 2024 is posed as a true or false, Burroughs finally has his answer.
“I’d say true,” Burroughs said.
“When this is all said and done, wrestling is such an honorable sport, but honor doesn’t pay the bills. So you get to this place where you’re like, if I really want all these things, if I really want all these things that I desire, can I get these from a wrestling perspective? So I think that you have to, for me, start to consider all the sweat equity that I put into the sport and all the things that I’ve been able to get from my body, and I’m trying to maximize that before I step away for good from an athletic competition perspective.”