At just 21 years old, Gable Steveson is an Olympic gold medalist and has the world at his fingertips right now.
Fresh off a stunning performance at the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo, the recent NCAA heavyweight champion is still riding a high after he dominated the competition through the first three rounds of the tournament before pulling off a jaw-dropping finish with less than one second remaining in the finals to claim gold.
It’s a moment that will live forever for Team USA as well as the entire wrestling community, and Steveson is still trying to wrap his head around everything that happened over the past few days.
“There’s so many crazy emotions,” Steveson told MMA Fighting on Tuesday. “After I got that gold medal, I probably didn’t take it off for like three days. I had it on me everywhere I went. I was showing it to all the homies on the Facetime and stuff. To do it at such a young age, it’s definitely life changing. A lot of kids that are 21 don’t even get to go outside the country and see different places. There’s so many kids that don’t go outside the country and wrestle at world championships, especially the Olympic games, because we only send six people if everyone qualifies.
“So for me to go out there and influence the next generation of young kids that want to come up and do that same thing at such a young age is crazy. Hopefully kids look at that and be inspired to step on the wrestling mat and go out there do their thing.”
In many ways, Steveson was destined for this kind of moment, especially after his parents named him “Gable Dan Steveson” after Dan Gable — one of the most accomplished wrestlers in the history of the sport. From the time he was old enough to walk, Steveson was already modeling a singlet while shooting for takedowns. Now he’s accomplished the greatest feat possible in the sport he loves so much.
Of course with that kind of accolade comes a world of possibilities.
Just after he claimed the gold medal, World Wrestling Entertainment sent out a message on Twitter congratulating him on his victory. Steveson had previously attended a WWE event as a special guest of the promotion.
On Tuesday, Steveson dropped a message of his own with a hand waving emoji attached with UFC president Dana White’s handle, which only furthered speculation that perhaps he was thinking about a career in mixed martial arts.
Truth be told, Steveson doesn’t do anything by accident — and he’s definitely got a lot to think about over the next few months as he begins to decide on his future.
“What is next for Gable Steveson is, I’m really not sure. I’m open for all options,” Steveson said. “Like I said, I’m going to go explore every single option I can. I’m going to go put my name on every single desk and go out there and make sure the Gable Steveson name is well known and it’s going to influence the next culture that comes up.
“There’s a lot of places to go, I don’t know what’s next for me. WWE, UFC, football, go back to school, who knows? But at the end of the day, the best decision will come to my family and who knows when it may came.”
Even as an Olympic gold medalist, Steveson actually still has two years of eligibility left at the University of Minnesota so he could easily opt to forgo making any life-changing decision for now and just return to college for another year or two.
Steveson also likes the idea of becoming a two-time Olympic gold medalist with the next event in Paris only three years away after the global pandemic pushed back the 2020 games until 2021.
That said, Steveson has definitely thought about exploring a future in fighting, and the tweet directed at White was certainly with a purpose.
“Most definitely, I’m a fight fan,” Steveson said. “Who wouldn’t want to be the baddest man on the planet? Who wouldn’t want to hold that UFC championship belt? I’m holding the gold medal and I’m the baddest wrestler on the planet. Why wouldn’t I want to go out there and be the baddest UFC heavyweight champion?
“I sent that tweet out to Dana. I’m sure he saw it, I’m sure someone from his desk got a hold of him. But like I said, all options will be open.”
Former Olympian and retired UFC competitor Ben Askren praised Steveson during his Olympic run while adding “Give Gable Steveson 18 months training MMA and tell me who on earth is beating him? Freaking NO ONE.”
Give @GableSteveson 18 months training MMA and tell me who on earth is beating him? Freaking NO ONE— Funky (@Benaskren) August 6, 2021
Steveson actually believes 18 months might be a little bit too much time.
“I saw the tweet from Ben Askren and I do believe that, too,” Steveson said. “I do believe that with my wrestling skills and me putting on some striking skills, I can be the champion in less than 18 months. I can go out there and dominate my way through the heavyweight field.”
As much as it might appear that Steveson’s interest in fighting will drive him towards the UFC, he’s definitely not making that call just yet.
In fact, Steveson fully intends to sit down with the brass at WWE and see what they have to say as well.
“Most definitely I’m going to explore the WWE,” Steveson said. “Vince McMahon is a great dude, Triple H is a great person also. For me not to explore WWE would be fairly stupid on my part.
“But I’m going to go out there and me and Triple H are going to have face-to-face talks, me and Vince will, me and Dana will, me and Joe Rogan will and I’m going go out there and like I said explore.”
For now, Steveson is anxious to enjoy his victory, but thanks to the support system he’s built around him, he has the time available to him to make these kinds of decisions without any pressure.
Prior to the Olympics, Steveson began working with noted MMA manager Dave Martin, who handles a slew of top fighters including Luke Rockhold, Michael Chandler, and Ryan Bader. He’s also recently inked a deal with Kill Cliff, a popular energy drink company with deep ties in combat sports, and thanks to the new rules under the NCAA for NIL (name, image and likeness rights), he’s able to support himself financially while figuring out what comes next.
“Me and Dave and my family, we’re going to go search for the right things and we’re going to make sure everything’s taken care of,” Steveson said.
“A lot of people have faith in me and that’s cool to see. We’re going to explore. We’re going to take our time. We’re going to pick the right option for me whether it’s MMA or anything else.”