UFC Vegas 76’s Westin Wilson doesn’t need to fight.
A successful software developer who owns his own software company, the 34-year-old has plenty to keep him busy without getting punched in the head for a living. That being said, he may be an even more dangerous fighter than the average MMA competitor, because he chooses to compete.
Wilson’s passion for fighting was ignited after a friend of his father’s, who worked for the Drug Enforcement Agency, showed him tapes of the UFC as a junior high student. He was immediately interested in the sport, so he started wrestling. But when his entire family relocated to Brazil, it didn’t take long for his full attention to get shifted to MMA.
“We moved to Brazil and I couldn’t wrestle anymore, my dad was like, ‘You can do MMA,’” Wilson told MMA Fighting. “So I started doing MMA in high school in 2006. When I was in high school, I started doing MMA back when there were no regulations in Brazil, or very little, and I was like 16, 17, 18, getting whooped by these big old Brazilian guys, just beating the tar out of me everyday. I was addicted since then, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Despite his growing interest in fighting, Wilson promised his mother — and, eventually, his wife as well — that he wouldn’t get consumed with MMA without having another career to fall back on.
“When you grow up in the LDS faith and you have middle-class parents, you have expectations, so I fulfilled all those expectations,” Wilson said. “I got my degree. I got a good paying job that’s flexible and allows me to fight. I enjoy it enough to keep doing it everyday and not being like, ‘I have to make it in fighting so I can quit!’”
Three years ago, Wilson made another life-changing move when he traveled to South Carolina to begin working at Upstate Karate, the gym best known for producing two-time UFC title challenger Stephen Thompson, who trains under his father, Ray Thompson.
Wilson credits that change of scenery as the spark that eventually led to his short-notice opportunity to join the UFC roster, where he debuts on Saturday against Joanderson Brito.
“It’s been a long journey, and I’ve been with a lot of different coaches because fighting’s not my full-time career,” Wilson explained. “I would say definitely this resurgence is all them. Coach [Ray Thompson] and I have a really good relationship. It’s like a father-son relationship almost. He basically was like, ‘We’re going to start over, and go on a streak and just be really strategic with our fights,’ and everything like that.
“His goal is he doesn’t want to be a one-hit wonder coach and just have ‘Wonderboy.’ I think this year alone, with all the work we’ve done as a team, I think [several fighters] will be there [in the UFC] soon. We’ve got a stacked team that’s ready to show the world.”
Wilson has always considered himself a well-rounded fighter — with a remarkable 100-percent finishing rate across 16 career wins — but he’s started adapting a more refined style since training alongside Thompson.
“Wonderboy” is regarded as one of the most technical strikers in all of MMA, and Wilson has been happy to learn from him — even if his own style isn’t quite as polished.
“I’m like the Wal-Mart version brand of ‘Wonderboy,’” Wilson said with a laugh. “We joke about that. My fighting style is like the Wal-Mart brand. He’s boxed cereal, I’m bagged cereal. I’m what you get on a budget.
“‘Wonderboy’ says, ‘You’re not the Walmart version!’ I’m like, ‘Don’t be nice. I’ve gotten my butt whooped by you enough. Trust me, I’m like the Walmart brand version.’ I’m the version that you can buy with food stamps.”
Wilson embraces that moniker, especially considering how far “Wonderboy” has gone during his career with the UFC, and he hopes to follow in those footsteps.
“I just want to be a role model,” he said. “I see the way Stephen is with the kids at the karate school, and I want to be that. I want to be that role model where kids are like, ‘You inspired me.’”