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Jordan Oliver praises ‘big brother’ Daniel Cormier but ideally ‘I want to top’ his accomplishments in MMA

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Jordan Oliver

It turns out Jordan Oliver has been preparing for his MMA debut for nearly six years but he won’t fight for the first time until Friday night at Bellator 298.

As a two-time national champion wrestler and U.S. Olympic team member, Oliver has spent most of his life on the mats while striving to become the best in the world. But even as he was winning tournaments and adding more and more accolades to his wrestling resume, the now 33-year-old Pennsylvania native never lost sight of his desire to become a fighter.

“It was always the plan,” Oliver told MMA Fighting. “I almost made it in 2016 but for myself and the goals that I wanted to accomplish in wrestling, I couldn’t leave wrestling without making the U.S. [Olympic] team and putting myself in position to be the best in the world. With that said, I got to make the Olympic team and this opportunity came up again.

“It was something that I wanted to do. It was something I thought I’d be great in but it also challenges you. It’s not just wrestling. Wrestling is challenging enough but now there’s striking, there’s a whole bunch of different crafts and I’m a person that likes to take on challenges. I like to be the best in the world and go against the best competition.”

While wrestling was his primary focus, Oliver revealed that he actually started dabbling in MMA long before he inked a contract with the Paramount-owned company now serving as his promoter.

In fact, he credits the little bit he learned in MMA as an extra weapon that helped him become a better wrestler, which led to even more success on the senior circuit after college was over.

“The learning part, a lot of it helped me in 2017 when I started becoming successful in wrestling but I was stepping off to the side and training MMA,” Oliver said. “It’s helped me get better with my spacing and timing in wrestling and now we’re making the transition into MMA and we’re not just training it.”

At 33, Oliver is technically getting a late start on his fighting career but he already has a pretty effective blueprint to follow when it comes to that switch from wrestling to MMA at a slightly older age.

You see, Oliver counts ex-UFC champion Daniel Cormier as a friend and mentor after they first connected at Oklahoma State, which is the college where they both wrestled under legendary coach John Smith. Oliver always looked up to Cormier, who also made his MMA debut in his 30s before eventually winning titles in two different weight classes and being enshrined as a member of the UFC Hall of Fame.

Oliver couldn’t imagine a better path to follow than the one Cormier forged ahead of him.

“That was my main inspiration,” Oliver said about Cormier. “When I was at Oklahoma State, me and ‘DC’ had a very good relationship. Someone I called my big brother. I got to see his first fight, I believe it was in Tulsa or Oklahoma City, and we got to be there. Watching DC and getting to know DC, we’ve stayed connected over the years. Someone that’s always supported me and gave me advice and he’s always been in my ear as a big brother.

“That’s a lot of inspiration coming over, watching DC and watching him go from wrestling in the Olympics and go and pursue UFC gold. He loves doing it. He loves competing and it’s something I love to do as well. DC was a huge inspiration for me. I hope to have the credentials he does but being his friend and little brother, I want to top him. He laid the blueprint. Now it’s time for me to build on that and do something even better.”

Because there’s so much attention being paid to Oliver ahead of his Bellator debut, it’s easy to forget that he hasn’t actually competed professionally yet.

Of course, Oliver isn’t the first high-level wrestler to have such a bright spotlight on him before he throws a single punch — look no further than UFC contender Bo Nickal as a perfect example — but none of the attention bothers him.

In fact, Oliver says nobody will ever set a higher standard than he does for himself so he welcomes the target that will undoubtedly land on his back.

“I like the expectations,” Oliver said. “Everybody will tell you the quote pressure makes diamonds but pressure, that’s something I’ve dealt with my whole life. You learn to execute under it. You learn that pressure is actually good for you.

“If there’s a target on my back, awesome. Because right now if there’s a target on my back, it’s only going to get bigger. My expectations are high because I want to put on a performance. It’s something I always did in wrestling. I always want to be the crowd favorite. I open the door for pressure and invite it in.”

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