Fighting has always come naturally to me. Even when I was nine or 10, I used to get in the cage to work on my hands.
Back then, boxing was a reward for a job well done at wrestling practice. When we had a good wrestling practice, it was our chance to fight in the cage because it was an MMA gym, and we could fight each other with boxing gloves.
I always loved the striking game. I just had to put it on the backburner when I got to high school to focus on wrestling.
Wrestling has taken me all over the world. I started wrestling when I was just three years old because my older brother wrestled. But before high school, I thought boxing was kind of fun. So we called our old neighbor who was a boxing trainer and did Muay Thai, and he started working with my boxing, doing some kicks, and things like that.
Around that time, I started doing #Pankration, and doing some exhibitions in MMA. I even had like 30 boxing fights. As I got older, I went went off into a different journey with wrestling, but, I never stopped working on my hands.
At this point, I feel like I’ve been groomed for this transition from wrestling to MMA. It’s nothing my parents pushed me to do or anything like that. Honestly, if they had it their way I’d be doing something other than fighting. But that’s why I’ve been so successful because I’ve always had a passion.
My main boxing coach, Dominic Doloria, has helped me transform that passion and energy into a well-honed and developed striking game. Still, I think it really takes a couple years to come out of straight wrestling and go into the MMA world.
Everybody’s different, but when somebody punches you in the face, or kicks you in the head, or kicks you in the stomach, it’s a whole different world, so I think it’s gonna take some time to learn and get used to the hand speed and absorbing those kicks and punches.
Of course, I could go in there and just take guys down, but as you get to the higher level and you start competing for world championships, you need to be well rounded. I think for someone to come out of wrestling and immediately want to fight, you’re gonna have to sit down and say ‘these are the aspects of my game I need to train’ and you need to set very dedicated time to those.
Eventually, it’s my goal to make a full transition from wrestling to MMA. I’ve seen #DanielCormier do it, and I think he’s the greatest fighter. There are also great wrestlers in MMA like Demetrious Johnson and Georges St-Pierre, so I have the benefit of seeing how wrestlers have adapted to mixed martial arts. But I’m not going to rush this.
And while most people will expect my game to rely on the grappling, I’ll definitely surprise some people with my hands.