NCAA wrestlers in the UFC, or mixed martial arts
Last spring, Minnesota's Logan Storley became the latest NCAA wrestler to declare his plans to turn pro after graduation and pursue a career in UFC, the world’s premier mixed martial arts fighting organization.
It makes sense. Storley hails from the same tiny South Dakota hometown as UFC legend Brock Lesnar, and even followed his hero’s path by becoming a Golden Gopher. That college choice worked out well for Storley, a four-time All-American who finished fourth in the 174-pound class in the 2015 NCAA Championships.
Storley’s professional journey has just begun. He fought in a lower-level MMA bout last month, and won by technical knockout.
If he needs inspiration as he climbs up from the sport’s bottom rungs, he can look to these 10 former NCAA stars who had a memorable turn in the world of UFC. Some are active and others have retired, although you can never be sure in a sport where it seems any fighter is one strong challenge removed from a return to the octagon.
Ryan Bader, Arizona State
Height / Weight: 6-2, 205
Pro highlights: The UFC No. 4 ranked light heayweight. Defeated former Penn State wrestler Phil Davis in January at UFC Fight Night in Stockholm, Sweden. That avenged his loss to Davis in the second round of the 2005 NCAA Division I Championships. Next fight is Oct. 3rd in UFC 192 vs. Rashad Evans
In college: He was a two-time NCAA Division I All-American and three-time Pac 10 champion at Arizona State. He earned a degree in justice and social inquiry, with a minor in business.
Quotable: “Cormier already said he wants to fight me, so what are we waiting for? Let's go in there and settle this. I guarantee the UFC and the fans I am going to go out there and lay it all on the line. I'm going to make it an exciting fight, and I'm going to look to stop D.C. and earn the respect of everybody because I don't want anyone saying I don't deserve this or that.”
Mark Coleman, Ohio State
Height / Weight: 6-1 / 205
Pro Highlights: The former UFC heavyweight champion is the man given credit for inventing the UFC term, “ground-and-pound” which has become part of the sport’s vernacular. His last fight was a loss to fellow NCAA superstar and UFC Hall of Famer, Randy Couture in UFC 109 in Feb. 2010.
In college: He was the 1988 NCAA Division I national champion in the 190-pound class and earned an education degree from Ohio State.
Quotable: “For the last 50 days I go from my hotel room to the gym and then from the gym to my hotel room, I even had to cancel Christmas this year. I will celebrate Christmas with my kids when this fight is over but for right now it's all about taking care of business."
Daniel Cormier, Oklahoma State
Height / Weight: 5-11 / 205
Pro Highlights: “DC” is the current UFC light heavyweight champion. The 36-year-old’s only loss was a unanimous decision to Jon Jones in January in UFC 182.
He bounced back to defeat Anthony Johnson in UFC 187 via submission in the third round and his next bout is Oct. 3rd in UFC 192 vs. Alexander Gustafsson.
In college: Final record in three seasons was 59-10, with six losses coming to Cael Sanderson, who finished his career undefeated at 159-0. In 2001 was the NCAA Division I national runner-up in the 184-pound class. Graduated with sociology degree.
Quotable: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where you stand in moments of comfort and convenience but how he stands up when faced with challenges and obstacles. True champions are not born, they’re built.”
Randy Couture, Oklahoma State
Height / Weight: 6-2 / 205
Pro highlights: The last bout for “The Natural” came in UFC 129 in April 2011. A UFC Hall of Fame member, he’s a three-time UFC heavyweight champion and two-time light heavyweight champion. When he defeated Tim Silva at age 43 for the light heavyweight crown, he became the oldest man to win a UFC title. One of only two champions to hold belts in two weight classes.
In college: He was a four-time national champion in Greco-Roman, three-time All-American and two-time NCAA Division I runner-up.
Quotable: "I picture success and winning. The body has a physical response to the mental image of winning."
Johny Hendricks, Oklahoma State
Height / Weight: 5-9 / 170
Pro highlights: Top-ranked welterweight in UFC. After losing two of his previous three fights, he defeated Matt Brown by unanimous decision in UFC 185 in March. His next fight is Oct. 3rd against Tyron Woodley in UFC 192. He has eight wins by knockout snd one by submission.
In college: The two-time NCAA champion earned All-American honors four times. Received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education.
Quotable: "I can get hit and I can stay calm. I think that’s a huge asset."
Brock Lesnar, Minnesota
Height / Weight: 6-3 / 265
Pro highlights: Didn’t last long, but made an impact in several high-profile fights. Earned more than any other UFC fighter in 2010. Also had two stints in pro wrestling with WWE and tried to make the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. Defeated Shane Carwin with arm-triangle choke (submission) to become UFC heavyweight champion in July 2010, UFC 116.
In college: Two-time All-American and 2000 NCAA heavyweight champion
Quotable: "I want to evolve and make myself a well-rounded fighter, so obviously I'm not going to leave any stone unturned, when it comes to submissions, submission defense, striking, knees, leg kicks, and also learning to defend everything."
Jared Rosholt, Oklahoma State
Height / Weight: 6-2, 265
Pro highlights: “The Big Show” turned professional in 2011 after a decorated career in Stillwater, Okla. In his most recent fight, in August, defeated Timothy Johnson by unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night Nashville. His older brother, Jake, is a UFC veteran.
In college: Winningest heavyweight in history of talent rich Oklahoma State program. Compiled a 125-27 career record, earned All-American honors three times, including 2010 when he was the NCAA Division I Runner-up.
Quotable: "I felt the same as always. You just got to get back in the gym and try to get better every day."
Dan Severn, Arizona State
Height / Weight: 6-2 / 250
Pro highlights: “The Beast” retired in 2012 at age 54, seven years after he was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
In college: Two-time All-American at Arizona State.
Quotable: "If they wanted to see a real animal, they should have seen me from 1984 to 1986 because I ruled the world, hands down."
Cain Velasquez, Arizona State
Height / Weight: 6-1 / 240
Pro highlights: UFC’s No. 1 ranked heavyweight, he lost to Fabricio Werdum on UFC 188 in June. Possesses one-punch power, and a 77” reach, has knocked out 11 of 13 victims. Eight of those knockouts occurred in the first round.
In college: Two-time All-American for the Sun Devils, compiling an 86-17 record in three seasons at Arizona State, where he finished fifth in NCAA Division I in 2005 and fourth in 2006.
Quotable: "Nothing is given to you in this world, so you have to work hard."
Chris Weidman, Hofstra
Height / Weight: 6-2 / 185
Pro highlights: “The All-American” 31 years old and the UFC middleweight champion Defeated previously unbeaten Anderson Silva in UFC 162 and backed that up by defeating him again in UFC 168. In last fight defeated Vitor Welfort by TKO in first round. His next fight is against Luke Rockhold on Dec. 12th in UFC 194. Nine of 13 pro victories have come via knockout.
In college: Two-time All-American at Hofstra, where he graduated with a Psychology degree. nine of 13 professional victories have come via knockout or submission.
Quotable: “The truth comes out … I think when you fight you find out who you are.”