Many professional MMA fighters have started their careers while still in college. In fact, many athletes discover their passion for sports during college and high school. That’s when they try various sports, learn discipline, get accustomed to training routines, and choose a career path for their future. However, it is safe to say that not all athletes on our list were pursuing MMA careers as their first choice. Some young people were pursuing careers in other sports or fields they were studying. Still, life tends to surprise everyone. So, here is a list of MMA fighters who started their career in college. Let their stories inspire you.
Askren started wrestling training when he was about six years old and hasn’t stopped since. Askren’s father played a significant role in Ben’s future in sports. Ben grew up responsible, very athletic, disciplined, and very ambitious. These skills helped him stand out among any competitors of his age. Sure enough, the acknowledgment of his talents didn’t make him wait.
Askren was first approached by the MMA recruits in college. During this time, Askren was fighting for the Missouri Tigers while attending the University of Missouri. By the end of his studies, Askren was four times All-American and received two NCAA wrestling championships. Needless to say, Askren remains one of the best athletes in the school’s history.
Ben started his transition to MMA during his last year of college. Upon graduation, he was already a part of the professional wrestling scene in MMA. He won his first professional match in 2009 and has been participating in various competitions ever since.
A fan fact, Ben Askren and Tyron Woodley were wrestling teammates at some point. Woodley also attended the University of Missouri and made the school proud. However, Woodley started his career in MMA somewhat earlier than Askren, who was also distracted by the Olympics. Woodley was only 22 during his first professional match in the UFC.
Yet, his appearance in the ring made a splash. He continued to fight professionally while also attending classes. It is hard to imagine how Woodley managed to pull it off. We’ll never know how often he wondered, “How can I do my paper on time and prepare for the match?” Yet, he managed it all.
Not only Woodley started building his professional career during school, but he also graduated with a degree in Agricultural Economics and two All-American titles behind his back.
Phil Davis is one of the most-known names in MMA at the moment. His way to success was not as direct and clear as one may assume now. Davis tried many sports before finding what really fit his talents and skills. Thus, he was into football and tennis before he finally discovered wrestling in his first year of college.
There, in the Pennsylvania State University, he found his true passion – wrestling. Fighting for the Nittany Lions, Davis progressed fast, winning the second tournament he participated in. Of course, such results couldn’t go unnoticed. He received his first NCAA title in 2008. His future professional career was determined around that time. During his last year of college, he was already training to become a part of MMA’s new team, LionHeart. His career in MMA began soon after. Davis hasn’t lost a single promotional fight. In 2009, he signed a contract with UFC. Currently, he is one of the best Light Heavyweight fighters in the world.
The 2008 Light Heavyweight champion has always shared a passion for wrestling and martial arts. Evans made the best of his high school and college years before moving on to a professional league. Evans is a two-time All-American and the National Collegiate Wrestling Association champion. During college, Evans tried himself in any tournaments and competitions he could get his hands on.
Although he rarely won first place, he wasn’t far off. Plus, the experience he received in real-life trials was worth the fight. Overall, his wrestling career at Michigan State University was vibrant and prominent, though he didn’t graduate college as its ultimate champion. Still, only four people were lucky enough to defeat Evans in college tournaments, which is something.
Evans started to train for the professional fighting scene during his last year of college. He won in all the first five matches he had, which made him a promising candidate for the favorites. Overall, his career in the UFC was long considered undefeated as Evans kept on his rise to the top. His career culmination was, of course, his championship title and the Fighter of the Year honors.
These are just a few names on the list who’ve managed to combine a successful sports career and college. For many, college has become a place of growth, professional opportunities, and possibilities. These athletes used any chance they got to show off their skills and talents. Needless to say, such ambition fully paid off and led to highly successful careers in the MMA fighting scene.