It’s been said a million times, but perhaps it’s never been as evident as it is today.
Wrestling — real wrestling — is the best base from which to build the world’s top mixed martial artists.
Five of the UFC’s seven champs either come from a wrestling background or have inherited it as a foundation.
With the exception of Brazilians Anderson Silva (middleweight champ) and Jose Aldo (featherweight) every other belt-holder has relied on wrestling to get to the top.
Wrestling alone didn’t make them champs. But the strong base and confidence that comes with it has allowed them to become power punchers and creative strikers.
Here are the wrestling pedigrees of those five UFC champs:
Heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez is a two-time All-American collegiate wrestler and a junior college national champ who won 110 fights in high school while losing only 10.
Light-heavyweight champ Jon (Bones) Jones was a standout high school wrestler and state champion in his native New York.
Welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre discovered wrestling later on, but since making it the main part of his attack plan, he has earned his belt back and defended it successfully five times. There were even rumours the Montreal fighter was preparing to represent Canada as a freestyle wrestler at the 2012 Olympics — something
Frankie Edgar wrestled in high school and was a national qualifier all four years at Clarion University in Pennsylvania. He now helps coach the Rutgers University wrestling team.
Bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz was a high school wrestler before turning his sights on MMA.