A BYU student is on the cusp of going pro in the mixed martial arts arena.
Westin Wilson will fight at The Complex in Salt Lake City on Fri. March 29, as he crosses the threshold from amateur to pro in mixed martial arts. Mixed martial arts is a full-contact combat sport that uses both striking and grappling techniques from wrestling, jiu-jitsu, boxing and other technical and combative sports.
The 24-year-old public relations major, began his mixed martial arts training in Brazil. Although he took time off to serve a mission, he took up the sport again after returning home and getting married. Wilson trains at The Pit, a premier training gym in Utah County.
Arnold Anderton, the assistant coach at The Pit, has worked closely with Wilson for the past seven months as he trains to make the switch from amateur to pro.
“Westin has got some good strengths,” Anderton said. “He is not really weak in any one area, and he can pretty much fight everywhere.”
Anderton is not familiar with Wilson’s competition for his March 29 fight, but he hopes Wilson’s preparation and hard work will pay off.
“We’ve been really focused on him up to this point,” Anderton said. “I like to focus on my fighters and helping them improve in many aspects rather than just helping them beat one specific opponent. It’s really hard to see exactly how (the fight) will go, but Westin has been working hard and has improved a lot.”
Fighting requires a lot of preparation. Wilson said in the weeks and days before a fight he will usually train between two and four hours each day.
“We come up with a game plan,” Wilson said. “We work on all my weaknesses and focus on my strengths. Then, a few days before the fight, it’s all about cutting weight. It’s all about dieting and making sure I’m still hydrated and making sure that I’m not losing energy. We also have to make sure that I’m being smart while cutting weight. Usually I will lose between 10 and 15 pounds.”
Wilson fights in the 145-pound weight class.
“Featherweight is the name of the weight class,” Wilson said. “I have an advantage in that I’m 6-foot-1, so I’m a lot taller than most of my opponents. This has always been a part of my game plan — using my length and my reach — to out-strike them and then when it gets to the ground to use that leverage to get submissions.”
Wilson began wrestling in high school in Virginia. From there, he and a few friends became interested in mixed martial arts. In 2006, Wilson’s family moved to Brazil due to his father’s job. There was not a wrestling program in Brazil, so Wilson’s father paid for him to train in the fighting sport.
“I fought for two years in Brazil — from 2006 to 2008 — before my mission,” Wilson said. “I went on my mission and stopped fighting. When I came back, I had surgery on my Achilles. After I got married, I started fighting again.”
He has been back in the swing of things since the summer of 2012 and plans to fight as a career in the future.
“In high school, I was always told that I was too small to play most sports, and I was also told I couldn’t do it,” Wilson said. “So I have a chip on my should to prove that I can do this. I’d love to take that and see if I can make it in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). The goal is to fight in the UFC under the big lights in the next year or two.”
Although Wilson has been fighting for a couple of years, he has not suffered any serious injuries up to this point.
“I’ve never broken my hands or arm or anything,” he said. “I’ve had stitches across my eyes, and my nose has been broken five or six times, but I’ve got a pretty big nose, so it’s easy to hit. Luckily, I haven’t had many problems with my ears. Apparently that means my ears are stronger than my nose.”
Wilson’s wife, Jennifer, goes to all of the fights. However, she must have someone go with her because she has a difficult time watching.
“I was perfectly fine with Westin wanting to fight,” Jennifer Wilson said. “I didn’t realize how nervous it actually made me until the day of the first show. I couldn’t even look. I had my face in my hands the entire time. Of course no wife wants to see her husband get beat up.”
Although she is supportive, Jennifer said she would be a little more worried if her husband were to get more hurt than a few bumps and bruises.
“If he got seriously injured, we’d have to have a serious talk about the fighting,” she said. “I really do want to support him in what he loves to do. This is his thing.”