Former BYU football star takes on MMA

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Many BYU football fans remember Jan Jorgensen as a hard-hitting defense lineman. They remember him as the player who started all 52 games he played in for BYU. They remember him setting the Mountain West Conference’s all-time tackles for loss record and for tying the conference’s all-time sacks record.

But now, The Pit Elevated is the new home to the former BYU football star, who, after an accomplished college football career, made his way into the sport of mixed martial arts.

Even though football has always been Jorgensen’s sport, he always wanted to dabble in mixed martial arts — something he said he wanted to try since middle school.

Jan Jorgensen (blue shorts), a former BYU football star, knees an opponent during a fight. Photo by Rob Norbutt.
Jan Jorgensen (blue shorts), a former BYU football star, knees an opponent during a fight. Photo by Rob Norbutt.

“Ever since I saw the first Ultimate Fighting Championships, when I was 13 or 14, I wanted to try it,” Jorgensen said. “When things didn’t work out with the NFL, I always told myself I would give MMA a shot if I was healthy.”

While in high school, Jorgensen was a successful wrestler and looked to use his wrestling experience when he arrived on the MMA scene. He said the hardest part of transitioning from football to MMA was conditioning.

“Conditioning for fighting and conditioning for football are two different things,” Jorgensen said. “It was a big adjustment. I had to change my whole body and I am a lot smaller than I was when playing football.”

Though Jorgensen is smaller than his football days, he is just as quick and strong. He currently has a 6–0 as a heavyweight and looks to make it 7–0 on Sept. 28 when he goes toe-to-toe against Eric Smith at the UCCU Center in Orem.

“Eric Smith is a smaller, faster opponent than anyone Jan has fought in the past, and that can cause problems for Jan,” said Scott Bowler, the promoter behind Showdown Fights. “But Jan is a great fighter, and he is ready to make the next step into the upper tier of competition.”

Jorgensen is considered one of the top prospects fighting outside of the Ultimate Fighting Championships, but he admits he is still learning.

His goal is to be comfortable no matter what happens during a fight, and he has most recently been focusing on learning his weakness and working to overcome them by the time he steps into the ring again.

“I have worked more on my striking. I need to understand the striking game more,” Joregensen said. “For this fight I do not just want to be physically ready; I want to be technically ready. I am excited for this fight. I know I have gotten better, and I am excited to test my skills and confirm what I have learned and practiced.”

Jorgensen works with a team of coaches prior to each fight. One of the most influential of those coaches has been Jason Mertlich, head coach of the Pit Elevated Fight Team.

“For this fight we have to make a few adjustments, but we mostly are just focusing on building Jan,” Mertlich said. “Jan is a good human being, humble and full of integrity, and that is what makes it easy to coach him. In a year’s time I can see Jan making the leap into the upper tier of the heavyweight division and fighting in the UFC.”

Jorgensen’s ultimate goal is to break into the UFC circuit and fight his way to the top. Recently he traveled to San Jose, Calif., to train with some of the top heavyweights in the sport, including Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez.

“It was like playing one-on-one with LeBron James and only losing 21–15,” Jorgensen said. “I saw where I need to improve in order to take my game to the next level, but it was a huge confidence booster.”

Bowler agreed Jorgensen can reach the upper echelon of the sport within a short time frame because of his athleticism and work ethic.

“Jan can go where he wants to go in this sport,” Bowler said. “Jan is athletic and a hard worker so if he sets his mind to it he can make it.”

Jorgensen has a dream to make it to the top of the sport and said he will not stop until he makes it.

“I got into this sport to contend for the UFC title,” he said. “I’ve got a ways to go, but that is where I see myself going.”

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