Defeat not an option for MMA fighter

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He mentally studies the man in front of him. His boxing gloves move and jab while he ducks and weaves his head. MMA fighter Westin Wilson’s powerful series of combo kicks to the ribs and the mid-thigh quickly drop his larger opponent to the mat. 

Shocked in defeat and grimacing in pain, his opponent says, “You kick hard for your size.” Wilson’s opponent faces a minute of grueling burpees for losing but manages to limp out of the ring. Wilson, choosing not to rest in victory, does burpees for the final minute. As a self-proclaimed underdog, he will do anything necessary to improve as a fighter.

Westin Wilson, a BYU student, trains for MMA fighting at The Pit Elevated in Orem. (Elliott Miller)
Westin Wilson, a BYU student, trains in mixed martial arts fighting at The Pit Elevated in Orem. (Elliott Miller)

Set to make his pro MMA fighting debut in August, the 25-year-old Wilson is entering his senior year in the BYU public relations program. He and his wife, Jenn, welcomed a baby girl in May. He works full time as a supervisor and goes to school full time while making time to train. Trying to find enough time in the day is his hardest obstacle, but his work ethic keeps him going. Excellence drives him.

“He has the best work ethic out of anyone I have met. He supports our family by working full time, he goes to school, works out three hours a day and still helps keep the house clean and even changes diapers,” Jenn Wilson said. “Although watching him fight scares me and I no longer go to his fights, MMA is his passion and I support him in it.”

The hard work goes beyond dusting the house and diaper duty — the sweat rolling down his face in the gym proves just that. During a recent sparring session, Westin Wilson took a vicious kick to the face from an opponent who outweighed him by 60 pounds. The kick could have easily dropped another fighter, but the kick did not faze him nor knock him down. He countered by landing a barrage of punches to the ribs and head.

Wilson’s coach, Arnold Anderton, has coached him since 2012 and expects nothing less than excellence from him. Anderton praised his young fighter, saying he won’t quit or back down from any opponent. He takes some serious strikes during sparring practice and gets back up without hesitation. He is one of the most determined fighters Anderton has coached, and he keeps getting better.

“It is rare to find someone that’s constantly looking for ways to improve their skills like Westin,” Anderton said. “His improvement over the past two years is a result of him pouring sweat on the mats and pushing his body daily. Westin is not the biggest or the most athletic fighter, but the extra hours of training in each discipline of fighting has helped him develop into a dangerous fighter.”

Obstacles and setbacks have been a constant companion in Westin Wilson’s life, but he refuses to give up.

“I have never been somebody who’s always naturally succeeded, I have always had to work … to succeed,” he said. “I have been knocked down, but I will always get back up.”

Wilson tried playing basketball and football as a freshman but was told his 5-foot-3-inch, 99-pound frame wouldn’t cut it. He was constantly told, “You can’t do that,” and “You’re not good enough.” This was the recurring theme of his life. Wrestling in the seventh grade gave him an opportunity to play a sport similar to MMA, where the little guy could excel. He fell in love.

Wilson’s first crack at MMA training came before his senior year in high school, when his family moved to Brazil, the motherland of MMA. He started training in Brazilian jiu jitsu and excelled because the wrestling skills he learned translated well to the MMA style.

The Pit Elevated head coach, Jason Mertlich, knows wrestling is Wilson’s strongest aspect; however, people might question that when considering his size. He is stronger and a better wrestler than people realize. During wrestling practice he regularly takes guys down who outweigh him by 50 and 60 pounds. Mertlich said it is impressive to watch.

“He has been consistent in learning every facet of the sport outside of practice. He has progressed faster than others because he is opened minded and listens to our coaches,” Merlich said. “That’s the key to MMA: hard work and listening to coaches you believe in. He does both well.”

Wilson does Pilates twice a week for increased flexibility and core strength, as they help him with more athletic grappling moves and give him more powerful strikes. He also attends an additional developmental practice, where he perfects his take-down moves.

A well-rounded skill set is helping Westin Wilson prepare teammate and UFC fighter Steven Siler for his upcoming duel later this month. He acts as Siler’s “human punching bag” twice a week and views the extra time in the gym as a chance to learn.

“He [Wilson] is a tough kid and is learning quickly; he is definitely putting his time in at the gym,” Siler said. “The result of the hard work is he is a very well-rounded fighter. There are not many weaknesses in all his aspects of fighting.”

Despite his steady improvement in the cage, Westin Wilson is still told he will not have a successful fighting career because he is too small at 6 feet 2 inches and 145 pounds. But teammate and sparring partner Jesse O’Ruillan warns the naysayers to watch out.

“I always get a kick out of hearing people say negative things about him because they don’t know Westin,” O’Rullian said. “He is really fueled by the naysayers. He will do all in his power to prove those who doubt him wrong, and he does it with his hard work. Wes’s nickname should be ‘Streisand’ because, like Barbra, he can do it all. He is a good standup fighter, and his grappling is solid. A lot of guys are only good at either or, but Westin is really good at blending all the disciplines together.”

Wilson’s pro MMA career is promising. He plans on winning his August 23 fight and wants to fight again six weeks later, in an attempt to establish a quick, undefeated record. Once he proves his dominance in the ring he will try out for the reality show “The Ultimate Fighter” and is determined to win and get a contract with the UFC. In three years he hopes to become a top-15 fighter at the 135-pound weight class and is confident he will reach that goal.

“If he keeps working like he is, based off the hours he commits in the gym and his continual development, Westin will get there,” Anderton said. “It is tough to get into the UFC, but Westin has repeatedly proven he is tougher.”

Wilson will continue to dedicate three-plus hours of intense, punishing body blows and heart-pounding cardio. No one will stop his pursuit of becoming a UFC fighter. It has been his goal since starting MMA, wanting to tell the doubters “goal accomplished, what’s next?” with a smile.

“If you work hard for something in life, even if you fail you can always get back, and that is a true sign of a champion — somebody who fails multiple times but isn’t afraid of that failure because they have the work ethic to get back up,” Wilson said. “Nothing beats hard work. I am living proof.”

 

 

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