For the last few months I have been covering the progress and adaption of future MMA fighter and 2011 NCAA National Wrestling Champion, Bubba Jenkins, for BJPenn.com. As I’ve continued with updates and announcements on Jenkins’ progress I’ve noticed that a lot of fans are pessimistic about the National Champ’s conversion into the sport of MMA. Many have voiced their displeasure with another wrestler using their overly-dominant and superior grappling skills to “lay-and-pray” their way to a successful record. Well, with Jenkins now set to fight on December 2nd and “Tachi Palace Fights 11” he has a message for all those fans that are not excited about his upcoming debut:
“I will not be the lay-and-pray type of wrestler,” Jenkins explained on Sherdog Radio Network’s “Savage Dog Show.” “That is just a promise to everyone who is out there.”
There is no doubt in my mind that Jenkins will use and subconsciously rely on his wrestling skills during his debut fight against Chris Huerta on December 2nd, but I also believe that he has the athletic ability and tenacity to be a true fighter rather than just another wrestler thrown into an MMA fight. His potential to become a great striker and an all around successful fighter is apparent every time I see him compete.
Jenkins is coming off of a 2011 NCAA national wrestling title at 157 pounds while he attended Arizona State University last spring and has since been training with American Top Team to prepare to launch his MMA career into the stars. With so much still in question about his career as a fighter Jenkins wants the fans to know that he doesn’t even really know what to expect from himself, but he does promise to bring the fire to the cage and entertain the fans as much as he possibly can. And for good reasons I thoroughly believe him.
“Nobody knows what I’m going to do because I don’t even know what I’m going to do,” Jenkins said. “I can plan all day for my wrestling matches, and in the wrestling matches I don’t even do what I plan. To get out there in front of everybody in MMA and actually have some leeway to use my athleticism and not have as many rules as there are in wrestling, I’m just going to be opening up. You’re not going to see too many straight-on shots and takedowns. You’re going to see a lot of fists, elbows, knees, shins, ankles — whatever I can throw out there to damage a guy, I’m throwing it.”
This is comforting news considering that most fans are unappreciative of upper echelon wrestling skills. It seems that Jenkins will head into his fight with Huerta with an extremely open arsenal of weapons. There is really nothing more dangerous than a fighter with a great wrestling background and lethal striking skills. Jenkins wants to show that’s exactly what he is. He really wants to show that fans that he is more than just a world class wrestler. His training at American Top Team is helping him open up his game and unleash his full potential as a fighter. Jenkins also briefly commented on the striking aspects of his training.
“I’m learning how to take some punches, learning how to take some kicks and definitely learning how to give them,” he said. “It’s going very well, as smooth as it could go for a wrestler who’s got a low height when I spar and stuff like that. They’re teaching me how to come up out of my stance and get more into the MMA side of things. The transition is smooth. A lot of the stuff is similar, real, real similar.”
Jenkins will open his career as a fighter at 155 pounds but explained that he would eventually like to drop down to the 145 pound weight class.
“When I get some serious fights and go up against big names, I think I’m going to go down to 145,” Jenkins said. “I think I’m a natural 145-pound fighter. With the weigh-ins the way they are and my weight not being that much right now, 145 sounds real good to me. But for the beginning part of my career, just to get some experience under my belt, I don’t think I’m going to cut too much and just fight at the weight I’m at, which is around 155.”
Jenkins is excited to kick-start his career in the right direction but is well aware of the hype that is surrounding him well before his first fight. Luckily the added attention is everything he wants and thrives off of. Jenkins is setting the bar high for himself and plans on reaching stardom extremely soon.
“My goal is to be a household name like Phil Davis, Rashad Evans, ‘Bones’ Jones,” he said. “I want to be doing Crest commercials and commercials that have nothing to do with the sport. I want to live up to the hype.”
With the attention he has already garnered without a single fight under his belt I can only imagine what a few exciting victories will do for his future. I’m excited to see how things work out for Mr. Jenkins and I’m curious to see if he really intends on straying away from the “lay-and-pray” that has cost so many great wrestlers their fan base and following. Best of luck, Bubba. We look forward to your debut on December 2nd and eventually seeing you smile wide when you really do star in those Crest commercials!
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