KnockoutLounge.com had the honor of spending some time with TUF 10 contestant and former professional football player Mike Wessel, and some of his fans may be a little bit surprised at some of the revelations…
Craig Nelson: Let’s do this. Ok, how about a brief background, how old are ya, where were you born, like that…
Mike Wessel: I’m 33. I was born in Celina, Ohio. I graduated from University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, IN with Elementary Education/Special Education and Chemistry degrees. I was an All American nose guard 2 years and went to NFL camps but got cut. Played Arena League Football in North Dakota and San Diego, for 3 1/2 seasons, then I coached for the University of Arkansas.
CN: How did that transition into MMA? Were you always in Martial Arts?
MW: I never trained anything other than football and strength and conditioning. I was at Arkansas and bored with everything, and missed being an athlete, and was in a weight room watching the big screens and replays of UFC were on it. I looked at my coach and said, “I can do that”, (lol) and he said “Do it”, because at that time I was just coaching, and drinking, and eating chicken wings every night, and I was not happy with my life. I was engaged, and she moved back to North Dakota because she hated Arkansas, and I didn’t go with her because I loved my job. When she left something was missing, and I saw the UFC and thought, “Screw it, I’ll train”. It was actually Jason Wilfawn (assistant strength and conditioning coach, now at Ole Miss) that set my training up.
But I never even saw UFC or MMA prior to that day, and I was 28 yrs old.
CN: Wow! What did you start training in first, or did you skip the prelims and go straight into MMA type training?
MW: I was training with Randy Edwards in Fayetteville, mainly kick-boxing and boxing, and they sent me to Little Rock on weekends to Roli Delgado and Matt Hamilton that own Westside MMA. Roli has fought for TUF and the UFC several times as well, so in my free time I drove the 4 hour round trip to learn more.
I fought my first fight with 2 months of training, (lol) but I had cardio and strength, and can take a punch. I fought another ammy that was 12-3 and won in the second round by TKO.
CN: That’s dedication, it must have struck a chord with you pretty quickly…
MW: Yeah, I loved it. To me it was so new, and I enjoyed the team, focus and goals it brought, so I worked hard at it.
CN: Awesome. Isn’t it crazy that people make, and TAKE, fights like that? 12-3 fighter vs. 0-0 fighter, some might call that a mismatch. Who knew it was the other guy that was outmatched! (lol)
MW: (lol) Yeah, he works for me now, and has been a friend since. They told him I trained 3 weeks and that I had no experience; they didn’t tell him I was the coach for the Hogs, or a pro ball player, but Roli and Matt knew what I was capable of. In training I KO’d everyone, not because I’m going too hard but from light contact. I have always had good control but I’m not afraid to be hit to make a bigger hit.
CN: I know you get asked about this endlessly, so I am going to keep it to a couple questions, but I can’t very well NOT ask about your time in the TUF house. Lots of guys struggle with it, did you find it to be a fun experience, or mostly just a pain in the ass? (lol)
MW: (lol) It was a pain in the ass, man, I hated it at the time. My now ex-wife told me 3 days before I left she had cancer, and I almost pulled out. She told me to go, but all I thought about was her. I didn’t care to fight because my heart was about her. When I got out of the TUF house, I found out a couple months later she lied and did it for attention. It destroyed me, and wasted a great opportunity in my life, so that whole period in my life was a pain in the ass.
CN: Wow, that is CRAZY, and sheds a whole new light on your time there. What did you take away from the experience that was good?
MW: The training and coaches were great, and I made huge connections. I still talk to Brendan (Schaub) and Matt (Mitrione) a lot. I lived with Roy (Nelson) and his wife for nearly 4 months, and learned a ton, so those were some great benefits.
CN: Seems like a common thread, world class training and connections. Glad it wasn’t ALL bad. (lol). I understand you have your own gym now, those connections must help out a lot with that…
MW: Yeah,I have a gym now, but it’s mainly a cardio fitness gym. I have taken all the training I have learned for football, fighting and physical therapy and made a great program. I have young and old, in and out of shape people doing it and getting great results. Every day the workout is different, and I train them like I have to train, only a little watered down, but they seem to love it.
I just opened a new gym 2 months ago because it was so successful, and I do MMA at night. The gym is called Jonesboro Fitness and MMA. I really like being my own boss and training people.
CN: That’s great, you sound, dare I say it, happy? (lol) So, your upcoming fight, tell me about it. Venue, date, name of promotion, all that good stuff…
MW: I am extremely happy with life right now, and extremely single (ladies only)! (lol) I fight Kyle Simpson July 23rd in Hot Springs, AR, at the Convention Center, for the Arkansas Heavyweight Title.
CN: What’s the name of the promotion?
MW: Show is by Cagemasters, and its called Redemption. I had an accident in training 3 weeks ago; I hurt my calf showing a newbie something, and last week I got bit by a spider and because of that got staph in my left shoulder. It’s better now, but I am worried about my cardio, and I’m still on antibiotics, so I’m more nervous than most, and all my members for my gym are making a weekend trip of it, so its wearing on me right now…
CN: Great, more distractions, just the thing for a fighter 2 weeks out. (lol) You seem like the guy to overcome that stuff, though. What do you know about your opponent?
MW: Yeah, I don’t let adversity stop me at all, I’m not built that way, but Kyle is a good fighter with one loss and seems strong. I think it will be a stand-up battle and I hope so, because I feel that’s my best game.
CN: I am sure most fans will agree with that. (lol) Couple more questions and I will let you go. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Still fighting, holding a belt, retired running the gym?
MW: Man, don’t get mad but I really don’t think about where I’ll be. I have done so much and have so many good friends and connections that it’s all up in the air, but if I’m still healthy and I still love fighting, I’ll probably be doing that and running my gym. If not, I might go back to coaching with Coach Nutt at Ole Miss, or I’ll run my gym, find a nice lake and sit on my boat and drink a beer as the sun goes down. But that scene is what I like to do with my free time anyway. Give me a lake, my boat and a couple beers and I’m a happy man. (lol) But for now its time to finish as a title holder.
CN: How could I get mad at an answer like that? Besides, I’m not tough enough to get mad at you. (lol) What is the one thing you would want people to take away from this interview about Mike Wessel?
MW: Man, I hope they just like the story and become fans. I love meeting and talking with people, I just wish everyone could have same happiness I do. I work my ass off for it, but I kinda wish people would see some of the struggles I dealt with and have overcome. Even though it seems horrible at the time, you gotta push forward and never give up. I hate quitters because those are the people that hate on everyone else. I will never give up because I believe in myself that no matter what ill come out on top eventually. I might fail for a short time but I’ll win in the end!
CN: I like it, man, and I am guessing that many WILL like the story and become fans. Okay, last question. Who is your favorite superhero, and why?
MW: Man, my favorite…(lol)… I gotta say Wolverine cause he doesn’t ever get hurt and doesn’t take shit, but Roli and Matt named me the Juggernaut, so I should be politically correct and say that, cause I’M the Juggernaut, BITCH! (lol)
CN: Sweet. Although, technically, Juggernaut is a supervillain, I will give you a pass on that one, since you are him. (lol) Anyone you’d like to give a shout out to, training partners, coaches, sponsors?
MW: I’d like to thank my assistant Cristi Hillis for helping out so much, she works her tail off for me and I appreciate it. All my sponsors, New Energy, Supertints, the Moose Lodge, New Creation Designs, Fox’s Pizza and my radio guys 103.9 The Game. I do a radio show with them and they are sponsors as well.
Also Matt and Roli at Westside and Dave Fergusion at Memphis BJJ.
CN: Outstanding. Anything else you’d like to add before I let you go?
MW: Man, that’s all I can think of. Oh, and thanks to Doc Klienbeck for the antibiotics man, he saved me for this one.
CN: That’s a good thing. (lol) Mike, thank you very much for your time today, and best of luck in your upcoming fight and all your future endeavors.
MW: Thanks bro. Later.
Image courtesy of Sherdog and Zuffa, LLC.