There’s no doubt 2011 freestyle world champion Jordan Burroughs is excited about the prospect of a UFC career. After watching the first UFC on FOX fight, a heavyweight championship fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos, on Nov. 12, he tweeted, “I’m gonna fight after I win 5 World Titles and 2 Olympic Gold Medals. The only thing left would be the UFC belt!”
Burroughs has not yet qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games but is already considered one of the Americans with the best shot at bringing home a medal. The former Nebraska wrestler looks up to six-time world champion wrestler John Smith and wants to top Smith’s four world championships and two Olympic gold medals before he considers a career in MMA. He said the UFC would be a distinct possibility for him, but not until 2017 or 2018.
“I’m definitely interested in the UFC, but right now my focus is on wrestling,” said Burroughs.
He would likely compete as a welterweight (170 pounds), just like 2008 Olympic wrestler and current Bellator champion Ben Askren. A two-time NCAA champion from Missouri, Askren competed in the same international weight class 74 kg (approximately 163 pounds) as Burroughs.
“If Jordan Burroughs ever did take to MMA he’d probably be the best fighter in the world,” said Askren, citing Burroughs quick takedowns and phenomenal athleticism.
Burroughs would not be the first world wrestling medalist to transition to Mixed Martial Arts. Joe Warren, the 2006 Greco-Roman World Champion, is currently a Bellator featherweight competitor. He made the transition after being suspended for two years in 2007 after testing positive for THC. Three of the UFC’s current champions -- Dominic Cruz, Frankie Edgar, and Jon Jones -- also have wrestling backgrounds.
Wrestlers who transition to MMA are rewarded with significantly larger paychecks. Burroughs was given $50,000 for winning the 2011 World Championships by the Living the Dream Medal Fund, a nonprofit program that aims to lengthen American wrestling medalists’ careers before they transition to MMA or assistant coaching. The Olympic purse given out by the Living the Dream Medal fund is significantly larger, $250,000.
“[Burroughs] is going to be well off financially and he’s not going to get punched in the face,” said Mark Manning, when asked if the Olympic hopeful he still coaches at Nebraska would ever consider an MMA career.
If Burroughs is still interested in joining the UFC in 2017 or 2018, the money probably wouldn’t be his motive. The 23-year-old pointed out he could have already made the transition if he wanted the cash. “I knew that I wasn’t going to be a millionaire by wrestling,” he said. “I just want to be an Olympic champ.”
-- Stephen Boyle