Is MMA a wrestler’s world? Some of the biggest early champions were wrestlers, or had a strong wrestling base. Wrestlers dominated their opponents with control and vicious ground and pound. But as the sport evolved, fi ghters became well-rounded, and the dominance of wrestling soon diminished. But a new breed of wrestlers – athletes with an arsenal of new skills to compliment their grappling – is set to take center stage.
Arizona State University is known for its collegiate wrestling program. Many big name fi ghters have come from ASU, including Don Frye, Dan Severn, and former PRIDE champion Dan Henderson. Ryan “Darth” Bader is up next.
Bader, a two-time Division I All-American in wrestling and three-time PAC-10 wrestling champion, made his MMA debut early last year and has not looked back. He has already compiled an impressive record, fi nishing six of his seven opponents.
“At the core, I am a Division I All-American and three-time PAC-10 champion, but for the last year I have been developing my striking with the Lally brothers at Arizona Combat Sports. I love to stand and strike, and have power in my hands and kicks,” said Bader. “I use my wrestling as a backdrop for becoming a complete MMA fi ghter.”
Bader’s immediate goal is one shared by many fi ghters: making it to the Octagon. “My goal is to be in the UFC. I am willing to travel whatever road I can to get me to that organization. I train fulltime and I am ready now. My last fi ght lasted all of 47 seconds, so I am ready when the big organizations are,” said Bader.
“To the three-hundred or so Bader Nation fans that came to my fi ght in Reno, thank you so much for the love and support. I know it was a short night of work, but it was great to fi ght for my hometown. To all the MMA fans that do not know me, thanks for being a fan and giving me a goal to strive for. I want you as my fans and I am working hard to earn your respect.”
The name Patrick Curran is one to remember. If the name Curran seems familiar, it should. Patrick is the cousin of top ten featherweight Jeff “Big Frog” Curran.
“[I’d describe myself as] aggressive with strong takedowns and ground work. I don’t back down. I am not one of those fi ghters that fold and back up once they are actually in the fi ght. My boxing and Thai boxing are improving, and I hit hard so that should be a plus as time goes on,” said the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt.
The twenty-year-old fi ghter made an impression as an amateur. Curran displayed well-rounded skills, and used his wrestling prowess to slam his opponents. After a perfect 3-0 amateur record, Curran turned pro in February, defeating Tony Hervey at XFO 22 via rear naked choke in the opening round.
“Oh, it was awesome,” commented Curran. “I was way more nervous than with any other fi ght I have done, so it was defi nitely a nice feeling to come away with a win. I wanted to fi nish the fi ght in round one, and I did just that. I can’t wait for my next one.”
After a successful amateur career and pro debut, Curran’s performances caught the attention of the guys from Tapout. The crew was on hand for Patrick’s second professional fi ght, to profi le him for a future episode of their reality show. In front of a large crowd, Curran faced Lazar Stojadinovic and dominated his opponent in impressive fashion.
“It feels awesome. Just considering the fact that Tapout was here to support me, and it was the end of a long training camp and a great fi ght for the team. I had a blast hanging out with them, and it made me feel good knowing they believe in me as a fi ghter. Stress levels went up a lot because I had all the cameras going and the crew by my side, so I felt the pressure to represent more than normal. I had to represent the crew, my team, and my family name. It was a very long week after it was all said and done.”
With two pro fi ghts under his belt, Patrick Curran looks to the future. He has taken his wrestling pedigree and evolved into a well-rounded fi ghter; constantly improving his skills as he strives to establish himself as one of the best featherweight prospects today.
Brazil’s team Nova Uniao has produced some of the best fi ghters in the world, including former Shooto champion Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro, UFC fi ghter Thales Leites, and IFL champion Wagnney Fabiano Santos. Another name that may fi nd its way onto the list is undefeated featherweight standout Marlon Sandro.
The Rio de Janeiro athlete started fi ghting at seventeen. He began with Capoeira early on, and then transitioned to Jiu-Jitsu under the tutelage of Andre Pederneiras and Rafael Carino. “I always liked the idea [of fi ghting],” said Sandro, after mentioning he was infl uenced by action movies starring Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Lee. “I always wanted to do Judo, but as I didn’t have the money or know where to take classes, I started with Capoeira.”
As a fi ghter, Sandro is inspired by several other fi ghters. “I started with Randy Couture. Later, once I started training MMA with Shaolin…with his ground technique and all, I started fi nding inspiration in his style. Joao Roque as well.”
For those who have never seen Marlon fi ght, he describes his style as, “Aggressive, but more technical than aggressive. Lately I’ve been looking to show more of my aggressive side, which is what people want to see. I prefer for my fi ghts to take place on the ground.”
Sandro certainly displayed his aggressive side with an impressive knockout win over veteran Miki Shida in March. The win pushed his unblemished record to 11-0. “These days I don’t feel any more pressure. When I had seven or eight fi ghts I did. Not anymore. I think that is because I’ve seen what my friends go through when they win and lose and I know they come back from losses,” revealed the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. “Now I just think about my fi ght.”
With two impressive wins over former title contenders Daiki Hata and Miki Shida under the Pancrase banner, Sandro is in line for the 145-pound King of Pancrase title. However, his potential for future success won’t end there. Bigger organizations and opportunities await the Nova Uniao fi ghter in the US and Japan.
“I think Dream and Sengoku are much closer to me right now than fi ghting in the United States, but I don’t discard the possibility of fi ghting in the US. I would love the opportunity to fi ght there, to expand my horizons,” explained Sandro. “I guess it would all come down to getting an offer. As I’m already fi ghting in Japan, I think I’m much closer to fi ghting in Dream or Sengoku, which is also a dream of mine.”
Marlon Sandro will vie for the featherweight King of Pancrase title in August. Claiming the championship would be an important highlight in his career and open many doors for his future as a professional fi ghter.