Steve Mocco is arguably the greatest high school heavyweight ever, a two-time NCAA Division I national champion, a Dan Hodge Trophy winner, four-time NCAA finalist, a 2008 Olympian among numerous other titles.
Mocco's wrestling career is one of incredible achievement, but perhaps unfulfilled potential or unmet expectations. He never won an Olympic or world championships medal. He failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympic team.
If there is an achetype for elite wrestlers who ultimately transition to MMA, it's those who made it to the absolute peak of wrestling but ended up just short of their own career goals. Mocco fits that mold.
A chance encounter with a UFC veteran and a lingering curiosity with MMA changed everything.
Tonight in Las Vegas, Nev. at Resurrection Fighting Alliance 4 on AXS TV, Mocco is set to make his professional mixed martial arts debut under the watchful eye of Ricardo Liborio and American Top Team.
MMAFighting's Luke Thomas conducted an extensive interview with what may well be the next big thing in MMA.
Luke Thomas: So a lot of guys you actually faced in college have wound up coming over to MMA and doing pretty well, Cain Velasquez chief among that. Did you have any moments where you were obviously interested in it, obviously guys were in your ear, but did you ever have any moments where you said to yourself,'Here's a guy who I beat in college and he's just kicking ass over here. I bet I could do that, too.' Did that particular kind of thought ever cross your mind?
Steve Mocco: Not necessarily that but I see a lot of guys I went to school with and wrestled with having success and I thought it was an interesting thing to get involved with and I think as long as I'm looking at these guys and they're doing well, and a lot of them had they continued to wrestle probably would have done really well. They made the jump so it seemed like a smoother transition looking at them.
LT: There have been elite wrestlers that have come over and maybe not quite at your level but certainly good ones and there's an argument that they were pushed way too fast. They were elite and they got into fights with guys that were MMA veterans and it didn't go their way. Some would argue that they got ruined along the way. Are you conscious of there being a 'too much, too soon?' Are you looking to have a really measured entrance into mixed martial arts in terms of the quality of opponent?
SM: I'm 30 years old. I want to challenge myself. It's not like I'm 19 years old and just getting my feet wet in the sport. At the same time, I have a lot of faith in my coaches and if they think I'm ready, I know I'm ready.