Evan Shoman and Stephie Daniels exclusively interviewed Kurt Pellegrino about his return to fighting, and the role that the recently departed Jeff Blatnick played.
"I wanted to be an Olympic gold medalist," related Batman. "It was my dream to wrestle in the Olympics when I was a kid. Former Olympian Jeff Blatnick was at Bellator, so he was really someone I looked up to. I asked if I could ask him a serious question and Jeff Blatnick said to go ahead and ask. I said to him, 'How do you know it’s over? Is there such a thing as it being over, when someone like you or I have competed since they were 5?' I’m only telling that conversation this one time.
"He told me the story about him trying out for the Olympics one more time, when he was past his prime. He was still beating ranked wrestlers and was preparing again to try out for the Olympics. He was on his way to winning another Olympic trial tourney and they called his name to the mat to compete. As he was walking to the mat, he stopped. He told the girl who called his name that he was done. She asked if he was sick or hurt and he replied that he was DONE! He walked away from her and went back to his villa where he was staying. He went to bed at 4:00 in the afternoon and woke up at 4:00 in the afternoon the next day. He said that it was his best night of sleep that he had for years. He thought about nothing and just passed out. He never lost in the tournament and was most likely going to represent the USA in another Olympics. That was it, though. He woke up the next morning and never thought about competing again. Ever. I then asked him, “What does that mean for me? How do I get rid of these nightmares and dreams?” He told me, 'The only way to know its over, is to GO DO IT. If you make it to the fight, then good for you. That means it’s not over. If you get halfway there and pull out, that means the competition drive has left you.'
"A few weeks later he passes away. So, I hold on to this story for about a month after he passed and didn’t tell my wife. Then, I couldn’t sleep at all because I felt I was letting Jeff down AND I’m having these nightmares?!?! I told my wife the whole story and she told me that I just had to do it! So I decided to do it and do it exactly as he said. I started training in April, to knock off 2 years of ring rust to prepare for this fight. "
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