Failure isn’t always a bad thing.
Many times, failure leads to the greatest success and the sweetest taste of victory one could ever imagine. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team before winning six NBA championships. South African runner Oscar Pistorius lost both legs before representing his home country in the 2012 London Olympics games. Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections and had a nervous breakdown en route to becoming one of the greatest United States Presidents in America’s history.
The same could be said for Bellator heavyweight Mike Wessel.
Wessel, a former competitor on Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, had other dreams that came long before his fighting career. A dream that would lead to failure and an appetite to compete.
“I wanted to become a professional football player,” Wessel told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “I was no longer able to compete, so I became a coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks. I watched the players prepare and train for the upcoming season, and I missed that competition.
“I remember being in the weight room one time when I saw the UFC on the TV. I had never even known about the sport prior to that day, but I told another coach that I could do that. At the time I was 28 years old, but I still wanted to compete and push myself to the limit. I was an athlete my entire life and felt that I could still compete at the highest levels. I still feel that way. I loved the dedication that MMA requires and it drove me to compete. I have never wanted to be a normal person because being normal is boring to me. So, I went for it.”
When Wessel chose to enter in on an uncertain career, it was just a matter of time until the trials began pouring in the door. Despite winning eight of his first nine fights, troubles were just around the corner for Wessel. A loss to Antoni Hardonk led to a submission defeat to Dan Christison. A Christison loss led to another loss to Scott Barrett.
Before he knew it, Wessel had lost three of five outings with his cage fighting career on the thinnest ice possible. It was do-or-die for Wessel as he entered the cage to take on Matt Kovacs at ShoFight 20 in June of this year. It was time for Wessel to put up or leave the sport for good.
Wessel put up.
In the second round of action, Wessel would finish off Kovacs in impressive fashion, winning by TKO. It was a powerful statement to the MMA community as the world quickly learned that Wessel was far from finished. But it was the knockout finish that taught Wessel an even bigger lesson.
“That win was great. It showed me that I still have the heart and determination that it takes to compete at this level. I went through a tough spot in my life where I allowed negatives in my life. That loss to Barrett showed that I didn’t care anymore and that my heart wasn’t in it. That’s a dangerous place to be in life. So, I took a break and got my shit together,” admitted Wessel. “I’m ready for the next phase of my life.
“I will ride this train to wherever it takes me. I’m in a place now where I have my fire and heart back. I don’t really have any other goals other than to be the best for as long as I can possibly be. I lost a lot of myself through my divorce, and now feel that I have the drive to win again. I have my passion back and I’ll do my best to set an example for my son and others to follow.”
The next phase of Wessel’s life will take place on Friday, Aug. 24, when Bellator travels to Harrah’s Tunica Hotel and Casino for Bellator 73. While Wessel has big plans to erupt into a top-10 heavyweight in the world, he’s taking it one fight at a time as he recognizes his upcoming opponent, Ryan Martinez, is no man to mess with.
“He is a very powerful man. He has great cage control, and so far no one has been able to bring the fight to him. I respect him a lot and think he is a great fighter. I always feel that I have upper hand heading into a fight. But, in this fight, I think we’re pretty even. Plus, he is a southpaw, and that creates a whole different style of how I need to train myself and prepare. But this will be a battle. Two equally-sized men that love to throw,” said Wessel. ”I’m excited to see the outcome myself.”
“I have to be patient and not get frustrated. I think standing, he has the advantage, but I have better ground game and it will be my job to get him there. But he is very difficult to take down, so being patient is going to be the key for me. He is a tough fighter and likes to strike, and I do as well. So, I doubt it will be a long fight. But either way, it will be exciting to watch,” admitted Wessel.
As Wessel continues to progress in his nearly-lost career, he wants to remain humble. He wants to never forget the position he was in that nearly cost him his career. To remain positive and hungry, Wessel knows that he needs to continue to surround himself with company that will not only allow him to grow as a fighter, but as a husband.
“I only want to surround myself with positivity and people that understands my schedule and training. I have a great support system in my wife and the people I train with. Before I took a break, I didn’t have that. I allowed negatives in and it caused so many issues. Now, I’m back and able to train and live how I need to, to be successful,” said Wessel. “I owe all of this to my wife and trainers.”
“It’s a great place to be right now, and I’m very thankful.”
Top Photo: Mike Wessel (Sherdog)