Fun fact: did you know that not everyone from the Midwest wrestles? Crazy, right? Here we were the whole time believing that every child in the heartland of the United States of America is born with a singlet on, destined to be the next John Smith or Dan Gable.

So, who are these unicorns of the Great Plains, these children of the corn who weren’t cross-facing at 3 years old? Look no further than UFC lightweight Drew Dober. Can you believe it?

“You know, that’s the backwards Nebraskan. I have cauliflower ears and a short, stocky build. However, I first started off in Muay Thai,” Dober told The MMA Corner. “I was a really big fan of Japanese anime and kung fu movies. I was kind of a nerd growing up.”

Dober (Jade Kimmel/The MMA Corner)

Dober (Jade Kimmel/The MMA Corner)

Although he might not have ever learned how to Kamehameha, you could say that Dober still picked up a few things along the way. What started as a casual interest in Asian martial arts evolved into Dober being a two-time amateur Thai kickboxing world champion.

“I was big into Dragon Ball Z, YuYu Hakusho, you know, everything that was on Tsunami. Of course, growing up, I was a big fan of Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Bloodsport and Kickboxer, so that really drives me to pursuing martial arts.”

Despite his Muay Thai background, the 14-5 lightweight has had eight of his wins come by way of submission. Dober admitted that his ground game is where he needs the most improvement, but that does not by any means indicate that he’s a slouch on the mats. The numbers speak for themselves. It’s like he has some sort of natural Nebraskan wrasslin’ DNA in his blood. Unless…

“Junior year in high school, I was kicking pads in the Muay Thai class and the guy holding the pads for me was the wrestling coach for my high school,” said Dober. “He asked me why I wasn’t on the team, so I joined.”

Aha! So he has wrestled in the past. Stereotype confirmed. But really, what’s a couple years of wrestling to someone from the Midwest? It barely counts.

The 25-year-old also shared that he’s been making great improvements by training with Elevation Fight Team in Denver. Besides the elevation training, Dober enjoyed working with a much more talent-rich group of sparring partners, including Nate Marquardt, Cody Donovan and Brendan Schaub.

“The camaraderie was instantaneous,” Dober admitted. “I felt part of the team. I felt part of the family immediately. It’s hard to find a place that’s both talented and friendly.”

Dober will need that step up in training this weekend at UFC Fight Night 41 when he takes on 10-1 Nick Hein, who will be fighting in his native Germany.

This will be Dober’s first appearance in the Octagon since his debut in November 2013, when he dropped a unanimous decision to Sean Spencer. Dober, who normally fights at 155 pounds, took the Spencer fight with three weeks notice at 170.

“With the obstacles placed in front of me, I felt like I performed very well and made the fight exciting,” said Dober. “I really tried to show what I had, and show my entertainment value. I think [the UFC] were pretty impressed.

“Of course, I was disappointed in the loss, and I was disappointed in my performance. I feel like I could have performed better. However, there’s always ups and downs in this field, in this job. You can’t be on top of your game every single fight. So, what you do is take what was given and you play the cards you were dealt, and I played them to the best of my abilities.”

By showing a great amount of heart, as well as doing the UFC a solid and taking the fight with such little time for preparation, Dober was granted another shot inside the Octagon. He’ll be fighting in his weight class this time, and he’ll have a full camp, but boy oh boy, does he have his work cut out for him.

Dober (L) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Dober (L) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

“I get to fight Germany’s No. 1 guy, in Hein,” said Dober. “Not only is he an actor, but he’s a really good judo player and he’s got so much hype behind him. I’m just so excited to have all the German fans watching the fight. I’m going to bring fireworks, and I bet he’s going to do the same.”

While the “styles make fights” bit is about as overused as the family tractor that’s seen too many winters, there’s obviously validity to it.

“On paper, he’s a national German champion in judo. I come from a Muay Thai background. However, you watch our fights—I have most of my wins by submission and he’s got decision wins, and he stands there and bangs with people. So, on paper, it looks like the Thai against the judo. However, I think we might change things up,” Dober explained. “He might stand with me, and I might go for a takedown against him. You never know. But I know he’s extremely athletic, and I have heart for days.”

Fighting Nick Hein is only part of the excitement. Dober specifically asked to be on this card because traveling to Europe has always been one of his dreams. He has never left the United States before, but he will pop the international cherry by walking into 02 World arena to a symphony of boos. He is the Yankee on German soil, after all.

“I’m hoping to win the crowd over, and after this fight I want a big, large German fan base,” said Dober.

Dober is also looking forward to experiencing a foreign culture. Seeing the sites. Smelling the smells. Tasting the foods.

“Yeah, absolutely. That’s part of my game plan as far as cutting weight. The beer dehydrates you, and then the brats for the protein,” he joked.

“I have a hard time sitting in the hotel. I have a hard time just sitting there thinking about the fight. So what I plan on doing—and, of course, I can’t do the beer and the brats—however, I can go look at the culture, check out the shopping areas and all that other stuff. Then, of course, after my fight, I’m going to celebrate German style.”

Oh boy, Lederhosen, schnitzel, brats and Hefeweizen? A wee bit different than the Cornhusker State. Dober probably won’t be in any rush to tap his shoes together and recite, “there’s no place like home.”

Drew would like to thank his friends and family in Omaha, his friends in Denver, Max Muscle, Booster Belgium and Steadman Hawkins Sport Medicine. Follow Dober on Twitter: @DrewDober

About The Author

Zach Miller
Staff Writer

Zach is a Boston native and has had a fascination with martial arts since playing Mortal Kombat at five years old. He was introduced to MMA after watching The Ultimate Fighter 5: Team Pulver vs. Team Penn. A recent graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Zach seeks to one day become a full-time MMA journalist. In addition to watching the sport, he has also trained in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, and tae kwon do. Zach has also written for NortheastMMA.