During a October interview with The Ultimate Fighter 8 eliminated cast-member Rolando Delgado, the Westside MMA trainer made it a point to discuss a heavyweight prospect by the name of Mike Wessel that he had been working with.
“We’ve got a heavyweight coming out of Little Rock that’s huge,” Delgado began to tell FiveOuncesOfPain.com. “The guy is a former strength and conditioning coach and weighs 250 pounds. The guy is an athletic machine and he’s 16-1 now. He’s 8-1 as a pro and about to bust out onto the scene. He has his first pro boxing match next week, actually. The guy is very talented and his name is Mike Wessel. He’s going to be huge.”
It’s not uncommon for a trainer to hype up one of his students, but in the case of Wessel, Delgado wasn’t speaking in hyperbole. That’s because just last week it was announced that Wessel would be stepping in for the injured Mark Burch in a heavyweight encounter during this weekend’s “UFC 92: Ultimate 2008” pay-per-view event.
In addition to his strong pro record, Wessel is also a former strength and conditioning coach for the University of Arkansas as well as a former professional football player. But despite his impressive credentials, Wessel took the modest route when discussing his entry into the UFC.
“It was a lucky break,” Wessel responded when asked by FiveOuncesOfPain.com during an exclusive interview how his addition to UFC 92 came about. “I got the chance to meet Joe Silva while I was in Las Vegas with Roli. I guess I was fresh on his mind when the need for a replacement came up. It just all worked out for me.”
While Wessel refers to his addition to the UFC heavyweight roster as a “lucky break,” he won’t be so fortunate in that his debut is set to take place against kickboxing standout Antoni Hardonk — a tough test that he’s had little time to prepare for.
“When we got the call from the UFC, we didn’t know who it was against,” said Wessel. “We looked at all the heavyweights scheduled and we figured it was Hardonk. I started looking him up online and saw what he was about.”
Even with little time to prepare, Wessel still has been able to glean some information from watching Hardonk’s fights online.
“Hardonk is a resilient guy,” said the fighter nicknamed ‘The Juggernaut.’ “Everybody gasses on him. He looks like he going to lose and then comes back and wins, and not in a sloppy fashion. I have alot of respect for him. He is really good at what he does but at the same time I am really good at what I do.”
While Wessel will come into the fight with a gameplan, he will still enter the Octagon as an underdog. It’s a role that he has no problems with.
“I feel like an underdog in every fight,” began Wessel. “I know that taking this fight on short notice means the chance of winning is not as high. If I go into this fight feeling like the underdog whether I put myself in that position or other people do and I do my thing and come out victorious it makes me feel even better. I like the mindset of being the underdog. I don’t predict endings because anything can happen, but I see the fight ending with me winning. I feel I am ready. As long as I stick to my game plan and do what I am supposed to do, good things will come.”
Wessel certainly has made a name for himself on a regional scene and despite being a heralded prospect, the honor of making it to the UFC is still one that has left him a little awestruck.
“(I feel) just lucky. Man, I got my shot,” he said. “It could be the ‘Ultimate Ass Whipping,’ not ‘The Ultimate 2008.’ (But) I have to get over it — this is my goal. I am here.”
Perhaps Octagon jitters and a lack of prep time could be a factor at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for Wessel this coming Saturday, but if nothing else, he’ll be ready when it comes to the most important of all decisions for fighters: their selection of walk-in music and fight trunks.
“Let’s Go, by Trick Daddy,” Wessel responded when asked what song he’d enter the arena to. “I use the same music for every fight. I am superstitious. I always wear black shorts. Maybe if I lose, I will change, but I am a superstitious guy.”