Bellator is becoming known for signing top Collegiate wrestlers who want to succeed in MMA. While some have transitioned well, others have had difficulty. Oliver, one of the top pure wrestlers on the roster, is the most recent potential superstar to join Scott Coker’s organisation.
The 32-year-old Easton, Pennsylvania native finished an illustrious amateur wrestling career before switching to mixed martial arts. This year, he will start his new athletic endeavor inside the Bellator.
Oliver, who competed in college at Oklahoma State University, won the NCAA titles at 133 and 149 pounds, making him one of the most successful amateur wrestlers in modern American history. In three of his four years of eligibility, Oliver reached the NCAA tournament finals despite competing against a long list of elite athletes during his collegiate career.
His sole defeat in the championship match was to Logan Stieber of The Ohio State University, and as a result Oliver gained 16 pounds and won the title at 149 pounds in his senior year.
Oliver concluded his collegiate career with an outstanding 89-6 record while winning the National Championships in folkstyle in 2011 and 2013 and placing second in the 2012 competition. He won the BIG 12 Conference four times, the senior U.S. National Championship in 2019, and was selected to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team.
Oliver entered the freestyle circuit after college and competed fiercely to earn a position on the American Olympic wrestling team. Before the 2016 Olympic games, he was defeated by Iowa wrestler Brent Metcalf, but he came back to try to make the 2020 team.
Oliver’s second attempt to make the 2020 Olympic team was successful, but the American team did not make it into the weight class for the Tokyo Olympics.
Oliver will now focus on mixed martial arts (MMA). At 145 pounds, he will join a talented roster that currently includes Patrcio Pitbull, the champion, and Aaron Pico, another accomplished former wrestler.
“It’s an honor to sign with Bellator MMA. I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent an amazing company, showcase my skills, and make my climb to the top to become a World Champion fighter as a dedicated competitor,” expressed Oliver, “I have always accepted and loved to take on new challenges. The ‘tough love’ sport of wrestling has molded and prepared me for this opportunity for the past 29 years. The vision remains the same… I’m coming to win, and win with style! Until showtime, to the dark, we go to work and sharpen the swords at none other than ‘that gym,’ Kill Cliff FC.” Oliver said.
Oliver must first establish himself as a serious future contender before turning his attention to the top featherweight competitors. The 32-year-old will probably face a less experienced opponent in his first few battles to get his bearings. Nonetheless, the former NCAA D1 national champion is a player to keep an eye on.
Oliver is getting a little bit of a late start in MMA, but he’ll actually transition at about the same time as fellow Oklahoma State icon Daniel Cormier, who began fighting after making two Olympic teams.
Oliver is expected to fight before the end of 2023 but there is no word on when he will make his debut. Oliver will compete at featherweight.
In other news:
Sara McMann (13-6), a pioneer of women’s MMA and National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee, had been signed by Bellator to an exclusive, multi-fight contract earlier in December.
The 42-year-old McMann is a decorated wrestler and grappler who has excelled in both those sports and mixed martial arts. After the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, McMann became the first woman to win a silver medal. She brought the historic distinction home with her. She has won medals in the FILA World Championships in wrestling three times, and in 2011 she took home a silver at the Abu Dhabi Fight Club World Championship in submission wrestling.
Tonya Evinger, Shayna Baszler, Lauren Murphy, and Jessica Eye are just a few of the notable opponents that McMann has defeated. She has also previously competed for the UFC bantamweight title. In March, the American defeated Karol Rosa, the No. 9-ranked UFC women’s bantamweight, by unanimous decision in her most recent contest. In addition to one knockout victory, McMann has five submission wins out of her 13 career wins.