Wrestling season is in full swing in New England and on February 6th at NEF 21, several former top-ranked state champion wrestlers will be stepping into the cage. As a result, NEF will be profiling these high caliber athletes over the next few weeks as part of our new ‘Wrestling For Fighting’ series. Stay tuned as we ask questions to learn more about why it’s so important to start in the sport of wrestling early and how a strong wrestling base can lead to success in the MMA cage. This week we’re speaking with NEF newcomer, Brendan “Lock Down” Battles.

Brendan “Lock Down” Battles

Age: 21

Age Began Wrestling: 14

Wrestling Accomplishments: 2x High School MA State Champion; High School New England Champion; 3x High School All-American

MMA Record: 1-0

Do you think starting wrestling at a young age is important and, if so, why?

I believe wrestling from a young age is important. Obviously, I could sit here and show you that many of the UFC champs were wrestling champs at one time. However, I would like to take more of the big picture approach. Wrestling teaches things that most sports do not. In wrestling, you create your own destiny. When you lose, you can’t point the finger or blame a teammate. You have to look at the tape and acknowledge what you did wrong. You have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps at times and just grind it out.

What is your earliest wrestling memory?

My earliest memory from wrestling would be when I quit the basketball team when I just made the tryouts to tell my folks I was wrestling. Needless to say, they weren’t very pleased being basketball fans. But we soon became a wrestling family that made many sacrifices to get me better on the mat.

What is your proudest and/or most favorite moment from your time on the wrestling mat?

It’s hard to pick my proudest moment or my favorite moment from my years on the mat, but if I had to choose, it would be when I made All-American my junior year and had the chance to celebrate with my family.

How did wrestling help to prepare you for mixed martial arts competition?

The biggest attribute that wrestling taught me that transitioned into my MMA career would be my work ethic and ability to grind it out. Also, I believe wrestling teaches the persistence for perfection, if you will, to be the best at everything you do and to pay the price. Obviously in both wrestling, and MMA, perfection is never obtainable. However, you pay the price everyday in training to get better and as close as possible to “perfect”.

Why do some of the most successful fighters come from a wrestling background—in what way do you see the two sports as similar?

I think some of the most successful fighters come from a wrestling background because of the blue-collar mentality that’s instilled in you from the mats. The ability to embrace the grind and rise to the occasion at any given time. We wrestlers are grinders, with a huge will to win. It’s hard to beat someone who won’t quit. I believe that’s what wrestling is all about and it applies the same rules in MMA.

What is your advice to young wrestlers that might want to step into the MMA cage one day?

My advice to the young wrestlers that might want to step in the MMA cage one day would be to embrace the grind of wrestling on the mats. Become the best wrestler you can be, go to off-season clubs and compete as much as possible. Let wrestling take you around the country as it did for me. And have fun as a wrestler. When it’s time to make the transition to MMA, your wrestling will open many doors for you in the MMA world. One step at the time—don’t rush it—and have fun while it lasts!

What did wrestling teach you about life and about being a good person?

Wrestling has taught me so much in life, it’s hard to pinpoint just one or two things. But overall, I think the most important lessons the sport taught me would be my ability to persevere through any obstacle and come out on top. Just a winner’s mentality, that no matter how down and out I may seem to be, I still will be victorious through a ‘never give up and just grind’ mentality.