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. Today we’re speaking with Mountain Valley High School wrestling alum Michael “The Mustache” Hansen (3-2). Hansen faces Zach Elkins (0-1) on February 6th in Lewiston.
Michael “The Mustache” Hansen
Age Began Wrestling: 6
Wrestling Accomplishments: ME High School State Champion
MMA Record: 3-2
Do you think starting wrestling at a young age is important and, if so, why?
I do believe that starting to wrestling at a young is important, but continuing to wrestle, diet, run, and sacrifice while your friends are playing XBOX—that takes a different type of child. Wrestling at a high level as a youngster, you develop intestinal fortitude. You develop life skills that are required to be successful at anything you choose to do.
What is your earliest wrestling memory?
My earliest wrestling memory was the day I joined the wrestling team. I joined because I had just been jumped by three kids from school and had no clue how to stop them or defend myself. I walked by the wrestling room at The Greater Rumford Community Center where Jaime Dolloff was the coach and that’s when I decided, “Never again,” will I not know how to defend myself.
What is your proudest and/or most favorite moment from your time on the wrestling mat?
My proudest moment on the wrestling mat did not come for me when I was obtaining my goals. Yes, I was proud when I wrestled at the Tournament of Champions in Columbus, Ohio at the age of 12 and when I won my state championship. But most of all, I take great pride in seeing what I teach being applied on the mat by my students. When they are successful, I am at my proudest. Thank you MVHS wrestlers, you make me proud. Falcons Fly!
How did wrestling help to prepare you for mixed martial arts competition?
There is an endless list of how wrestling prepares you for competing in MMA. I could state the obvious about wrestling skills transferring easily from the mat to the cage. How wrestling really prepares you, is by teaching you to drive on, put your head down, embrace the suck, and grind it out every day until you obtain you goals. Wrestling teaches you to never quit and to always keep working. When you stop trying, you have essentially quit. Wrestlers don’t quit!
Why do some of the most successful fighters come from a wrestling background—in what way do you see the two sports as similar?
The best fighters come from a wrestling background because no other sport is so similar in the way it prepares you both physically and mentally. Everything I do in wrestling is no different than in MMA, just a few different techniques. If you’re a good wrestler, you have what it takes inside you to be a good fighter.
What is your advice to young wrestlers that might want to step into the MMA cage one day?
My advice to young wrestlers that may want to step in the cage one day is to slow down! Also, they should think about slowing down. Being a wrestler, you have a great foundation, now build on it. Learn new skills and become well-rounded. Surround yourself with a good team and coach. Competing alone is difficult and brings it’s own challenges. Lastly, my best advice to a wrestler that wants to be successful is to head over to 50 Congress St. in Rumford, ME 04276. Here, you will find The Greater Rumford Community Center, home to The Berserkers and Gary Dolloff.
What did wrestling teach you about life and about being a good person?
Wrestling has taught me how to persevere, to never quit. You’re never done, or down and out, until you quit. When you give up is when you truly lose. There are two sides to every coin. Just because you’re winning by one point with seven seconds left in your first state finals, doesn’t mean you glide through the last seconds. You can still lose, and if you’re down by one, you can still win. Wrestling taught me to be a good person and, call it a coincidence if you want, but when I stopped wrestling in my mid 20’s, I quit on myself, my family, and my community. I was not a good person and I am still not sure if I am now. I struggled with addiction and I was filled with shame and guilt. Wrestling gave me what I needed to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to preserve and to grind on when my poisoned mind said otherwise. Wrestling showed me a way to dig myself out of the hole my sick mind had dug so deep. I’m happy to be back on the mat and back on track to reaching my goals.