By Ray Hamill — Aside from being ambitious, talented and driven to succeed, the local contingent of pro MMA fighters have one other important characteristic in common — they all got their start on the wrestling mats.
From Cass Bell to brothers Orion and Louis Cosce — who have all taken the popularity of local MMA to new heights — as well as newer pros like Tyson Miller and Austin Mitchell, all five local pros owe at least some of their success to the local wrestling programs.
That of course won’t come as a huge surprise to anybody who has ever wrestled or followed the sport closely.
“Wrestling as a sport in and of itself, and especially with our program at Eureka High, really does demand a lot out of you,” said Eureka head coach Clint Hunter, who coached former Loggers Miller and soon-to-be pro MMA fighter Andrew Guisa. “I think that so many MMA fighters are wrestlers because they bring that work ethic into MMA.”
It appears to be working too for the local pros, who are a combined 21-2 in the cage, an impressive mark by any standards.
Bell is a former Arcata High wrestler, who says legendary Tigers coach Bert Van Duzer was a huge influence on his career, while the Cosce brothers and Jacob Hodge, who is expected to turn pro soon, all evolved as fighters while competing under legendary Hoopa High head coach Mike Lee, who they say was a huge influence for them.
Mitchell also wrestled at Del Norte High, one of the top programs in the area.
And their experience on the mats has helped prepare all of them for the cage.
“Wrestling for me is where I built my work ethic,” said Guisa, who has a reputation as one of the hardest workers at the Lost Boys gym in Arcata, a reputation that has earned him a team captaincy.
Contrary to previous reports on Humboldt Sports, the Cosce brothers are not the first Humboldt County natives to ever compete in the UFC.
Arcata’s Nate Quarry had 16 fights as a pro, winning 12, including 10 fights in the UFC between 2005 and 2010.
He did not participate in any sports while living in Humboldt and only began his MMA career after he left the area.
Quarry, 48, fought out of Gresham, Oregon, and retired from the sport in 2010.