NCAA Champion Jesse Delgado Excited About MMA Debut


SAN JOSE, Calif .– Jesse Delgado has yet to fight, but has been involved in the mixed martial arts scene for about five years.

A three-time All-American wrestler and two-time NCAA champion at the University of Illinois, Delgado (0-0 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) makes his professional MMA debut on Saturday at Bellator 266. Fighting is a fight promotional- for the flyweight fighter, but he hopes this will mark the start of a successful stint in MMA.

“I’m excited, man, excited. It seems like I’ve been trying to fight for a while, so I’m so glad I finally have one, ”Delgado told MMA Junkie.

Delgado, 29, hasn’t always planned to enter MMA, despite being a huge fan for as long as he can remember. When he was 8, Delgado and his uncle started focusing on MMA fights, and he’s been hooked ever since. After being brought in to help Yair Rodriguez for a UFC fight, Delgado began to consider the move more seriously.

“I’ve always been a huge fan,” Delgado said. “I kind of started thinking about it when I got to college. My trainer is very good friends with Israel Martinez. So I met a great trainer and really bonded with Mike Valle in Chicago at VFS Academy. It’s kind of like that… I got to know it a bit more (and) made it realistic.

March 23, 2013: Jesse Delgado of Illinois celebrates his victory over Nicholas Magaludis of Penn State in the 125-pound final at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. (Reese Strickland, USA TODAY Sports)

Considering Delgado’s resume, the transition to the grappling side of MMA was significantly less of a change from learning to strike from scratch. At first it was an uncomfortable concept, but Delgado has since evolved.

“It’s a natural reaction to want to walk away and close your eyes, but it’s not as bad as I thought,” said Delgado. “It’s funny to say that, but getting a punch in the face isn’t as bad as I thought. It’s not funny. It’s not fun, but you get used to it like anything else.

In addition to working on his own combat sports skills, Delgado teaches wrestling lessons at Daniel Cormier’s academy. He tries to follow the same mottos he tells his students on the mats and be a living example of how they work.

“Enjoy the process. Enjoy the trip. Enjoy every part, ”said Delgado. “I know sometimes it’s difficult. I say to the children, ‘Sometimes it is difficult. You don’t want to reduce the weight. You are exhausted. You don’t want to go to practice, but when it does and the dust settles, you’re going to miss it. I’m just trying to enjoy everything and see what happens, see where it takes me and try to be as good as I can, try to work as hard as I can, try to do better than I can.

Bellator 266 takes place on Saturday at the SAP Center. The main card airs on Showtime after preliminaries on MMA Junkie.

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