Mix Martial Artist and kickboxer James Wilson (pictured) isn’t called “The Beast” for nothing.
When he steps in to the ring – all 6’0 and 250 pounds of him – Wilson can take his opponents down in any number of ways: If he’s pinned against the cage inside of the octagon, Wilson can use his brute strength to maneuver out of the compromised position and slam the opposing fighter on to the ground. Or he can stand toe-to-toe and win the match with a knockout overhand blow, as was the case with Jim Johnson during a fight early last year.
Wilson is relatively short for a heavyweight – most fighters in his weight class stand around 6’2″ or taller – but he doesn’t think the extra inches he gives up puts him at a disadvantage.
“It’s not about the size, it is about the skill, the heart,” Wilson told NewsOne during a recent interview. “I believe I am the most-explosive heavyweight in the game. And yes, there are a lot of great fighters with more experience, but when ‘The Beast’ comes out, he is unstoppable!”
Wilson, 26, hopes “The Beast” in him will come out this weekend when he enters the ring Friday at the Hard Rock Casino in Tulsa, Okla., where he will fight in the “Road To Glory” Heavyweight kickboxing tournament he plans on winning.
Not bad for man who began training in Kempo Karate and boxing at the age of 24. Before that, he was playing football on full scholarship at Concord University in Athens, W.Va.
Watch James Wilson fight Rick Roufus K-1 World Grand Prix 2012 in Tokyo Final 16, October 14, 2012 here:
But after watching an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) match, Wilson’s days on the gridiron were numbered. [The match] immediately intrigued me,” he said. “I told my football teammates ‘I’m going to do that one day.'”
And just like that, the ex-running back and linebacker hung up his shoulder pads and laced up a pair of fight gloves for what has been an excellent start in the professional fight game. So far, Wilson has racked up a 3-0 record in MMA fights and a 6-1-1 record in K-1 Kickboxing.
Wilson sees himself being both the MMA and K-1 Kickboxing champion someday. It would be a remarkable accomplishment for the up-and-coming fighter, especially given his upbringing and troubled childhood.
Born south central Los Angeles, Wilson and his four siblings were raised by his mother. According to Wilson, growing up without a Father made his mother’s job of raising five children a near-impossible job.
“As much as she tried, she couldn’t stop me from getting into a gang and doing all the things I had no business doing,” he said. “It was a south central way of life: robbing, drinking, or shooting. I didn’t give a damn. I lost many friends to street violence and my one and only older brother. I was committing all types of crimes. We didn’t have a lot of money, so I did what I had to do to survive. There was a two-year period when we were homeless, sleeping in motels and a small car filled with all of our belongings. I was waking up early to take baths in the restroom of a recreation park before anyone I went to school with could see me.”
Watch James Wilson fight Norm Flores In an MMA fight here:
The traps of street life would eventually catch up with Wilson. He was placed in a group home at the age of 14, where he would spend the next four years of his life.
“I can honestly say that was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Wilson said. “My options were to have a stable and structured environment, where I can better myself or go to the California youth authority for 18 months, which is prison for minors. Good thing I choose placement.”
Indeed, Wilson is on track to trumpet one of those “started from the bottom, now we’re here” storylines that have drawn so many fans to MMA. His trainer, Savant Young, told NewsOne that MMA is so popular now that it has the potential to eventually overtake boxing in popularity someday.
“Whether it’s with young boys, grown men, or women, it is consistently growing,” Young said. “I started out as a martial artist doing karate long before MMA took off. In 1996, I started training in mixed combative [fighting] and it was a very different event — it wasn’t as trendy then.
“The fighters are getting better, and with my own Fight Academy here in Pasadena, Calif., I see and hear daily how many young kids and their parents are interested in MMA. Back in the day, parents would just take kids to Karate or Kung Fu.”
Wilson, who also trains teens during his free time, sees himself taking advantage of MMA’s relative newness to the American sports arena. Not only does he see himself dominating in the ring; he seems himself being to MMA what Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is to the boxing and endorsement worlds.
“I look at him and how he has evolved to be his absolute best,” Wilson said. “He went from a troubled kid to a family man, entrepreneur, business man, mogul, and philanthropist. I aspire to have that level of success in this sport and ultimately in business too.”
But, first thing’s first: Wilson has to take care of business this Friday in Tulsa. The young fighter is confident he’ll end the night with his hand raised as the sole victor.
“I plan on being crowned the champion by the end of the night,” he said. “After this fight it will established that I am one of the premier heavyweight kickboxers in the world.”