Archie Colgan wrestling at Wyoming (photo courtesy of Wyoming athletics)
As another college wrestling season kicks into high gear, it is important to remember that the competition does not always end on the mat. On Friday's Bellator 288 card, Archie Colgan will return to action looking to take another step in his budding MMA career.
Colgan was a two-time NCAA qualifier for Wyoming at 157 pounds. As a junior in 2017, he made the round of 12 before coming up short against Stanford's Paul Fox. He returned to the NCAA tournament the following year, but scored only an overtime win over Hunter Willits of Oregon State before being eliminated.
About a year and a half after he exhausted his collegiate wrestling eligibility, Colgan made his amateur MMA debut. After three amateur victories, he turned professional in March 2021. Last June, Colgan signed a multiple-fight contract with Bellator and kicked off the deal with a third-round knockout over Byran Nuro. The victory pushed his professional record to 5-0.
Like many former wrestlers, Colgan says that he owes a great deal to his success in fighting to the time he spent on the mat.
"I wrestled at the University of Wyoming for five years, from 2013 to '18, and had a great career," he said. "Could've been better, but that's probably what everybody thinks and says, right? But yeah, it was great. I had some great mentors to coach me in wrestling. Teyon Ware, he's still a big mentor in my life today. We still talk five times a day which is more than you talk to anybody outside of their significant other, right? Because we talk a lot. So he's been a big part of my wrestling career, and my fight career, and just life post probably 2015. I had other great coaches there: head coach Mark Branch, and McCade Ford, and Ethan Kyle. It was a great time and it prepared me a lot. If I decided to pursue fighting right out of graduation from high school, I don't think I would be nearly ready mentally for what I'm doing right now."
Perhaps it was coming up just short of All-American status, but Colgan clearly still had the drive to compete. He found it with MMA, and he found himself fighting in cages rather quickly.
"The burning desire just wasn't gone," Colgan said. "I thought it was. I graduated, I was expecting to work a job. I was working a job. I was doing well. I was not trying to compete, and it just wasn't done. Things aligned the way that they did, and I ran into the right people at the right time, and we just started running with it."
Two of those people happen to be former UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and lightweight contender Justin Gaethje. Usman was a Division II champion for Nebraska-Kearney, while Gaethje was an All-American for Northern Colorado.
"Those guys are great wrestlers, just like I am," he said. "They found a lot of success in fighting, they're doing well for themselves. It's all back to the basics, right? You watch them work, you wouldn't question why they're doing it. Because they show up and they work hard, and they put the time in. They bust their ass, and they go home. And it's just the simple things of dotting the i's, crossing the t's, and doing the right things. And saying no when you should say no, saying yes when you should say yes. It's self-explanatory when you watch guys like that. So those guys are great mentors, teammates, and friends of mine."
Colgan is not the only member of the 2018 Wyoming wrestling team to make the transition to MMA. His teammate and two-time NCAA finalist Bryce Meredith also made his professional MMA debut in 2021. Meredith is currently 3-0 after picking up a submission victory over Nathan Fought last September.
"Bryce and I actually, we were just talking last night," he said. "That's a coincidence. We don't talk all the time, but we were just texting last night. He came to my bachelor party. I'm sure when he gets married, I'll go out to his. We're still close friends. We don't really talk too much about fighting, pointers, and stuff like that. But when we do see each other in person, we'll be like, "What do you think about this?" "Hey, what do you think about that?" We kind of pick each other's brain for a little bit."
Despite coming from a wrestling background, Colgan chose to stand and trade in his last fight against Nuro. Apparently, this was both a tactical decision and a nod to the fans watching at home.
"Honestly the mindset going into that fight was just that I felt that I could win the fight really in any position, whether it was me taking him down and doing grappling or staying on the feet and doing that," Colgan said. "I also knew that the guy is a jiu-jitsu black belt, been training and competing in jiu-jitsu for the past couple of years pretty seriously. So I knew that if he had any chance to win, that would be his Hail Mary, right? I was winning every striking exchange we had, so I felt that the people back home watching would rather have seen that. And I was having fun, I can't lie. I was having a lot of fun putting on a clinic."
On Nov. 18, Colgan will look to improve to 6-0 as a professional and 3-0 in Bellator against Jesse Hannam. The opponent turned professional in 2020 after an extensive amateur career. His record currently stands at 2-1, and he will be coming off a first-round stoppage victory over Casey Goulet.
"I've watched a handful of fights, obviously," Colgan said. "I do my homework. And I respect that he believes that he took this fight to take me. He believes he has something to defeat me. So I believe that truthfully and heartfeltly. So I'm training for this fight like it's a title fight for myself, or the biggest fight of my career. Because the next fight is my biggest fight, which is him. So I'm doing all the things that I would be doing for any other fight in my training camp, and I'm prepared and excited to go out there and showcase my domination."