Redan alum working to become a MMA fighter

Derek Wilson_win EDuring the day, Derek Wilson Jr. works as a security specialist at the Fulton County Courthouse and attends Gwinnett Technical College, studying to be a nurse.

In the evenings, the Redan High School alum heads to X3 Sports gym for his mixed martial art (MMA) training—training to become a professional MMA fighter.

How does a 27-year-old courthouse employee and nursing student go on a journey to become an MMA fighter?

It started with a video game.

Wilson, who at the time was a biology student at Fort Valley State University, began playing the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) video game with one of his fraternity brothers.

“When I was hanging out with him we would play it,” he said. “Right after that we would watch it on TV and I just got familiar with it. I was playing the game and I didn’t like losing. After watching it I was like, ‘I can do this.’ I would play the game and I would watch [a live match] to figure out what I should’ve done when I was playing [the video game].”

Wilson has a wrestling background. He did one year of wrestling at Redan his senior year.

“I was trying to play [college] football so I got on the wrestling team to help with tackling and body control,” he said. “I really fell in love with it.”

He did pretty well in one season, finishing seventh in the county in 2006 with a 20-29 record in the 171-weight-class. He finished in fifth place at the DeKalb County Wrestling Championship, helping Redan win the county title.

He gained the skills he needed to play college football and joined the football team at Fort Valley State the following year as a walk-on linebacker. He also joined the track team to help with his speed. He participated in the 100- and 200-meter, the 4×100-meter relay and the decathlon.

Wilson ended up playing only one season of football as a running back. He said he left the team because of its lack of organization. However, he ran track all four years at Fort Valley, where he graduated in 2010 with a degree in biology.

After college, he started doing.

“I wanted to get back to doing something like wrestling,” he said. “It’s not really a place you go to wrestle, so I figured jiu jitsu was kind of close. So I got into jiu jitsu and it kind of went from there.”

Derek Wilson_fightHe began participating in local jiu jitsu tournaments. He has won two gold medals, a silver and a bronze medal. Afterwards, he began transitioning to MMA.

“I knew wrestling was really important and I knew that I had a wrestling style, so I feel like if I started doing some striking I would be pretty good at it,” he added.” I joined a gym that has a MMA team about a year and a half ago and it just went from there.”

He joined X3 Sports gym in Inman Park. At the same time, he was attending Mercer University in Atlanta studying to become a pharmacist. He would later transfer to Gwinnett Technical to study nursing.

Wilson said learning the MMA style of fighting was different.

“You go in there thinking that it’s easy to do [by] what you see on TV, but it’s really not,” he said. “You go in there for training and you really get tired. It’s so much more tiring than it looks. To get your composure while you’re getting hit is different. The conditioning is a lot. Other than that, learning the new moves, that comes [with it]; and just putting it all together is something that you really have to work at.

“Being able to put the wrestling, the jiu jitsu, the boxing and the kick boxing all together in one—you can be good all of those things individually and still suck at MMA because you can’t put it together,” Wilson added. “You have to be able to put it all together, and I think that’s the big thing about it. When I first started, the first time I trained with the team I got hurt. I didn’t get beat up really bad, but I was hurt. My body got beat up and I was dead tired.”

Wilson said it took him three weeks to a month to get used to MMA fighting.

“Since then it has gotten easier,” he said. “At this point it’s playful, it’s fun. I know I can push when I need to push and lay back if I want to. I try not to, but if I want to I can.”

MMA is one of the more violent sports because of the various styles of fighting combined into one. Wilson said channeling his violent side for a fight is not hard for him.

“I think everyone is inherently violent,” he said. “I think everyone is capable of extreme violence. I like it. It’s violence, but it’s a very cerebral part to it.

“I’ve always liked being able to put together the physical attributes and the mental as well, and being able to put them in a complete game plan and beat somebody physically and mentally,” he said. “I don’t think it’s very hard to tap into being violent—the aggression. I think that came with the rest. I feel like I’ve always had aggression, but didn’t know how to channel it, and wrestling helped with that.”

Wilson, who fights in the middleweight division (185-weightclass), had his first MMA fight in September at National Fighting Championship (NFC) 77 in Atlanta. He defeated Harrison Aiken in one minute and 18 seconds by a north-south choke.

“To win the way I did felt really good,” he said. “It really confirmed what I felt—I felt like I was good. I felt like I could go out there and do it. To go out there and do it the way I did it was very gratifying. It really built my confidence up. It really just confirmed what I thought would happen because you think you’re good but you’ve never had a fight. You’ve never really went out there and done anything. It helped convince me that I could really do this.”

Wilson’s next fight will take place Jan. 22 at NFC 81 in Kennesaw. He will take on Umidjon Batirov.

Wilson (1-0) said he wants to go 10-0 on the NFC level and then go pro on the UFC level. However, his current plan is to graduate in December 2016 with his nursing degree and go into the nursing field.

“If MMA takes off then I’ll do that full time,” he said.


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