Who Says an Old Tiger Can’t Learn New Tricks

CL HARMON

While lis­ten­ing to Wiley Ole­son dur­ing our inter­view, I couldn’t help but think back to the first time I heard the band Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” from the big screen while Rocky Bal­boa was gear­ing up for the tough­est fight of his career. As he spoke, I had images of him push­ing him­self to the lim­it in the gym where he shed pounds and built mus­cles as he pre­pared for his first MMA (Mixed Mar­tial Arts) match since 2011 in Okla­homa City.

But unlike Rocky who had his tough­est fight ahead of him, Ole­son has already fought his and emerged vic­to­ri­ous­ly. The fact that he is step­ping into a ring at all is already a vic­to­ry and also what makes his sto­ry so unique. Hav­ing always been com­pet­i­tive and enjoy­ing phys­i­cal con­tact sports, Ole­son began par­tic­i­pat­ing in wrestling and foot­ball from child­hood. These child­hood activ­i­ties would set him on a path to become a pro­fes­sion­al wrestler lat­er in life. As an adult, he began pro­mot­ing him­self as a wrestler while mov­ing up the ranks and mak­ing a name for him­self with five “try­out match­es” for World Wrestling Enter­tain­ment (WWE).

In 2007 a motor­cy­cle acci­dent and sub­se­quent 21 surg­eries would end that dream. The wreck result­ed in bro­ken ribs, a punc­tured lung, torn mus­cles from his neck to his groin area, knee dam­age, shoul­der dam­age, both of which required recon­struc­tion, and even the loss of a few teeth. Also, he had a reti­na detach­ment which required anoth­er 11 surg­eries. The acci­dent was not even his fault, but one of a lapse in judg­ment by a motorist who ran a stop sign.

Adver­tise­ments

As a result of the mul­ti­ple surg­eries, recu­per­at­ing times and loss of his dream, depres­sion set in and the pounds began stack­ing on until he reached 305 pounds. Hav­ing a com­pet­i­tive nature and the need to feel fit again, kept his desire alive to be in a ring of one type or anoth­er. He need­ed a push through. The Army Nation­al Guard would give him just that when they ordered him to lose weight or leave the ser­vice. He has been in the mil­i­tary as a Black­hawk heli­copter mechan­ic for 19 years and did not want to leave. So he hired a per­son­al train­er, hit the gym and lost 75 pounds, 30 in the first month alone.

I’ve always been a com­peti­tor, and it’s just always going to be there,” he said. Because of this, it is not sur­pris­ing that he would seek out a new oppor­tu­ni­ty to com­pete.  He soon met a pro­fes­sion­al kick­box­er who gave lessons for the sport. This man helped train and encour­aged Ole­son to get back into a ring with the new skills he was learn­ing – which was all the encour­age­ment he need­ed to begin seri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion for fight­ing again.  The hard work and ded­i­ca­tion have paid off, and Ole­son said he is excit­ed for this first fight that the many surg­eries post­poned begin­ning in 2011 with that last fight. By the way, he won that match in the sec­ond round.

I am pret­ty excit­ed about this fight because I want to prove all the naysay­ers wrong. I have peo­ple who ask me why I am doing this and telling me just because I lost weight doesn’t mean I can fight. My goal is to prove to myself and every­one else that I, or any­one my age, can do it. I am 48 years old,” he said. As if the motor­cy­cle wreck, surg­eries, and his age were not enough bad luck, Ole­son has also had three heart surg­eries with­in the last year, the most recent in Decem­ber.

Once I win this fight, I want to declare myself a pro­fes­sion­al and then get a few pro­fes­sion­al fights under my belt. I am just so old now that no orga­ni­za­tion is going to take me on seri­ous­ly, so I will just have some fun at the local cir­cuits and make the best of it,” he said. As a result of his age and thus lack of spon­sor sup­port, Ole­son pays for all the costs asso­ci­at­ed with fight­ing him­self. He did say that he would love to have a spon­sor or two though since train­ing and equip­ment are so expen­sive.

The crowd may not hear “Eye of the Tiger” on the night he fights, but it’s a good bet that they will at least be ask­ing who let that old tiger out of his cage. Ole­son is fight­ing Lee Bell on August 3 at Riv­er Spir­it Casi­no for Dale “Apol­lo” Cook’s Extreme Fight Night.

 

Adver­tise­ments

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