2011 NCAA Division I wrestling champion Bubba Jenkins signs with Gorilla Management, commits to a career in MMA.
According to Gorilla Management, the same company that represents 2011 World MMA Scouting Report prospects Ricardo Tirloni and Tony Johnson Jr., 2011 NCAA Division I champion Bubba Jenkins has signed with the management company and is ready to begin his career in mixed martial arts. Gorilla Management head Wilfredo Navarro confirmed the news to BloodyElbow.com, releasing this statement:
"You know, there are a lot of management companies out there, after I won the NCAA's my phone was constantly ringing with this agent or that agent making this offer or that offer. I was contacted by many different groups with big promises. These guys Willie and Al from Gorilla management contacted me and told me they really enjoyed watching me compete in the NCAA's, Al was actually there in person. They are very genuine people, they talk real about the right way to do things. These guys never told me what I wanted to hear like everyone else, they weren't selling me the dream they were selling me reality, they laid out a plan for me and how they were going to make me successful and I believe it represents the best opportunity for me to follow my dreams. In the end I chose them because I truly believe they have my best interest at heart, they told me the truth and the things I needed to hear at the risk of losing me to a group with a sexier offer."
Gorilla Management was founded by Wilfredo Navarro in January 2011. "Willy" as he is better known, has a well-established business in promotions in Miami, Florida.
"I fell into the MMA business after speaking with a prominent fighter about his situation. I called a local agent that I knew, but he blew me off, so I decided to help him myself. What I realized was that many of these fighters were being either misrepresented or under-represented. I agreed to help that fighter with his career, and he liked what I did for him immediately. A couple of his friends asked me to represent them as well. and before I knew it, I was in the business.
In March, Willy acquired the the help of Al Pardo (wrestling coach at South Miami senior), his cousin and also his former coach, to help identify and recruit new talent. Together, they are branding their business as a family affair with honesty and hard work at the forefront of what they do for their clients.
Jenkins won the 2011 NCAA Division I wrestling title at 157 lbs., but the back story on his tremendous run to the top is even more intriguing. SBNation.com's Luke Thomas has the story:
Jenkins has an interesting story and his win at the nationals this year is the stuff right out of a story book. He was recruited by Penn State University out of high school. The team eventually hires NCAA, World and Olympic champion Cael Sanderson to coach and immediately Jenkins and Sanderson clash. Jenkins is basically told he doesn't have what it takes to cut it at the top collegiate level, so he seeks a new home and winds up at Arizona State University.
Fast forward to the 2011 NCAA wrestling championships. Jenkins makes it all the way to the finals only to face Penn State's shining star in David Taylor, the freshman phenom tearing through the competition. Jenkins not only wins the match, he pinned Taylor with an inside cradle. It was the ultimate in vindication and some measure of revenge for Jenkins' falling out with his former college and coach.
BloodyElbow.com's own KJ Gould broke down the key attributes that Jenkins possesses to be a force in the MMA world back in March. As he outlined in his scouting report, Jenkins has strong connections to MMA already. He was coached under Bellator welterweight champion and 2008 Olympian Ben Askren:
More importantly he has good connections to begin an MMA career. He was coached for wrestling under Bellator Welterweight Champion, 2x NCAA Champion and 2008 Olympian Ben Askren. Jenkins claims he has fast hands and fast feet and can't wait to bring his Sun Devil Tough drive to the cage. I get the feeling he may want to bring a Sprawl'n'Brawl style to the cage but as long as he's with Askren and picking up submission skills in a similar fashion there's hope he can develop into a well rounded MMA fighter. I'd like to think he might eventually turn into a better version of Melvin Guillard, only without getting into the same sort of trouble or the penchant for placing himself into fight ending situations that favour his opponent. Of course until we see him fight we've no idea how he'll look, so I'm just spitballing at this point.
There is a strong possibility that Jenkins will fight under the American Top Team banner, exactly as Askren did for most of his career, and he will be perfectly suited for either 155 or 145 pounds. At 23 years of age, keep an eye out for Bubba Jenkins in the regional scene. I have a feeling he'll quickly make an impact and be a major player in the sport for years to come.