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Two-Time NCAA Champion Austin O Connor Pivots to MMA with Fury FC Debut Scheduled


NCAA Champion Austin O Connor set for MMA Debut
NCAA Champion Austin O Connor

One of the best wrestlers in UNC history is entering the world of MMA. Two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion Austin O Connor is putting the gloves on and making his professional debut. O’Connor, 25, will step into the cage on June 9, facing Camden Fontenot (3-1 amateur) in a featherweight bout at Fury FC 91 in Rosenberg, Texas.


Born and raised in Illinois, O’Connor joined the University of North Carolina wrestling team in 2017 after clinching four straight state championship victories in high school. His collegiate career was nothing short of spectacular, winning NCAA championships in 2021 at 149 pounds and in 2023 at 157 pounds. Additionally, he was a five-time All-American and a three-time ACC champion, solidifying his legacy as one of the top wrestlers in UNC history.


However, O’Connor’s journey took a turn due to the lack of an ideal weight class in the Olympics. Following his sixth and final year of eligibility, he turned his attention toward MMA. 


“I kind of fell at a bad weight (for the Olympics). I was kind of an inbetweener,” O’Connor recently told MMA Junkie Radio. “I always had an interest in MMA and was connected with the right people and everything. I just kind of started chasing that down instead of wrestling.”


Various ends of the MMA community reached out to O’Connor for training and management purposes, from JacksonWink to Bo Nickal to Vayner Sports. Ultimately, he found a mentor in former UFC double champion Daniel Cormier. 


“I felt like he was somebody I could trust and somebody I looked up to,” O’Connor said. “He’s somebody that’s gone through the same thing as me. … I like that he kind of keeps his team small and in the wrestling community.”


Preparing for his professional debut, O’Connor has been cross-training at Valle Flow Striking (VFS) Academy in Bensenville, Ill., and American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose, Calif. Simultaneously, he continues to work as an assistant wrestling coach for the University of Illinois wrestling team.


The debut fight at Fury FC 91 will be available to stream on UFC Fight Pass, offering fans a chance to witness O’Connor's transition from NCAA wrestling champion to MMA fighter. With a stellar wrestling background and guidance from one of the sport's greats, O’Connor is set to make a significant impact in the MMA world.


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