This weekend, Bellator 223 has the promotional debut of Oklahoma State wrestler, Kyle Crutchmer. He takes on Sean Clements in a welterweight bout. In this interview, we talk his training at AKA, transitioning from wrestling to MMA and much more!
Getting the Call From Bellator
Getting the phone call to Bellator for Kyle Crutchmer was all a part of the plan. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t excited still, his dreams were becoming more a reality. “I was very excited. I’ve put in a lot of work to get to where I’m at and I was just really humbled in the face than an organization wanted me. It’s a step in the right direction to becoming a world champ and that’s my goal.”
Knowing that Crutchmer is a wrestler, I asked if we would be seeing more of that than his striking. While he knows where his bread is buttered, Kyle Crutchmer says we will still get to see his striking on display at Bellator 223.
“They’ll see a little a both. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going out looking to wrestle these guys. It’s just something that’s built in me, I did it for 16 years. I can strike with pretty much anybody right now. I’ve been going with the best guys in the world at AKA, so we’ll see.”
AKA: Part of Kyle Crutchmer’s Success
Part of Crutchmer’s success will come from his dance partners in training. AKA, as everyone knows, has produced some of the best MMA fighters, especially former wrestlers, the sport has seen. Think Khabib Nurmagomedov, Daniel Cormier, and Cain Velasquez. Learning from these guys is shaping Crutchmer to be one of the best prospects Bellator has, and his first fight with the promotion is this weekend.
“It’s a blessing. You know you’ve got a bunch of guys that are trying to become world champs. They’re in the gym day in and day out. It’s a lot of fun. Then you have the Russian squad who comes over and you get different looks there. Everything’s pretty ramped up. It’s just a lot of fun. You got a lot of guys who care for each other and you take care of each other. At the same time we whoop each other’s ass, so it’s a lot of fun. We’re just trying to get better and trying to achieve the highest goal in the sport and we’re not going to stop at anything to get there.”
Training with Khabib
Fun is a word that Kyle threw around a lot in our interview. Training with these guys, especially for a guy enthralled with the sport like Crutchmer is, is indeed fun. He’s training with the best in the world and arguably the biggest star in the sport now, with Khabib Nurmagomedov. Having that caliber of knowledge gives him an edge at this point in his career.
Crutchmer says of Khabib, “I haven’t learned as much from him in the wrestling world so much as on the ground. He has a certain control on the ground. I pick his brain a lot on that. When it comes to takedowns, I’m pretty confident in myself with those things. He showed some things off the cage that I really liked. We just pick each other’s brains a lot. I bring 16 years of wrestling experience to this and he’s very, very, very talented on the ground. We just pick each other’s brains and try to become the best in the world at this.”
When asked about his game plan, Crutchmer was mum on the topic. He has some tricks up his sleeve and doesn’t want Clements to know. “Everything I do is going to be a secret. I’ve been trained by some of the best coaches in the world and the sport of wrestling. We never just focus on one thing. I was a finalist in Greco at one of the biggest tournaments you can go to in high school. I know a lot of upper body stuff. I like a lot of leg attacks and things like that, but like I said, it’s all hush-hush.”
His transition from wrestling to MMA wasn’t seamless, however. Crutchmer was very clear that it wasn’t an overnight thing, but a long process.
“The striking part was definitely a bit of a struggle. I’m still learning; I’d be lying if I told you that I’m Canelo or something right now. I’m definitely still trying to piece those things together. It just took a lot of time and a lot of practice.” He continues, “I was in the gym three or four times a day. I was constantly focusing on every aspect, Jiu Jitsu, wrestling all that. Everything that is mixed martial arts, I was practicing it. It’s been about two years and I’m finally getting comfortable with everything. I’m just ready to show everybody I’m ready for this.”
Who You Got? Fedor vs. Rampage
Two Bellator legends are facing off in Japan as Fedor Emeilanenko and Rampage Jackson throw down in a giant clash across the Pacific Ocean. Crutchmer weighed in on the matchup between the two MMA Hall of Famers. “I’ve been Rampage fan for a really long time. So, I’m going to go with Rampage. I think he’ll knock him out. I don’t know, I’ve been a Rampage fan for a while so I’m going to take him on that one.”
Now he gets to put his training a team’s work to the test on a bigger scale than he’s done before. Kyle Crutchmer is ready for the challenge.