KEARNEY, Nebraska — Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA) announced this morning that it has signed former U.S. Olympian and two-time NCAA Division I national champion wrestler turned MMA super prospect Steve Mocco to a 5-fight deal. This is a big signing for the RFA, as Mocco is widely considered to be one of the best heavyweight prospects to enter MMA in a long time.
This is also news that many people in MMA and wrestling have been waiting to hear from a man who is recognized as one of the most talented heavyweights in the history of high school and collegiate wrestling. Mocco won four New Jersey prep state titles and four prep national titles, winning two titles for St. Benedict’s and another two at wrestling powerhouse Blair Academy. He also won three Junior National titles in wrestling and one in judo.
Mocco also won two Beast of the East championships and swept the "Big Four" of national high school wrestling awards in 2001. He was named the 2001 ASICS Tiger High School Wrestler of the Year, the 2001 Junior Hodge Trophy winner, the NHSCA National High School Wrestler of the Year, and the Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award. This made him one of the most heavily recruited wrestlers in history before he eventually signed on to wrestle at the University of Iowa.
While wrestling for Dan Gable protégé Jim Zalesky at Iowa, Mocco was the NCAA Division I heavyweight runner-up as a freshman in 2002 and NCAA Division I heavyweight champion as a sophomore in 2003. After taking an Olympic red-shirt year in 2004, Mocco transferred to Oklahoma State University to wrestle for legendary coach John Smith.
In 2005, his first year at OSU, Mocco won the NCAA Division I heavyweight title without losing a single match. This earned Mocco the Dan Hodge Trophy, as the best collegiate wrestler in the country. He followed that up with a runner-up finish as a senior, making him a four-time NCAA Division I national finalist during his college wrestling career at Iowa and Oklahoma State. Mocco finished with an overall collegiate wrestling record of 137-6 (56 falls), which included an 85-match win streak.
Mocco would go on to have a great deal of success on the international level of wrestling as well. The biggest achievement was when he won the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials to make the U.S. Olympic freestyle wrestling team. He ended up traveling to Beijing, China that summer to represent the United States in the Summer Olympic Games. Wrestling in the 120 kg weight class, Mocco defeated India’s Rajiv Tomar and China’s Liang Lei, before losing to Russia’s Bakhtiyar Akhmedov in the quarter-finals. In the repechage round, Mocco lost to Iran’s Fardin Masoumi and would finish 7th overall in the Olympics.
Mocco would stay active on the international wrestling circuit after the Olympics in 2008 and won more gold at the Pan Am and U.S. Nationals in 2009, the Cerro Pelado International in 2010, and Pan Am and Dave Schultz Memorial International in 2011. However, after he placed third at the U.S. Olympic Trials in April and missed out on a return to the Olympics this summer, Mocco turned his attention to MMA.
Mocco was invited down to the American Top Team camp in Cocount Creek, Florida to help Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva prepare for his fight with Cain Velasquez at UFC 146. Mocco, coincidentally, was the only many to beat Velasquez in a dual meet during Velasquez’s stellar senior season at Arizona State.
During his incredible wrestling career, Mocco has picked up wins over fellow wrestling greats Tommy Rowlands of Ohio State and Greg Wagner of Michigan, as well as three wrestling greats who have all won world titles after making the transition to MMA. Those three would include Velasquez (former UFC heavyweight champion), Mo Lawal (former Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion), and Cole Konrad (current Bellator heavyweight champion).
After enjoying a positive experience training with some of the best fighters in the world at American Top Team, Mocco was invited to become a full member of the team in June. Mocco happily accepted the invitation and decided to take his talents to south Florida. That is where he’ll be preparing for his MMA debut with the RFA, which is expected to take place later this summer or early fall.
Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA) was founded in 2011 and includes a number of prominent businessmen, fight promoters, matchmakers, and others with successful careers in hosting Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) shows across the United States. To learn more, check out their website at www.RFAfighting.com.