It’s been a long time coming, but the Iowa Hawkeyes finally have their first A-List Hawkeye with UFC dreams.
Over the years, NCAA’s grittiest team has sat back and watched Cowboys, Nittany Lions and others plant their flags in MMA soil – a sport that seems tailor-made for a post NCAA career. Historically speaking, NCAA wrestlers have arguably had more immediate success in MMA than any other discipline.
BJJ practitioners do well on the ground, but getting there can be an issue, Judokas struggle at range, strikers are vulnerable to a takedown. As long as a wrestler is equipped to take a punch and can learn to shoot a takedown from an upright position, they’re already a leg up.
It doesn’t take Freddie Roach to teach a wrestler how to drop hammer fists on an opponent they’ve taken down. As long as a wrestler can control where the fight goes, their chances of winning shoots through the roof. When fighting a high-level wrestler, most fighters’ gameplans shift to “defense first.” Instead of drilling the perfect setups and fight ending combinations, camps primarily consist of timing sprawls and getting up from takedowns. So why have the Hawkeyes never produced a Tyron Woodley, Ben Askren, Daniel Cormier or Bo Nickal?
The Hawkeyes’ first superstar with an MMA glint in his eye doesn’t claim to have the answers but knows full well what it takes to be a legend in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The team with the reputation of having the most grit and physicality in the sport would make the biggest splash in MMA if sights were set in that direction. For some reason, it just hasn’t happened. MMA is great on pay-per-view Saturday nights in Iowa City, but every other day of the month is dedicated to one thing and one thing only.
“I’m not really sure why,” said former Iowa Hawkeye Jaydin Eierman. “They’re all tough and have that mentality to go, go, go, but I’m not sure. We’ve never really talked about it. Everybody watches it but our main focus here is wrestling.”
While Eierman may be the beacon of hope the Hawkeye fans have been waiting for, it may not even be the Hawkeye in him that’s leading him to the cage.
Before transferring to Iowa, Eierman introduced himself to the world as the obnoxiously exciting and talented Mizzou Tiger who could top the Nick Lees, Yianni Diakomihalises and Anthony Ashnaults at any given dual. During his time at Mizzou, Eierman would rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in fighting.
“I was always around Tyron Woodley, Michael Chandler and Ben Askren,” Eierman explained. “I was around those guys, so I know their mentality going into the next level.”
While it could be argued that it wasn’t Iowa that turned Eierman into a fighter, even further digging reveals it might not have been Mizzou either. Eierman was actually born into MMA.
“My dad was fighting towards the end of his career,” Eierman said. “I was always around that and trained with him. Striking and Jiu jitsu were some of the things. He’d always tell me I can’t be scared to get tapped out, so we’d go and I’d get tapped out and then now I have no fear of being choked out. It was good for me to experience that growing up.”
Born with MMA blood, growing up in the Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes era, sharing the room with champions in Columbia and refining his grit at Iowa, Eierman has all the intangibles to be as exciting of a fighter as he was a wrestler. He has to want it, but “The Riddler” isn’t interested in being a run-of-the-mill fighter. Eierman wants to follow in the Michael Chandler, Justin Gaethje footsteps of being one of the most exciting fighters in the sport, not simply a wrestler in a cage.
“I want that finish,” Eierman said. “I want to give people what they paid for. That’s how my wrestling has always been, going for that finish, trying to get a pin. Going into MMA I just want that finish. I kind of have a weird style that I’ll bring to fighting from my wrestling that hasn’t really been seen that much. I do a lot of weird stuff when I’m wrestling that I feel like I can transition over well. I feel like I’ll be like Khabib, though, where I’m going to take you down and make you pay, or my pace is going to take over from Iowa and wear you out.”
Don’t expect your favorite fighter to have a quick turnaround or bounce back fight if they fall victim to Eierman, though. He’s not looking to just out-cardio somebody. Eierman is anxiously waiting to take every future opponent to the darkest places of their careers.
“If you’re going to fight me, you’re going to expect to have a war because I’m going to go out there and try to dominate you,” Eierman explained. “I feel like I see fighters who used to do that. I’m going to go out there and just make it a war and I’m excited about that.”
At 26 years old Eierman is eyeing an Olympic run before immersing himself into the world of mixed martial arts, but with everything he has working in his favor, wouldn’t be surprised if he was in the UFC in four to five years.
As for the immediate future, don’t expect to see your favorite bantamweights and featherweights hitting pads alongside “The Riddler.” It’s still wrestling first and wrestling only, but don’t get too comfortable calling your favorite bantamweights and featherweights the longterm kings of the division because Iowa’s first superstar turned fighter is coming for it all.
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