He was one of the most decorated wrestlers in the most decorated program in collegiate wrestling, and now Nick Piccininni is making his MMA debut at XFN 371.
Long before bringing home four Big 12 titles for Oklahoma State University, Piccininni knew he had the tools to be one of the greatest wrestlers to ever hit the mats.
When everybody around him was saying, “I can take a break,” Piccininni was looking to put himself in the shadows of wrestling giants to one day stand side-by-side with them.
“I wanted to be the best and put myself in the best position to win,” Piccininni said. “That was wrestling under John Smith with the Oklahoma State Cowboys.”
Piccininni would put together a dominant career as a 125-pound four-year starter, going 112-17 and coming up just short of National Championship titles on two separate occasions. And when Piccininni closed the door on his collegiate wrestling career, the rest of the 125ers in the Big 12 tipped their caps and let out a sigh of relief.
The path to Big 12 gold no longer goes through Piccininni, but his reign of terror has now potentially shifted to MMA. Piccininni reached into the OSU bag of tricks and pulled out another game-changing connection to lead him into his new journey.
“When I found out I wanted to go into MMA, I talked to my old teammate Kyle Crutchmer,” Piccininni said. “We went back and forth about MMA and he put me in touch with DC (Daniel Cormier), and ever since, the bond just kind of formed and I decided this Is what I wanted to do.”
There must have been just the right amount of “Go Pokes” sprinkled into Piccininni’s early conversations with Cormier. The former Big 12 champion isn’t just a text message pen pal with the former Cowboy; he has uprooted to Gilroy to work as Cormier’s assistant coach at Gilroy High School.
Coaching at Gilroy, training at AKA. It was a winning formula for the former double champ, but what kind of career does Piccininni see for himself? Will the juggle be too much or will Piccininni pick right up where Cormier left off?
“It’s just adapting,” Piccininni explained. “It’s a different sport. It’s not wrestling or just boxing and jiu-jitsu – it’s everything together so I don’t really need to change habits; it’s more just learning to adapt and putting everything together.”
Piccininni isn’t out to reinvent the wheel. His approach will always be wrestling first, but the base that he’s spent his whole life forming gives him breathing room while the rest of his arsenal develops. If LFA veteran Chancey Wilson doesn’t have his takedown defense perfected, it may be a long night.
The journey begins Friday at XFN 371, but whatever bumps in the road may arise, Piccininni knows he’s got one hell of a support system behind him.
“It was OSU that put me up on the big screen and in the lights, so if it wasn’t for Oklahoma State I don’t know if I’d be in the position I’m in,” Piccininni said. “Where I’m at and the connections and friends I’ve made, I don’t think I’d have that without OSU.”
Catch the MMA debut of Nick Piccininni at XFN 371 LIVE Friday, June 18 at 5 p.m., ONLY on UFC FIGHT PASS!