Two-time NCAA champion Austin O’Connor pivots to MMA with Fury FC debut scheduled

One of the best wrestlers in UNC history enters the world of MMA.

Two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion Austin O'Connor is putting the gloves on.

O’Connor, 25, will jump right into the professional ranks June 9 when he faces fellow pro debut 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 four straight state championship victories in high school. He won an NCAA championship in 2021 at 149 pounds and another one in 2023 at 157 pounds. He also was a five-time All-American and three-time ACC champion.

Due to a lack of an ideal weight class in the Olympics, O’Connor turned his attention toward MMA following his sixth and final year of eligibility.

“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.”

According to O’Connor, he had various ends of the MMA community reach out to him for training and management purposes, from JacksonWink to Bo Nickal to Vayner Sports. In the end, he found comfort under the wing of 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.”

In preparation for his professional debut on UFC Fight Pass, O’Connor has been cross-training at Valle Flow Striking (VFS) Academy in Besenville, Ill. and American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose, Calif., while also working as an assistant wrestling coach for University of Illinois wrestling.

Listen to O’Connor’s full interview with MMA Junkie Radio below:

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie