Friday, March 2, 2007

Bright Lights, Big City for Sabres HW Cole

By Ben Fowlkes

Up until a few days ago, Wayne Cole had never spent much time in the big city. He was, by his own admission, a country boy. Born and raised in Oklahoma, an All-American wrestler for the Sooners in 1989-90, he never saw much reason to leave.

But all that has changed now.

About a week ago Cole, 36, got the call that would change his life. It was from his manager, who told Cole he was in talks with the IFL. It seemed that the Sabres – a team based in Tokyo, but training mostly out of Los Angeles – needed a heavyweight.

For Cole, it was the opportunity he’d been waiting for. It was a chance to move up from the small-time shows he’d been toiling in for the last two and a half years and into the big time, which brought with it the big money. If he did well, he could finally support his family through fighting.

Now all he had to do was get to Los Angeles, where the Sabres were preparing for their March 17th match with the unbeaten Condors.

Cole jumped at the chance, though at the time he had no idea what he was in for.

“I’ve never trained this hard in my life,” said a breathless Cole after a recent training session with the Sabres. “They said this is our hell week, and I believe it.”

Not only does Cole now have to adjust to the training regimen of the Sabres – who, under the guidance of bodybuilder and MMA trainer Ken Yasuda, pride themselves on their physical conditioning – but he also has to deal with the culture shock that comes from being thrown into a completely different world.

Back in Oklahoma, Cole’s fiancĂ©e and seven-year-old daughter are awaiting his return. In Los Angeles, he’s crashing on the couch at teammate Jesse Juarez’s house, just hoping to weather so many drastic changes.

“I’ve never really been anywhere like this before,” Cole said. “It just reminds me how country I am.”

But whether or not he’s the most cosmopolitan fighter in the IFL, Cole’s credentials speak for themselves. After his All-American wrestling performance at Oklahoma University, Cole thought his days of participating in combat sports were over.

For more than ten years he stayed away from fighting sports, until a local toughman competition piqued his interest. The idea of getting up in front of a crowd and proving himself again was irresistible.

So Cole entered the contest on no training, with no preparation. He simply walked into the ring and won it all.

“After that I got into MMA and I really loved it,” Cole said. “I’ve been doing it for the past two and a half years in Oklahoma, training with USA Stars out there and trying to improve my game.”

If the training hasn’t improved Cole’s game, the experience certainly has. Depending on the source, Cole is credited with between eight and thirteen bouts in that short time, though the actual number is closer to sixteen, he says.

“My real record is 13-3. I fought three times just this past month,” said Cole.

That seems like a significant amount of wear and tear for a man who’ll be put through the ringer by the Sabres in the gym, only to then turn around and face Condors big man Antoine Jaoude on March 17th.

Jaoude shares a similar wrestling background, though on a bigger stage. Jaoude represented Brazil in Freestyle wrestling at the Athens Olympic games in 2004, and medaled at the Pan-Am games against some tough competition.

But despite his opponent’s proficiency with the ground game, Cole claims it won’t be an issue.

“I’m a big striker. I don’t want to go in there and wrestle. I can, but that’s not what I want to do,” said Cole. “I don’t think he’ll be able to take me down, so he’s going to have to stand with me.”

That’s a heavy claim, considering Jaoude’s wrestling pedigree, but Cole has plans to make a lot of noise in the IFL. If he can walk in on March 17th and beat a tough competitor like Jaoude, he may do just that.

After even this short time spent with the gung ho Sabres, he certainly should be in good enough shape. Now he just has to prove his mettle in the ring.


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