by: Jack Bratcher
Justin Wren is an up-and-coming Heavyweight MMA Fighter from Texas. He’s an intimidating figure with outstanding wrestling credentials. Justin trains with The Ultimate Fighter winner, Travis Lutter, among others. From the first time I saw some of Justin’s Youtube wrestling videos and heard that he was now entering into the MMA world, I knew that this would be a guy we would one day hear about. Justin has been paying his dues the old-fashioned way; by getting in the cage and going toe-to-toe with the biggest men in the sport. If you haven’t yet heard of Justin Wren I want you to make a mental note of that name and remember where you first heard it. I got the chance to catch up with Justin this week.
ProMMA: Hey Justin, how’s it going. It’s been awhile since I’ve spoke to you…what have you been up to?
Justin: Well first off I would like to say thank you for the interview and I appreciate you taking your time to take interest in me. I haven’t been doing much besides a lot of training. I also just got back from church camp where I was a leader of my youth group. Recently I have had three scheduled fights fall through on me and now I finally have one set in stone for July 26th against Chris Guillen. I have been training diligently, and I am hoping to make a statement in that fight.
ProMMA: Could you let everyone know who may not be familiar with you a little about your background like where you are from, what sports you were into growing up, your wrestling credentials, and what got you into MMA?
Justin: Well I am from Fort Worth, Texas and I graduated from Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas, Texas. I played almost every sport possible growing up, but then found my calling in wrestling my freshman year of high school. A bunch of my buddies and I would watch the old UFC tapes and I would tell them I was going to do that one day, which made them laugh. Our high school didn’t have a wrestling team but I was blessed enough to have found a coach at a club team that told me the best fighters in MMA were the wrestlers. I was the sole wrestler of my high school but ended up winning the state championship. My junior and senior year I transferred to Bishop Lynch which had two Olympic Gold Medalist as their coaches. Again I was very fortunate, learned a lot from the best, and went on to win 10 State Championships (4 Greco Roman, 3 Freestyle, 3 Folkstyle), became a five time All American, and a two time National Champion. After developing quick in high school I was approached by the developmental coaches of the U.S. Olympic Greco Roman Team. I decided I would skip collegiate wrestling, move to the United States Olympic Education Center, and pursue my dreams of going to the Olympics. I ended up competing internationally until getting injured in a match with the 2002 Greco World Champion, which ultimately ended in surgery. The lay off time from competition was a year which then I decided to move to Ames, Iowa with the intent to wrestle under Cael Sanderson for Iowa State University on Scholarship. During the year I wasn’t able to compete for the team but knew I needed to stay active so I entered some smaller pro MMA shows and had some success. I immediately got the MMA bug and decided to not take my scholarship and instead pursue a career in mixed martial arts.
ProMMA: Who do you train with on a regular basis Justin and who are some people you’ve trained with in the past?
Justin: I do all my Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and no-gi work with Travis Lutter. His school is filled with such great talent and you constantly learn from everybody. I do all my wrestling with Kenny Monday who is an Olympic Gold, and Silver Medalist and has been my coach since high school. I box with Phil Sawyer and Kendrick Releford who are just awesome when it comes to boxing. I train muay thai at various places and I do most of my MMA training with Alex “El Toro” Andrade who is a beast. When it comes to my past training experiences I would considered myself honored to have been to places like Vegas. I just got back from a week in Vegas where I trained with Xtreme Couture, Cobra Kai, and Master Toddy’s. I was training with greats such as Randy Couture, Forrest Griffin, Marc Laimon, Mike Whitehead, Tim Creduer and many, many more great and talented guys. By the way, I need to thanks Ted Ehrhardt of Team Takedown for letting me go out there and train with his guys. I stayed with Johnny Hendricks and Jake Rosholt who have a combined 5 NCAA Wrestling Championships, and those are some definite guys to look out for as future MMA champions.
ProMMA: What is your professional record at this point?
Justin: My record is 8-1 pro and I think if you add up the fights between Sherdog and other fight finders, and look at the opponents you can find that record. I did start off by fighting in a couple of smaller venues so I don’t know how all the reporting goes but I have fought pro 9 times. Seven of my wins are by TKO and one by Rear Naked Choke. A big mistake on my part was, that I became fight happy with no official MMA training besides wrestling for my first 7 fights. I am now becoming more and more well rounded and am starting to feel comfortable with aspect of the sport.
ProMMA: Out of all the people you’ve trained with and fought, who would you say is the toughest dude you know, aside from yourself of course?
Justin: Oh man that is such a tough question but I will answer out of just the MMA guys I have trained with. When I sparred with Randy he is absolutely tremendous everywhere. He constantly pushes the pace, and any opening you gave him he would take full advantage of. Forrest would never take a step back and was a million miles an hour. However, Travis Lutter on top of you is a bad day for anyone on the planet. He knows how to smash on you where he feels like a 300 pound man so that’s pretty nuts. All three of those guys are tough as nails and I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to train with them.
ProMMA: What is your ultimate goal in this sport and what would you like to accomplish?
Justin: I am a young guy with tons of dreams and big aspirations. I don’t want to be like some of these guys who seem to just want to say, “they are a fighter,” when really they have a 50/50 record or worse. Since I am 21 I think I have plenty of time to develop into a complete, well rounded fighter, and I want to have all the weapons I can possibly bring to the table. Something inside of me says that if I pursue my dreams with everything I have, plus put in more time and effort than the competition, I can and will be a Champion some day. So my goals are as high as anyone else in the sport, but I know that it will take time, blood, sweat, tears, and many of God’s blessings, before I can get to that place.
ProMMA: A lot of kids growing up when they play a sport have dreams of making it big; such as a kid playing baseball dreams of one day being in the Major Leagues. Do you consider the UFC to be the “Major Leagues” of MMA or with the other organizations coming up, can you still be considered a “Major League Fighter” without being in the UFC?
Justin: I definitely would say that the UFC is the largest promotion out there. You see all these guys wearing Tapout shirts saying they are in training to be a “UFC fighter,” not a “Mixed Martial Arts Fighter,” which is kind of humorous, but it goes to show you who is king of the hill right now. I definitely think you can be a “Major League Fighter” without being in the UFC. They do have the most quality overall out of the other promotions but if look at the Affliction card that is coming up, all those guys are “Major League Fighters” in my opinion. Then look at Randy, Fedor, Tim, and Josh Barnett. They are probably the best heavyweights in the world but none of them are in the UFC, and three of the four are fighting for Affliction in July.
ProMMA: Is there any fighters out there you would love to fight?
Justin: By far Kimbo, and also Mark Kerr. I want to fight Mark Kerr cause I was matched up with him and it fell through. Now they are letting him fight the guy I beat in my last fight, on the same card as me July 26th. I also would like to fight him, because as a freshman in high school playing the UFC playstation game, I was Mark every single time I played. He used to be a hero of mine, and if he is still going to fight competitively I would like to fight him while I am still a young in my career.
ProMMA: I know you’re a heavyweight so I wanted to ask you your opinion on Kimbo Slice? Could you take him?
Justin: I would love to fight Kimbo, and the exposure that would come from a win with him would be career changing. I know EVERYONE who is a decent pro heavyweight wants a piece of him because he has zero ground game, but is still a big name fighter. He should have gotten TKO’d in his last fight, but Thompson didn’t seem to know how to take mount. He also allowed Kimbo to Bench Press him off of side mount, which was a big mistake on Thompson’s part. I think the first time you put an MMA fighter who has some ground training they will stop Kimbo first or second round. In my honest and humble opinion I think that I would finish the fight.
ProMMA: When can we expect to see you back in the cage, with what organization and who will be your opponent?
Justin: July 26th in XP3 Promotions www.xp3promotions.com where I will be fighting Chris Guillen.
ProMMA: I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us Justin and we wish you the best of luck in your next fight.
Do you have any messages you would like to send out or thank anyone?
Justin: I greatly appreciate you guys at PRO MMA for interviewing me and helping viewers/fans to learn a little about me. I greatly enjoyed the interview. I also would like to say thank you to all my sponsors who support me, and continue to take care of me in between, and at my fights. I also want to say thank you to all my coaches and training partners for spending time to help develop my skills, and for believing in my abilities. Again I want to say thanks to Team Takedown for letting me go out to Vegas to train and see what the best of the best are doing daily. Lastly, and most importantly I have to thank God for giving me my abilities, and for making all the “blessings in disguise” happen that did to turn my focus on what I truly feel I was called to do.
To learn more about Justin Wren and to stay up to date with him, you can visit his myspace page at: http://myspace.com/studheavyweight Also, be sure to check out some of Justin’s videos on Youtube.