He's not from rough streets or an impoverished background, but fighting has helped turn Nissen Osterneck's life around. The Hawaiian comes from a wealthy family and got to surf, play a lot of golf and party all the time as a teenager. He sprinkled in some jiu-jitsu training as a teen but never reallly thought about fighting as a career until he nearly killed himself drunk driving:
"I had a moment of clarity. I was driving home one night. I promised myself I wasn't going to do something that I did, and I ended up wrecking. It wasn't the first wreck I had," Osterneck told Cage Writer that he had six or seven similar wrecks. "(That was) just the one that snapped me out of it. I said 'am I waiting to kill myself or kill someone else?' I had my peace with God there and decided to take a different path in life and start doing things that were productive."
Osterneck said growing up with money in Maui, he had an air of invincibility. He even hit a telephone pole during one of his many accidents.
"Everything I do, I do to an extreme," said Osterneck. "I happened to be allergic to a substance that changes my mind. Drinking was my major downfall"
Watch Osterneck talk about cheating death (0:45 mark):
Osterneck turned things around by moving across the country to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He attended Coastal Carolina University, playing a lot of golf. He actually considered becoming a club pro before getting into real estate and developing an interest in politics. Osterneck ran for a Myrtle Beach City Council seat at age 25. He lost by 400 votes but now says it was a blessing, making him focus on one thing, mixed martial arts.
Osterneck started out his pro MMA career with five straight wins before a loss in WEC to Jake Rosholt. It was a great fight with the guys slugging it out but Osterneck says he couldn't have executed his gameplan more poorly. He blames the loss on the lack of a training camp and a long layoff because of shoulder surgery. He trained in Hawaii for this fight around B.J. Penn and Kendall Grove.
His UFC debut won't be easy. Jorge Rivera (15-7, 4-5 UFC) is a rough, tough veteran with nine UFC fights. The 37-year-old has been in the cage with the likes of Rich Franklin and Anderson Silva. Osterneck says Rivera has holes in his game and that as a jiu-jitsu brown belt he has a huge advantage on the ground. Rivera and Osterneck battle on the undercard of Ultimate Fight Night 18 in Nashville on Wednesday night.