Jon Madsen was every bit Brock Lesnar's equal during their days as high school rivals back in South Dakota. Then it was decision time. Lesnar made all the right choices while Madsen was totally self-destructive. It led to Lesnar making millions as a star in Vince McMahon's WWE and eventually becoming the UFC's heavyweight champ. Madsen basically threw away his 20's but with the help of his family and Lesnar, recently he's finally realizing his potential. Lesnar finishes off UFC 116 tonight in the main event while Madsen will be kicking things off in his fight against Karlos Vemola.
The story began back in South Dakota where Madsen and Lesnar wrestled in high school four times. Madsen held his own splitting the matches. He wound up at Div. II South Dakota State while Lesnar went the JUCO route and eventually reached two Div. I national finals at Minnesota. Madsen was a huge success right off the bat winning a Div. II national title. According to Neil Davidson from the Canadian Press things unraveled when Madsen tried to transfer to a Div. I school and was rebuffed.
"I was kind of mad, there really wasn't anything else for me to accomplish in Division 2 so I felt like I was kind of stuck," he said. "I got into the party scene and all that, and just kind of lost focus from there. It only snowballed."
"There were definitely some bad decisions in there but I honestly think it was more a lack of goals," said Madsen. "That's the thing that's probably changed the most is that I've got some goals in my head and things to work towards. When you don't have anything to work toward and look forward to, you just kind of get in a slump and I was definitely in a slump back then."
Madsen said working towards a career in MMA got him going in the right direction. He began working with Matt Hughes H.I.T. Squad in Illinois and made it onto Season 10 of "The Ultimate Fighter" where he lost to eventual finalist Brendan Schaub in the quarterfinals.
Now Madsen has turned to his rival turned buddy, Lesnar. He joined Lesnar's training camp in Minnesota where he can work daily with a much bigger crew of fighters like Chris Tuchscherer (255 pounds), Lesnar (285), Cole Konrad (290) and former NCAA champ Marty Morgan.
"I can roll around at the H.I.T. Squad, train with Robbie Lawler and Matt Hughes. There might be or two other guys that are around 190, 200 pounds. You get in certain positions with those guys and you can rest and relax, and all's good. But you get in that position with a 280-pound guy, I mean there's no resting. You've got to get your butt out of there. It makes you work constantly. There's really no position you can rest in."
Now it's back to the small guys. Vemola, making his UFC debut, is a tiny heavyweight at 222. But don't write him off. The thickly-muscled Czech is explosive and a pretty impressive junior wrestling pedigree as well. It should be an excellent fight to kick off the live card at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. You get the feeling Madsen won't be feeling too much considering where he's come from.
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