By Irwin Loew
Seven days per week. Sweat pouring off his face. The muscles aching and the body getting tired. For the ordinary person, yes. For Gregor Gillespie, no. We’re talking about a four-time NCAA Division I All-American from Edinboro University. No redshirt.
The fact is, Gregor succeeded. He got an education and didn’t look back. The time is the present. From running and conditioning to striking and counterattacks; from taking punches and giving them, kicking and learning the fine art of submission holds — it never stops. Gregor Gillespie will be the next star of MMA. There is no stopping him and the desire he brings to the table. It doesn’t matter if he’s on a bike doing 100 miles on his day off or training the new guns from his home in Nassau County. He’s a rare athlete who is always working or teaching and he wants to win now.
Gillespie provided insights about starting in MMA, his wrestling career, some things few people know about him and more in a recent interview.
First, some questions on your fighting career . . .
When did you decide to make the transition to fighting? Was it something you considered for a long time?
Gregor Gillespie (GG): I decided to fight in November of 2011. It’s a bit complicated, but I’ll try to lay out the timeline of events that led me to where I am today. 2009 was my last NCAA tournament and then I didn’t do anything competitive for about two years. In late 2010, I decided I was going to compete again and began wrestling freestyle. In late 2011, I moved to Long Island to take a coaching job at Hofstra where I would also train for freestyle tournaments.
It wasn’t long after I moved to Long Island that I found myself in a bind, torn between my lifelong love of wrestling or pursuing the exciting world of fighting. I’ll try not to minimize how hard of a decision it really was — it was REALLY REALLY TOUGH turning away from my dream of pursuing a shot at the Olympics. But I figured I was having so much fun fighting that I would follow what was piquing my interest more. And I figured I would be nice and let Jordan Burroughs take the gold (just kidding, Jordan).
It’s funny, when I was living in Rochester after my last NCAA tournament, I was at my ex-girlfriend’s house and she had a roommate whose boyfriend Ryan was an avid UFC follower. He began pestering me about why I wasn’t fighting and I very sternly told him I would NEVER, in a million years, fight. I guess he was right.
Tell us about the deal you signed with Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA).
GG: I can’t go into depth, but I will say that the RFA has given me an extremely clean contract and they were the ONLY organization who could guarantee me fights. I don’t know the dates of all my fights yet, I am preparing for one at a time. My first fight will be on November 2nd in Las Vegas.
At what weight will you compete?
GG: Lightweight. 155 pounds of nothing but lean muscle.
What do you feel your strengths are now and what do you most need to work on?
GG: I’d say my kung fu needs a little work, but I’ve dabbled in wrestling a little bit so that might be one of my strong points.
Who are your main training partners?
GG: Ryan LaFlare, Dennis Bermudez and Marcos Galvao.
GG: There are five people I really look up to that are involved in my MMA career: 1. Tim Flynn, who was my college coach. 2. Gregg Depo, my ‘jitz’ coach. 3. Ryan LaFlare, one of my main training partners as well as one of my cornermen. 4. Marcos Galvao, who with Depo has taken my ‘jitz’ game to incredible levels in the short period of time I’ve been doing it. 5. Keith Trimble, my striking coach, and all-around mentor.
Who would be the opponent you would most like to face if you could choose anyone?
GG: You said anyone so I assume that means I’m allowed to venture outside my weight class. If that’s the case, then it would have to be Chael Sonnen just to experience having a press conference where I’m the guy he’s aiming all his [sh–] talk towards. I would love to hear what he would have to say, seriously.
What are your expectations for yourself in the next year or so?
GG: I see myself with five wins and zero losses a year from now, and then it’s Dana White that makes the decision on where I go from there.
Now, a few questions on the influence wrestling has had on you.
What are the most important things wrestling has helped you with in your fighting?
GG: Mental toughness and how to wear guys down.
What will you miss most about wrestling?
GG: Singlets and getting to compete every week.
Will you stay involved with Hofstra or with wrestling in general? What was the best part of your experience coaching at Hofstra?
GG: At this point, I’m not involved with Hofstra. If Justin Accordino needs me to come in though, I will. He’s my boy. My favorite memory of coaching at Hofstra was being in Justin’s corner when he pinned Ian Miller in last year’s NCAAs.
What were your expectations for yourself coming into college?
GG: I expected to party my [a–] off and get tons of girls, which I did.
Who was the toughest matchup for you in college?
GG: [Cornell NCAA champion] Jordan Leen, hands down. He was the only person to beat me more than once in my entire career.
What was your most memorable match?
GG: Beating Dustin Schlatter in the semifinals of the NCAAs the year I won the title.
What achievements were you most proud of?
GG: There are a few things I’m really proud of on and off the mat. On the mat, it would be my first state title as a sophomore in high school and then winning the NCAA nationals in college.
Off the mat, most people don’t know this, but I won a battle against addiction to drugs and alcohol. I turned my life around on May 30, 2010 and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m extremely proud of that.
And a few more questions . . .
Have you seen significant changes in New York wrestling at the high school/youth levels since you were in high school?
GG: I don’t like the fact that New York has two divisions, but I do LOVE the fact that they have wildcards. I think the major change I’ve experienced is the level of wrestling and commitment on Long Island as compared to upstate. (This is common knowledge, don’t get offended fellow upstaters).
For the serious youth or high school wrestler, what suggestions can you make with respect to training?
GG: My suggestion to all youth and high school wrestlers who are serious about training is simple – come to me for private lessons.
Are there any changes you would like to see incorporated in this country to make us even more competitive in the international styles?
GG: I think folkstyle is not only the best style of the sport, but I also think it is the most well suited for a smooth transition into fighting. Think about it, there’s no mat wrestling in freestyle or Greco, so the mat control aspect is less developed than in someone who has excelled in folkstyle.
What are your favorite things to do outside of training?
GG: Wakeboarding is my favorite acitvity outside of training. I landed my first backflips this summer. People probably don’t know that I am obsessed with the Tour de France and cycling in general. One of my favorite non-fighting types of training is to go out on my road bike for 80-100 mile rides.
What would you change if you could?
GG: I wouldn’t change a thing. I faced the demons from my past and won and it has made me the person I am today – a good, trustworthy, reliable, honest, hardworking person. Throw on top of all those things that I’m extremely gifted and talented and wow, look out 155 pounders. You’re in for a treat.