After being ruled ineligible for the NCAA, Ohio University wrestler Tywan Claxton moved to Florida to pursue a career in the UFC.
It was just another day.
Tywan Claxton was in the training room preparing for just another practice.
Then, Ohio coach Joel Greenlee gave Claxton the news.
There would be no more practices.
No more competitions. Claxton’s career was done.
“I was in shock,” he said.
Same as it never was
Everything always went as planned for Claxton.
That’s not to say he had everything handed to him — from high school and through college, Claxton was considered to be among the best wrestlers in Ohio.
Entering the 2015-16 season, Claxton was poised to continue his wrestling success. This past March, he made it to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. The plan for this season was a national championship.
Then the NCAA appeal occurred.
In November, Claxton was deemed ineligible by college athletics’ governing body, which ruled that he’d used his four years of eligibility.
Though Claxton redshirted coming to Ohio, he wrestled in two competitions during 2012 at King University in Tennessee. The NCAA considered the two competitions a full year of eligibility.
“There’s guys that get sixth and seventh years, and how could I not get a fifth year?” Claxton said.
A highlight video from last year’s NCAA Tournament was the first mental image Claxton had after the announcement. It would be his last moments as a wrestler.
A Wrestler turned Mixed Martial Artist
Claxton wasn’t a wrestler anymore. Many people probably could’ve given up with ease or moved on to something else.
But another style of fighting was already in the back of Claxton’s mind — that style was mixed martial arts.
“MMA has always been an option,” Claxton said. “I was doing MMA while I was at OU.”
Prior to his appeal being denied, Claxton won his first MMA fight in 1:09 against Luke Nelson by a technical knockout, or TKO, at Caged Madness 37 in July.
Last November, following the decision, Claxton defeated Dominique Ayers by unanimous decision at Caged Madness 39 to increase his record to 2-0.
This is Claxton’s new dream to grasp.
“I just see it (MMA) as an opportunity to be great again,” Claxton said. “You have one dream you couldn’t quite accomplish because it was taken away, and so you put that aside, set new goals and get new dreams.”
Like any athlete, Claxton has a strong set of core values. He lives by in his athletic endeavors. As a budding MMA fighter, he said that dictating a fight and sticking to a game plan are essential.
Take Ronda Rousey, for example. Before losing to Holly Holms last November, Rousey was considered to be the face of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Claxton said a prime reason Rousey lost was because she didn’t have a solid game plan.
Claxton’s emphasis on good game plans transcends the cage, as he’s already started preparing to make a run at UFC.
Being the best … again
Claxton has nothing to lose.
He doesn’t wrestle, and he graduated from college with a degree in health and marketing.
Health and marketing may be the right avenue for some, but not for the former Ohio wrestler.
“No matter what, I am a competitor,” Claxton said. “Getting a chance to compete again is something I look forward to.”
As Claxton prepares to fight full time, he trains with Blackzilians, a professional mixed martial arts team in Boca Raton, Florida. UFC is part of mixed martial arts.
The group has produced several UFC fighters, including Rashad Evans, Anthony Johnson, Thiago Silva and Vitor Belfort.
On Jan. 13, Claxton officially signed with Blackzilians, moving forward in his goal to be a UFC champion.
In order for Claxton to maximize his game plan in the cage, he must not only be a wrestler. That helps, but he’s also working on jiu-jitsu and muay thai.
Jiu-jitsu is a fighting style comprised of competing against an armored opponent, using throws, pins and joint locks. Muay thai is predicated on utilizing stand-up striking and different clinching techniques.
“My game plan revolves around doing what I’m good at it,” Claxton said. “I’m a wrestler. If I’m fighting, I’m using jiu-jitsu.”
Claxton said he has completed some jiu-jitsu training in Medina. He’s originally from South Euclid.
He said his main goal is to learn how to defend jiu-jitsu, as he doesn’t want it to be part of his main game plan.
Although Claxton is going to a gym known for producing UFC fighters, he doesn’t know when he’ll get his first UFC fight.
“I’m just going to see what happens,” Claxton said. “I can’t put a time frame on progress I’m going to make. I have to be prepared to make my UFC debut, but it’s a little while off.”
Claxton also said the pedigree of Blackzilians would help him get a fight, as the gym has proven to produce UFC fighters.
“I’m happy for Tywan because he’s good at it,” Greenlee said. “He wants to have some success in MMA, so he’s got a great opportunity training with the Blackzilians in Florida.”
Claxton’s game plan for success in UFC is not toppling, but gaining leverage. From training at a high-quality gym, to working on various styles and overall execution, Claxton thinks he’s on the right path.
“The bigger picture for me is to be the best, and to be the UFC champion,” Claxton said. “I’m not worried about the bumps and the bruises.”
The former Ohio wrestler isn’t a wrestler anymore.
A new dream already has him in a fierce grapple — a grapple he is determined to win. Only this time, without someone saying he can’t compete.