“I had the good fortune to meet Daniel Cormier for the first time last year and to come out to AKA and train with Islam (Makhachev) before one of his fights,” O’Connor said. “I met Khabib (Nurmagomedov) and all the other guys training there and it was really cool. I’m in constant contact with DC now.
The trip to Northern California wasn’t just a vacation and a chance for O’Connor to rub shoulders with famous fighters; between an interest in an MMA career after graduation and spending time on the mat in one of MMA’s busiest wrestling gyms, O’Connor is gearing up for his biggest season yet, as well as a post-wrestling career path.
“My biggest draw to AKA was that I’m going to go out there and compete against the best in the world and the best that’s ever done it,” O’Connor said. “You really can’t get that experience anywhere else in the world. These guys have the same experience as me, they have done Sambo all their life and they have struggled so much. They’re also top wrestlers, and I’d say that’s the closest style to what I want to adapt my MMA style to, so if I go out and train with these guys, I’m doing exactly the same thing. they did.
Adventure in the world of MMA will not be an instant jump, even if the perfect gym and management system has been found. O’Connor plans to take a year off from competition to train wrestling and slowly start dipping his toes in the mixed martial arts water. He may be ahead of the pack with his wrestling skills and AKA connections, but the 157-pounder has no interest in seeing the rise to the top of the premier MMA organization as a race.