Pat Downey’s wrestling career might have taken an unexpected turn, but MMA was always inevitable.
Downey (0-0 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), a former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler, was kicked off the Iowa State University wrestling team in 2017 for repeated violations of team rules and found himself in the midst of various other controversial incidents that impacted his career.
The 29-year-old is set for his professional MMA debut when he takes on promotional newcomer Keyes Nelson (0-3 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) on Friday’s Bellator 284 card at Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” Downey told MMA Junkie Radio. “But it’s easy to say that now in hindsight when you’re going through it. I’m like, ‘What the f*ck is happening?’ I’m losing my career, my life, my house, my insurance, my sponsors, my stipend, my ability to compete. They stacked the deck against me to make this Olympic team, which was a big goal of mine.”
He continued, “I always knew I was gonna fight. It was never a matter of if I’m gonna do MMA. For me it was about when I’m gonna do MMA. I wanted to do it on my terms with my accolades, have a successful career, finish my masters degree. I had this plan.”
Pat Downey, (Red), 86 kg Freestyle, US Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado, (Photo by Casey B. Gibson/SIPA USA via AP Images)
Despite Downey’s plans not panning out the way he expected, he’s ready to capitalize on his current opportunities, but he’s not ready to leave wrestling behind just yet.
“I can confidently say I’m back on my purpose, but there was a little weird, transitional phase there where I didn’t know if I was f*cking coming or going,” Downey said. “I didn’t know what was going on. My life was kind of up in a blender. I moved three times this past year, then my grandfather died, I crashed my car, a couple of near-death accidents back in Baltimore with some personal sh*t I’d rather not get into, but it’s been a hell of a past two years since hitting what some would call my peak. The wrestling world team, I didn’t lose for two years in this country, but that just seems to be the nature of my life. The highs and the lows, I’m on a roller coaster, it feels like.”
He continued, “The drive, the hunger, the chip on the shoulder, the feeling of unfulfillment, the actual ability, the opportunity I have to supersede what I did in wrestling. … I got some things in store too for these next Olympics, 2024. Don’t be surprised if you see me representing another country in Paris.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for Bellator 284.