Mark Ellis, 2009 NCAA Division I heavyweight champ from the University of Missouri, has officially launched his MMA (mixed martial arts) career by signing a management deal with Zinkin Entertainment, and will be training with American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose, California.
At AKA, Ellis will be joining fellow former NCAA All-American wrestlers Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez, who is expected to challenge Brock Lesnar for his UFC heavyweight title later this year. Ellis is expected to be trained by Bob Cook, Javier Mendez and Dave Camarillo.
Despite having participated in an NFL rookie mini-camp put on by the Cleveland Browns a couple months ago, Ellis admits he’s long been interested in an MMA career, thanks in large part to the post-collegiate success of former Missouri teammates Tyron Woodley and Ben Askren.
“Tyron approached me two years ago when I was a junior,” Ellis told Bryan Henderson of MMADiehards.com. “He sat me down and talked to me about fighting and what I wanted to do. I told him I wanted to fight and he talked to me about my options and what to look for and some things that he was experiencing as he was coming up in the fighting world.
“I was seeing they were having success and that he was gonna do alright and do well and I wanted to do it. Most recently, I’ve seen Ben have some success…every time I’ve (seen him fight), I was like, ‘Man, I can’t wait to do this, I can’t wait to fight’.”
A native of Overland Park, Kansas, Ellis wrestled at Raymore-Peculiar High School, where he won the 215-pound Missouri state title as a senior in 2005. At the University of Missouri-Columbia, Ellis was a four-time qualifier for the NCAA championships, winning the heavyweight crown as a junior in 2009 by defeating Konrad Dudziak of Duke in the finals, becoming only the second Missouri wrestler to win a national collegiate mat title (the first being Ben Askren). At the 2010 NCAAs, Ellis was knocked out of title contention by eventual champ David Zabriskie of Iowa State. The Missouri Tiger placed sixth in the heavyweight bracket this past March, earning NCAA All-American honors for the second straight year.
Various media reports list Mark Ellis’ height as 6’2″ or 6’3″. According to the official weigh-in sheets at the 2010 NCAAs, the Missouri senior tipped the scales at 247 pounds.
Ellis is the second top-ranked collegiate wrestler to commit to a career in MMA this week. On Monday, recent Ohio State grad Lance Palmer, 2010 NCAA finalist at 149 pounds, signed with MMA Incorporated and is training with Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male in California.
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MMADiehards.com: Mark Ellis the newest member of AKA stable
Heavy.com: Lance Palmer, Mark Ellis sign with MMA agencies
Scott Casber for Takedown Radio (TDR): July 20 audio interview with Mark Ellis
Zinkin Entertainment: Official website
American Kickboxing Academy: Official website
University of Missouri wrestling: Official bio for Mark Ellis
NCAA Heavyweight Champs 2 Yahoo group: Photos and info on champs from 2000-2010, including Mark Ellis
College Wrestling 101: Links to articles answering basic questions about wrestling, including rules, scoring, uniforms, more
Follow College Wrestling Examiner Mark Palmer on Twitter