When Jeff Bedard stepped down as head wrestling coach at Wesleyan in April, it was to allow him to spend more time training full time for a professional mixed martial arts career.
On Sunday Bedard will get his first fight as full-time MMA fighter in World Extreme Cagefighting, a mixed martial arts organization similar to the popular Ultimate Fighting Championship, at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Bedard will fight Mike French in a 135-pound match on a fight card that will be televised on the Versus network at 9 p.m.
"You don't want to get your butt kicked on national TV," Bedard said. "I'm sure I'll have some nerves, but it will all go away once the fight starts. I've competed in front of large crowds before, so it shouldn't be a problem."
The 37-year-old Bedard was named the Daily Post's Coach of the Year this season after leading the Wolves to the dual state championship and a runner-up finish at the traditional tournament.
Bedard stepped down as head wrestling coach in April and since then has been training full-time five to six days a week for his fight with French on Sunday.
An accomplished wrestler in high school and college, Bedard has been working on other facets of MMA with Paul Creighton at Creighton's Mixed Martial Arts in Duluth.
"I've been working on my boxing a lot and some submissions, just trying to add a couple of things," Bedard said.
In addition to Creighton, Bedard has also been training with UFC fighter Diego Saraiva, Stephen Ledbetter and Bryan Bowles, who will fight Charlie Valencia on Sunday on the same fight card as Bedard.
"I've spent more time boxing than anything else," Bedard said. "If he's able to stop the takedown, then it will be stand-up most of the time."
The tough training partners should have Bedard prepared for French, who wrestled collegiately at Eastern Illinois. French has a 7-8 MMA record with his most recent fight a unanimous decision loss to Antonio Banuelos in January.
Bedard defeated Banuelos in his first professional fight back in 2002, but it's hard to draw comparisons between the two since it's been so long.
"It's kind of hard to tell from back then," Bedard said. "That was my first fight and I didn't know much about the sport."
Since his first win over Banuelos nearly five years ago, Bedard has not lost. He has a perfect 9-0 MMA record but has not fought since August of last year.
"We'll get after it and hopefully things will go well," Bedard said.