If you’re heading to Atlantic City for CFFC 66 this weekend, you’ll want to pay special attention when BJ Young steps into the cage. Currently on a seven-fight winning streak, the undefeated “Rican Rebel” will be making his transition from dominant amateur champion to professional fighter with the intention of adding yet another victory to his impressive record.
What is the main attribute behind BJ’s great success? His coach chalks it up to pure grit. “He’s tough,” says current UFC featherweight and former lightweight champion Frankie “The Answer” Edgar. And if anyone knows the level of mental and physical toughness required to be an elite combat athlete, it’s Frankie.
We had BJ answer a few questions about the training and people involved in his martial arts journey before he makes his pro debut this Saturday.
Did you at any point have a different career plan, or had you known from the start that you wanted to be a professional fighter?
I always wanted to be a fighter. One of my goals was to be All-American in college so a good MMA team would pick me up. I specifically wanted to be on Frankie Edgar’s team, which I am currently on and have been since I finished school.
How did you get started in mixed martial arts, and what athletic skill set did you bring to the sport that has been helpful in your success?
I wanted to do MMA my whole life. I started wrestling at age 7…by about 14 or 15 knew I wanted to fight, and I made it my dream and goal to be a UFC champion. I [later] wrestled collegiately at the NCAA D2 level for Newberry College where I was a three-time NCAA All-American and two-time NCAA National Runner-up.
What is your favorite part of training at your gym, Nick Catone MMA?
I love being surrounded by the best fighters in the world—seeing their habits and work ethic, and learning from them every day about MMA and life. Frankie Edgar has been my biggest inspiration for many years and continues to be every day. He really has been a huge mentor and friend to me throughout this whole journey. I’m so thankful to have him in my corner.
Has anything surprised you in your MMA career so far? What have you learned from your amateur fights that you are applying to your pro debut preparation?
Nothing really surprised me, I knew a lot about MMA before starting it. Consistency in training in and out of fight camps is something that has helped me advance quickly in my ammy career, and I will continue to do that in my pro career.
What advice do you have for an amateur fighter who is considering turning pro?
Just to believe in themselves; if they think they are ready, then go for it.
What are you most looking forward to in your first professional fight?
I’m really excited about starting my pro career and getting closer and closer to the UFC—that’s the ultimate goal. Getting paid will be different too, and a plus.
Who are your biggest supporters, and how do they encourage you to perform your best?
My biggest support and motivation are my coaches and teammates. They really push me and get on me to train hard and never let me slack. They expect a lot out of me and it makes me work harder to make them proud. Also my family, friends, girlfriend, and sponsors all support me tons. I’m very grateful for every one of them and blessed to be on this journey.