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Westin Wilson poses for a portrait during a UFC photo session on June 28, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Westin Wilson Is Feeling 'Pure Excitement' Ahead Of Debut Fight

UFC Debutant Westin Wilson Sees A Lifelong Dream Come True When He Makes His First UFC Walk At UFC Fight Night: Strickland vs Magomedov

Westin Wilson has seen worse than Joanderson Brito.

Not that Brito isn’t a top-level featherweight who Wilson will face in his short notice UFC debut on Saturday, but when the 34-year-old newcomer was doing Mormon missionary work in upstate New York back when he wasn’t even old enough to drink, let’s just say not everyone was happy to see him.

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“It was physically draining,” said Wilson. “But more than that, it was emotionally and mentally just pushing yourself every day. I had more crazy stuff happen on my mission than I had the rest of my life. I had guns pulled on me, I had stuff thrown at me. And the whole time you just got to keep a smile on your face. But I look back and I'm like, ‘Man, that was a fun time. A 19-year-old kid with another missionary companion, and you have literally no worries in the world, no financial worries, no school worries, nothing. You're just worried about people and making their lives better. It wasn't even pushing religion on them. My whole philosophy was just to go in and help as many people as I could. We'd wake up at 6am, go to sleep at 10pm and from the moment I was awake to the moment I slept, I was just out helping people as much as I possibly could.”

Yeah, Wilson is a good guy, unbothered by whatever he may face on fight night, and it’s easy to have that attitude when you’ve been in a situation where you occasionally had to stand on the side of the door you just knocked on because there are bullet holes in it.

Did I mention that Wilson also spent two of his teenage years in Brazil when his father was stationed there as a DEA agent? That didn’t go over well with him, especially with his high school wrestling career suddenly put on stop, but he found a new home with Brazilian Top Team Sao Paulo.

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“They were very skeptical of me when I first got there,” said Wilson of his early days in the gym. “I didn't speak any Portuguese; I didn't really care to speak any Portuguese at the time. And I was just bummed out because that was the year that my wrestling team, we were a Top 30 team in the nation for high school, we won States that year. All my friends were getting scholarships to go wrestle. And here I was having to repeat my junior year and getting left behind. And so, it (training) became my saving grace out there to where I really enjoyed living in Brazil. And I enjoyed the people and the culture, and I realized I didn't have to speak the language to understand fighting. Fighting's its own language. And the people I trained with would literally give me the shirt off their back and vice versa. And so, I think after the first month of me just coming in and them realizing, ‘Hey, this kid's not going to leave,’ they ended up really liking me and I took every beating they gave me and kept coming back.” 

That’s been the story of Wilson’s pro MMA career thus far. There have been ups, downs and everything in between, but he keeps coming back, all with the goal in mind of getting to the UFC. 

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Now he’s here.

“It's something I've worked towards since I was a freshman in high school,” he said. “And, as you know, I'm a bit older, so almost 20 years. And it (getting signed) was one of those moments where I was like, ‘Man, am I dreaming? Is this actually happening?’ And then it was like, ‘All right, well I'm ready for it. It's just another fight.’ And that's what my coaches were saying. It's just another fight. We're good. And then it starts dawning on you – ‘Oh wait, this is a UFC fight in front of people.’ (Laughs) You see some hate online about me getting signed, and that put me into freaking panic attacks and everything else. But we’ve got everything all under control. We're good and we're ready to go. So now it's all just pure excitement. I’ve just got to perform and do what I do best. I'm going to go out there and have fun.”

And frankly, despite what the naysayers have to put out on social media, Wilson has paid his dues to get here. Owner of a 16-7 pro record with all wins coming via knockout or submission, Wilson may not have an array of former UFC fighters on that slate, but what he hasn’t done on fight night has been done in the gym, where he has worked with the likes of Josh Burkman, Clay Collard, Court McGee, Raymond Daniels, Kelvin Gastelum, Alex Perez and Christos Giagos. And for the last three-and-a-half years, he’s called Simpsonville, South Carolina home, where he has spent time battling it out with the likes of Stephen Thompson, Chris Weidman and Chase Hooper.

Ready? Yeah, Wilson is ready.

From being the American in a Brazilian jiu-jitsu academy and a missionary in New York, to the father of three and software company owner who still knows what a $200 payday looks like, he’s got 15 minutes or less to show Brito just what role life experience plays in a fight. And if that’s the deciding factor, maybe Wilson isn’t the underdog after all.

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UFC Fight Night: Strickland vs Magomedov took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 1, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!