Odie Delaney, now 30, began wrestling at the age of 16 — starting his path while in high school in 2004. In fact, it was at the South Walton High School in the Florida Panhandle where his athletic journey really took off.
Delaney had moved to Florida with his mother after his parents had divorced. There he would become the small school’s first state champion in any sport, and first All-American placing 5th in the country at senior nationals. With those high school accomplishments, Odie Delaney was able to earn a scholarship to a prestigious Military Academy in South Carolina, The Citadel. While competing as a Division 1 wrestler for The Citadel, Delaney was grateful to attain four Southern Conference championships and ultimately became a Division I All-American. After graduation, he was honored as the epitome of The Citadel’s “Odie Delaney Most Determined Award”, and most recently was inducted into The Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame.
We recently caught up with Delaney, who in a short time has become a prospect to watch in MMA.
“I grew up in a small town in Rural, Alaska. As a young man, I was brutally bullied, partly for my long goofy frame, and partly because of my strong Christian faith. I was bigger than many in my class, so other kids who were being bullied often looked to me for help. I did what I could but was often outnumbered. When middle school wrestling was available to me I jumped at the opportunity. I was told wrestling would be the end of bullies for me and my friends. That ended up being true. As I progressed in the sport, so did my love for it, and I have never been able to stop. I have found it not only made me strong against bullies but developed my character in a way that made me strong as a man, in all aspects of life.”
Although Delaney got into the sport to stop bullying, he fell in love with wrestling and was all-in from the start. And as it did stop the bullying, it became a great athletic decision. One that would result in Delaney earning many wonderful accolades.
“The biggest high of my wrestling career was becoming a Division 1 All-American. It took five long years of hard work. Five hard years of balancing academics, athletics, and duty In one of the toughest military schools in the country. That year many heavyweights were coming off of an Olympic Redshirt year, so there were 12 returning D-1 All Americans in my bracket at the NCAA finals. I lost an early match to who would become the NCAA Champion that year. I had a long hard fight back through the consolation brackets. To become an All-American I had to beat the number 4 ranked heavyweight in the country, someone who had beaten me soundly before. That victory was easily my biggest high.”
For Delaney, wrestling ultimately ended for him in college. He was able to obtain his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and became a law enforcement officer as he was working to obtain his master’s degree.
“Unfortunately around the same time I completed my master’s degree I was involved in a mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. The incident caused me to have massive panic attacks that I could never really get over. The panic attacks combined with the medication I had to take to control them made a career in law enforcement an impossibility. All of my career plans outside of athletics came to a dead end.”
Though all hope seemed lost, the old saying goes “When one road ends another begins.”
“I prayed long and hard about what to do next, hoping God had a plan for me. MMA was the path that he showed me. Ultimately if I wasn’t going to be able to help the world in uniform, I could at least use my athletic skills to gain a platform and be an example for young people, spreading the hope I found in Jesus.”
Fast forward from the first time Delaney put on a wrestling singlet as a kid to 15 years later, putting on a pair of four-ounce MMA gloves. Having made the jump from wrestling to MMA Delaney is already 2-0 as a pro after going 2-0 as an amateur. Starting his MMA journey in January of 2019 Delaney cranked out those four fights in the span of ten months.
“At first the transition to MMA from wrestling was difficult, I won’t lie about that. Wrestling and fighting are very different and apply different strategies. ATT made the transition a lot easier on me, however. They know how to take a wrestler’s work ethic and mental toughness and turn them into a fighter. I have also fallen in love with BJJ and have trained in it extensively. Recently I obtained an IBJJF Pan-American championship in the No-Gi HWT blue belt division. (Currently purple).”
Training out of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida has really molded Odie Delaney into the fighter he is today. There, he gets to train with some of the greatest the sport has to offer, and also follow in the footsteps of other top-tier wrestlers who have walked across that mat over the years.
“I have found my permanent gym at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida. The gym hosts fantastic world-class coaches and fighters. The MMA champion King Mo (Muhammed Lawal) and I work closely together along with wrestling heavyweight legend Steve Mocco and striking coaches Steve Bruno, and Billy Padden. I have been happy to learn from and train with some of the toughest heavyweights in the fight game including Andrei Arlovski, Junior dos Santos, Greg Hardy, and Philipe Lins. Also training with other up and comers like Said Sowma.”
As stated above, Delaney only fought two amateur fights before going pro seven months later. Although already 30-years-old, Delaney is young for a heavyweight in mixed martial arts. Also, he’s not just getting started in combat athletics as he has plenty of wrestling and BJJ experience. He trains with some of the best guys in the world and believes he’s ready for the high level right now.
“I went pro quickly because I didn’t believe I would get the competition I needed in the amateur environment. I now believe the competition I need is with a professional organization like ONE Championship. I am ready and hungry for that competition. I have a dream to fight for ONE Championship. I believe in the vision of the promotion, Chatri Sityodtong, and Matt Hume. I believe in a special bond between honor and martial arts as they seem to and I believe fight promotions should hold themselves to a higher standard as ONE Championship does.”
His wrestling has transitioned quite well into his MMA career. In his four fights to date, Delaney has taken no time grounding his opponents and getting the job done pretty quickly. And making it look easy. Over time Delaney is going find it harder and harder to take opponents down as he progresses up the ranks, of course. “The Bad Lad” however, while he hasn’t shown much of his striking just yet, is confident if he ever needs too.
“From the moment I stepped into American Top Team striking has been the main focus. Learning and sparing with some of the names mentioned above has turned me into a much more complete martial artist. I have no problems with guys testing my hands, they will be in for a rude awakening.”
Delaney hasn’t even been in the sport of MMA for a year and is already one of the better, if underrated heavyweight prospects. The future is bright for the former Division 1 All-American wrestler.
“In three years I’m hopefully living and training here in Coconut Creek, Florida and competing for One Championship, that’s the dream. At that time I also plan on being in the top five of the organization and hopefully competing for a championship.”
Delaney has gone through a lot of hardships since a young age getting bullied, being a victim in the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, and having his career in law enforcement shut down. All that didn’t stop Delaney from pushing forward and finding a career path. Everything happens for a reason and Mr. Delaney wouldn’t change it for a bit.
“I would change absolutely nothing. I feel like as long as I continue to listen to God’s plan, my path is inevitable. I feel like every choice I’ve made in the past, good or bad, is now represented in sum as the man I am today, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”