From the middle of nowhere to headlining shows: The rise of Logan Storley

May 8, 2021: Four-time All-America Gophers wrestler Logan Storley faces the biggest moment of his athletic career, an interim title bout at Bellator 281 against Michael “Venom” Page.

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Logan Storley had just won the biggest professional MMA bout of his career, his first-ever main event spot. Three weeks later, eating lunch with his agent, he got the news of stepping in for a potential life-changing fight.

Current Bellator MMA welterweight champion Yaroslav Amosov announced on March 23 that he will be serving his country in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war and withdrawing from his already set title fight.

The same day, after Storley’s agent, asked him if he wanted to replace Amosov. The decision, he recalled, was easy.

“I was like yeah, who, what, when? He said MVP [Michael “Venom” Page] and interim belt, for a title shot. “I said yep, I’m ready.”

The story almost seemed like it was from a movie. Storley, 13-1 in his professional MMA career, suffered his only defeat to Amosov in November of 2020. Now he would replace him in an interim title fight, with the chance to earn an opportunity to be crowned world champion while getting revenge for his only loss.

“At that point, I still didn’t know, Is this really going to happen?” Storley said. “I kinda believed it, but I didn’t. Maybe Tuesday or Wednesday night he called me, at that time I am thinking there is a 10% chance. All of a sudden, the next day it was probably a 30% chance, and then Friday it was 100% percent.”

That’s how Logan Storley came to face MVP for the Interim welterweight Bellator MMA championship in Page’s backyard of London, England. It has been a whirlwind for him, he said – from losing only one professional fight to now being on the doorsteps of MMA glory.

“They sent me the contract, we switched it a little bit and then Sunday morning I signed it and then Monday I started camp. Eight weeks out and right back in the swing of things,” Storley said.

Logan Storley was born in a small town, Roslyn, South Dakota. With a population of less than 100, he truly grew up in the middle of nowhere.

Roslyn’s schools did not have wrestling, so Storley quickly transferred to Webster, South Dakota a town of less than 2,000 most famously known for being the hometown of UFC and WWE superstar Brock Lesnar.

He quickly had success wrestling by the time he arrived in Webster, finding out that it was his sport of choice.

“Fifth, sixth-grade year, I was already wrestling in national tournaments and placing at national tournaments and had won state titles as a youth,” said Storley. “I knew that was by far my best sport when it came to competing with the best guys in the country at a young age.”

By the time he started high school academically, Storley was already one of the best wrestlers in the state of South Dakota. Competing in other sports, like football, soccer and track & field, he was able to do everything. He believed not focusing on just one made him an overall better athlete improving his hand-eye coordination and balance.

He saw serious results in his wrestling career, finishing his six years of varsity eligibility as a six-time SDHSAA titleholder and graduated from Webster High School with a record of 262 wins and 3 losses.

“As a seventh grader I won the state title, so I was 12, 13 years old and I had more state titles than most everyone else in the school, so as an eighth-grader, I was by far the most successful athlete in the school,” Storley said.

While Storley was becoming a dominant wrestler, a new combat sport was gaining popularity in the United States, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

MMA is a full-contact combat sport based on striking, grappling and ground fighting, incorporating techniques from various combat sports from around the world, such as wrestling, boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was created in 1993 as the premier professional MMA organization in the United States. Due to the brutal nature of the sport, the sport faced a lot of obstacles and it was until the mid-2000s that the sport gained serious popularity.

In early 2008, Webster, South Dakota native, and WWE superstar Brock Lesnar signed a one-fight contract with the UFC, piquing the interest of Storley and many others from the Webster area.

“When Brock [Lesnar] transitioned over, he came to the UFC and I would’ve been an eighth-grader,” Storley said. “When Brock started his run, coming from Webster, we all watched and knew Brock. All of a sudden it blew up and me and my friends would go to my Grandma’s and get the pay-per-views and we would have 30-40 people over.”

After losing his first right, Lesnar earned two consecutive victories, highlighted by a Heavyweight Championship victory over Randy Couture on Nov. 15, 2008. Watching in his Grandma’s house with his friends Storley became entranced in the sport.

“My freshman year of high school was when I really fell in love with the sport. [Josh] Koscheck, Diego Sanchez, all these guys were former college wrestlers, I was wrestling with college guys at that point, and I think I am a better wrestler than these guys in the UFC right now,” Storley said.

As a credentialed high school wrestler, Storley had his first amateur MMA fight when he was 16 years old. He quickly had two more amateur fights in his junior year of high school, while he was forming a relationship with his hometown legend Brock Lesnar.

“I got to spend a week training at Brock’s place when he was getting ready for the Randy Couture title fight [in 2008]. It was the biggest lesson for me just to see everyone around and the cameras and how a real training camp was run at that point,” Storley said.

Storley had fallen in love with the sport of MMA, but he was still one of the best wrestlers in the country. In 2009, he won the Fargo National Freestyle tournament opening the door for a long collegiate career in front of him.

Brock Lesnar was an NCAA Division I Heavyweight Champion wrestler at the University of Minnesota before his professional career, so it made sense for Storley to follow in his footsteps.

He did just that by committing to the Gophers out of high school, beginning his collegiate career. Coming from a town of fewer than 2,000 people, going to college in the Twin Cities would seem intimidating for anyone.

The transition was quick for Storley. Minnesota was ranked No. 3 in the country as a team for much of the season. He placed in sixth place individually in the 174-pound weight division at the NCAA Division I Championships, earning All-America honors, while the Gophers placed second nationally as a team.

He continued to find success throughout his four-year career placing fourth as a sophomore, third as a junior and once again fourth as a senior at the NCAA Division I Championships. As a four-time NCAA All-American Storley graduated in 2015 with a 119-27 record.

“I knew going in freshman year of college, the biggest thing was these four years doing whatever I could to be a national champ, be a four-time All-American,” Storley said. “When that’s done I knew I wanted to go fight [MMA], I knew I didn’t wanna wrestle afterward, it was hard to put the [wrestling] shoes down and move on, but I was so excited watching training camps and fights on YouTube and I was like, I want to be doing that.”

Storley knew that a desk job was not for him and he wanted to become a professional MMA fighter. His family had been around wrestling and combat sports, so they were on board for Logan to follow his dream.

He began his professional career on the regional scene only a few months after his collegiate wrestling career ended.

Fighting under the Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA) promotional banner, locally in the midwest, Storley had four wins in less than a year all coming by TKO.

“A lot of the guys say the same thing, why do we do this sometimes? Everybody gets those nerves. If you say you don’t I think you’re a liar,” Storley said. “You question a little bit, am I really about to do this? But once you get into the cage, you’re like this is why, but it’s kinda crazy what we do.”

On April 29, 2017, Storley had a step up in competition, fighting under the Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) promotional banner. He defeated Andres Murray via TKO and quickly amassed a 5-0 professional record just over two full years removed from his wrestling career.

“It’s working your way up, it’s kinda like baseball,” Storley said. “You start lower and until you make it to the league, it’s a grind, it’s tough and you’re not making much money right away. One bad fight and you lose, it might take you another year to get there.”

Storley was fortunate enough not to lose on his way up the ranks. He signed with Bellator MMA just over two years removed from graduating from the University of Minnesota.

“His improvement within only a few years was remarkable to see in such a short period,” Storley’s head training coach Henri Hooft said.

In the sport of MMA, there are four major promotions. The UFC is widely considered the biggest and most popular, but Bellator MMA, Professional Fighters League (PFL) and ONE Championship are also home to some of the best fighters in the sport.

Each promotion signs professional fighters to contracts, where they are only allowed to fight in their own events, almost a professional basketball player is only allowed to play for the team they’re signed to.

Now signed to Bellator MMA, Storley was able to compete against some of the best fighters in the world. He found early success in the promotion, racking up six consecutive wins, three by TKO and three by decision.

At Bellator 252 on Nov. 20, 2020, Storley faced his first major test against undefeated prospect Yaroslav Amosov. The fight went the full 15 minutes, and Storley suffered a split decision loss, that one judge scored the fight for him and two for Amosov, his first as a professional.

“It was a split decision loss, a fight that I thought I did enough in. Nothing, but respect to him, he’s a competitor, he’s tough,” Storley said. 

Amosov is tough. His next fight was at Bellator 260 in July of the next year against welterweight champion Douglas Lima. Amosov put together a dominant performance, becoming the Bellator MMA welterweight champion.

Storley went toe-to-toe with the champion in his weight class, so he knew that he wasn’t too far away from his ultimate goal.

“He [Amosov] went and beat up Lima 50-45 it wasn’t a close fight, so I know where I am at. I want that redemption and I want the belt,” Storley said. “That’s why I got into the sport, to be the best in the world and to get the gold.”

Ten months after his first professional defeat, Storley got back on track with a victory over Dante Schiro. Next on Storley’s list of opponents was a fight against Nieman Gracie on Feb. 19 of this year, the first main event fight of his MMA career. 11-2 at the time Gracie was a serious test for Storley. In a back and forth brawl, Storley came out on top defeating Gracie by unanimous decision.

“After that fight, I was like I am one of the best guys in the world. That was a big confidence booster for me, standing toe-to-toe for 25 minutes, taking shots, getting elbows, being hurt for a little bit, that was kinda the coming-out party of who I am as a total fighter,” Storley said. “It was probably the biggest moment of my athletic career, kinda proving to myself and everyone else who I am.” 

On March 23 current Bellator MMA welterweight champion Yaroslav Amosov announced that he would withdraw from his scheduled title fight in May against Michael “Venom” Page.

“Like the rest of the world, we’ve been shocked by the tragic events in Ukraine and the thoughts of everyone at Bellator MMA are with Yaroslav and all the Ukrainian people during this time,” Bellator president Scott Coker said in a statement. “We wish he and his family the best and look forward to seeing him return safely to happier times, both inside and out of the Bellator cage.”

The May 13 event, was scheduled to take place in London, England the hometown of Page, so Bellator MMA actively looked for a replacement. About five weeks removed from defeating Gracie, Logan Storley seemed to make the most sense as a replacement.

Logan Storley was offered an interim title fight on May 13 in London England. The interim tag gives the winner of the fight the rightful opportunity to challenge the current champion Amosov for the undisputed title when he is ready to return.

After Storley’s agent delivered him the news of the offer over lunch, the decision was easy for him.

“When I wrestled, I wrestled 35 matches, you’re competing every weekend, two or three times. If I don’t fight for six months, I only have 15 minutes of doing my sport, what I am trying to be the best in the world at,” Storley said. “For me, I am pretty happy, I am back in [training] camp and I get to compete again.”

Like any other sport, MMA is a full-time job and Storley didn’t even have to think twice about accepting the opportunity of a lifetime. After about five weeks off, Storley was right back into full training camp.

“We do 8-10 weeks. Monday through Friday are two workouts a day. You come home eat recover, all of a sudden it’s 12 o’clock and then you hang out from one to five, then it’s back in the car, getting to the gym at 5:30 [P.M.], then you’re getting an hour and a half workout in. By the time you get home eat and recover, it’s 8;30 [P.M] and that’s your day,” Storley said.

Fully entrenched in training camp for his fight, Storley is fully committed to the grind and he has his sole focus on defeating MVP.

Storley’s upcoming opponent, MVP is one of the most exciting fighters in the sport of MMA. With a kickboxing background, he has delivered some of the best highlight knockouts of all time.

The Roslyn, South Dakota native now has to travel to Page’s hometown of London, England and fight the 20-1 fighter at the SSE Arena in front of 12,500 people.

“It’s kinda the most bizarre feeling in the world, walking into an arena filled with 10-15,000 people to go fight another human being,” Storley said. “That takes a while to kinda get natural to you.”

MVP is one of the most talented strikers in the sport of MMA and by far the most credentialed that Storley has faced in his career, but he is not scared of the challenge.

“MVP, we’ve seen some of his knees, or he smashed [Derek Anderson’s] skull, he’s super-fast he is all of these things and all of these guys that I have wrestled, he’s this he’s that,” Storley said. “None of those things, especially in fighting really worry me.”

Replacing Amosov, the only fighter that Storley has lost to, for the biggest fight of his MMA career, seems straight out of a movie and to be matched up against a fighter of MVP’s skill level, is something that most people would be terrified of.

“It’s truly just another workday for me, that’s kinda how I have to look at it,” Storley said.”

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