If I go back about five years, I often spent my evenings in work listening to one of my podcasts to keep me focused while I worked on the sports desk in Lewistown, PA.
One of those podcasts was You’re Welcome, hosted by the “American Gangster,” UFC legend turned MMA personality Chael Sonnen (31-17-1).
Sonnen often talked about collegiate and international wrestling, which usually aren’t primary interests of mine.
I did listen often and long enough, though, to hear about a guy that Sonnen brought up almost every time: Tyrell Fortune (8-1).
Sonnen lives in Portland, Oregon, and Fortune is from Portland, Oregon, so if there was one fixture in MMA that would know about Fortune’s wrestling prowess, the American Gangster is it.
Fortune was the definition of a prospect.
He was a guy that you heard about before he put on MMA gloves for the first time.
The two-time Division II National champion was so well known from his collegiate wrestling days that he skipped the regional MMA circuits altogether and signed with Bellator on August 19, 2015.
Like most highly-touted wrestlers to transition to MMA, he started to pile up wins in Bellator.
He debuted on November 4, 2016, and beat the also-debuting Cody Miskell (0-1) by ground and pound, then added two more wins to make him 3-0 after six months in the promotion.
Like most prospects, it was a gradual build-up for Fortune.
He took Rudy Schaffroth’s (6-2) then-undefeated record in August of 2019 to improve to 6-0 and added another win in November of last year to move to 8-0.
Then came the defining moment for any fighter: Fortune took a sizable jump up in competition. The wrestling standout signed to fight UFC veteran Timothy Johnson (14-6) at Bellator 239 in February.
Johnson is a grizzled veteran, both in stature and experience.
The Minnesotan has been around the block quite a few times as a professional MMA fighter, and also had a DII wrestling background at Minnesota State. He fought seven times in the UFC, including contenders like Alexander Volkov (31-8).
Fortune was instilled by oddsmakers as a -700 favorite, expected to add the biggest name yet to his resume and move to 9-0.
No one told Tim Johnson.
Johnson did what he always does; he barreled forward, hit Fortune with a massive hook that sent him to the ground, and took his undefeated record.
Now, the question for Fortune is the same as with every prospect faced with a similar situation, what does he do and where does he go after suffering his first career loss?
For starters, Fortune appears to have reignited his competitive fire, looking to be in phenomenal shape ahead of his upcoming bout.
He posted a picture to his Instagram account showing his dramatic transformation:
View this post on Instagram
Camp is almost over and the fight is only a couple weeks away. I want to thank @neuroforceone and my trainer Andre Hicks for all the work and focus they have put in to getting me ready for this fight. Teaming up with you guys was the best decision I could’ve made. Crazy thing is too all this progress was without being on a diet. Now I’m teaming up with @frans_kitchen to take my body to another level. Which is all my possible by the best sponsor/team from @tgcnetwork_corp again I want to thank you guys for everything you do for me. From the start you guys have always been willing to go over and beyond to help me and my family and I appreciate everything you guys continue to do. Thank you everyone 💯💯💯💯💯💯✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾🦾🦾🦾🦾🦾🦾🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥
The body change could signal the arrival of a better, more focused Tyrell Fortune, one who learned from the loss to Johnson and is prepared to return to the win column.
We’ll find out on September 11, when Fortune fights UFC, Bellator, and PFL veteran Jack May (11-6), who is coming off a bare-knuckle boxing loss to fellow UFC veteran turned bare-knuckle champion Mark Godbeer (13-5).