World champion Joe Warren returns
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - He's 33 years old, he hasn't wrestled a match in 2½ years and the Greco-Roman rules have changed since he last competed.
But Joe Warren is convinced he can still beat anybody in the World.
Known as "the baddest man on the planet" when he captured a World title in 2006 in Guangzhou, China, Warren plans to return to the mat this weekend for the Kit Carson Cup. The Greco-Roman event is scheduled for Saturday at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
"My goal is to win the Olympics in 2012 - it's the only thing in wrestling I haven't won," Warren said. "I think I would've won the Olympics in 2008, but now I'm training to win the next one."
Warren is scheduled to compete this weekend at 60 kg/132 lbs. He last competed at the 2007 U.S. World Team Trials before serving a two-year suspension.
"I'm excited to get back out there and compete," Warren said. "I need to get some of the rust off. I know I can still take anyone in the World down - it doesn't matter who I'm facing."
He has been competing in mixed martial arts, where he has been highly successful. He won his first two fights before dropping his last one.
Warren plans to compete in both wrestling and mixed martial arts.
"I am very happy to see Joe Warren competing again," U.S. National Greco-Roman Coach Steve Fraser said. "I think this great champion still has the skill and tenacity to be the best in the World at this sport. The challenge will be for Joe to put in enough training in Greco. He is currently trying to do both MMA and wrestling, and this presents a big challenge.
"If he was totally committed to Greco, there is no doubt he could beat everyone in the World once again. Trying to be the best in two different sports is going to be a challenge. Joe Warren has that great competitive spirit that we currently lack in the practice room. It's great to have him back."
The challenge of wrestling and fighting is one that Warren embraces.
"My plan was to win the Olympics in 2008 and start my fighting career after that, but things obviously worked out differently," he said. "I think you are going to see more guys doing both wrestling and fighting. There is no reason guys can't go win a 10-minute fight for 25 grand, and then train in wrestling to win the World Team Trials."
Warren would have been one of the gold-medal favorites at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.
"It was terrible, not having that opportunity," he said. "But I pushed right through it. I dealt with it and I moved on."
Even though he recently turned 33, Warren said his physical skills have not diminished.
"I think I'm physically stronger and quicker than I was when I won a World title in wrestling," he said. "Training and competing in mixed martial arts has made me more explosive in certain positions. Plus, I'm older and wiser now."
Warren and his wife, Christy, also are busy with their young family. They have an 18-month-old son, Xandr, and they are expecting again. Their daughter is due in early March.
Warren has spent time training in Greco at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
Warren could meet 2009 World silver medalist Dilshod Aripov of Uzbekistan at the Kit Carson Cup on Saturday.
The rules have changed since Warren last competed. Wrestlers are now on their feet for the first 90 seconds of a two-minute period.
"These rules are better for me now than the ones they used to have," he said. "It's pretty much an on-your-feet game in Greco now, and that's where I've been most successful. I'm going to take it one tournament at a time and see what happens. This weekend will be a great opportunity for me to measure where I'm at.
"I feel like I have a lot left to give to wrestling and MMA. I want to give wrestling one more shot."