By Michael Mack
Imagine walking through a narrow, dimly lit corridor with only a few of your closest friends following you. For a while you hear nothing but your own footsteps, but as you get closer to your destination, you hear the roar of a massive crowd.
You are led down a path to the center of an arena as a man pats you down and ushers you into a cage, where another man has been waiting for you. The door shuts, and it is only you and the other man, in an octagon, with thousands of people watching.
To many, this sounds like a bad dream, but to Rider graduate Nick Catone, it is reality. The native of Brick, N.J., is a professional fighter in the fast-rising Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
In his four UFC fights, he has won two and lost two. But if it weren’t for his experience in college, he never would have gotten there in the first place.
“Nick is the kind of kid that never forgets where he came from, and that means a lot,” said Rider’s associate head coach, John Hangey.
Catone, ’04, wrestled for five years, and in those five short years he accomplished a great deal. The former Bronc captured 100 career wins, was twice a conference champion and national qualifier, and set a Rider single-season record for take downs, while winning Rider’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2004.
“I would definitely not be fighting without my wrestling background at Rider,” Catone said. “The training you get during a Division I wrestling practice is unlike anything else.”
Catone is also currently a business owner. In September, he opened Nick Catone’s Mixed Martial Arts Academy in his hometown. Since then, the school has enrolled almost 200 students in less than six months.
Catone still gets help from some of his coaches at Rider.
“Jason Nase and John Hangey have both been a huge help, not only in my MMA career but in my life,” Catone said. “I would not be where I am in my life today without them.”
Both Nase and Hangey are coaches for the wrestling program at Rider. Nase also teaches wrestling at Catone’s academy.
“He’s unbelievably athletic, he’s as quick as they come and he’s as strong as an ox,” Hangey said. “Those three things usually equate to success in the type of sport that he’s playing.”
While Catone always loved wrestling, he never thought he would make the jump into professional fighting.
“To be honest, I always loved the sport but I never thought I would be doing the things I am today,” Catone said. “I’m fighting with the best of the best, and that’s something no one can ever take away from me.”
Catone credits a great deal of his success in and out of the cage to the experience he had as a wrestler and student at Rider. In fact, on his website www.nickcatone.com, on the left hand side, a reader will find the familiar Rider Bronc logo surrounded by a quote from Catone: “Without Rider Wrestling, I would not be where I am today.”