MMA: Salisbury's Hosch finds a new venue
By David Shaw
SALISBURY — Willie Hosch has always had the tools to shine as a professional athlete.
Now the 28-year old Salisbury native finally has the chance — as an up-and-coming mixed martial arts performer.
“This,” he recently said, “is what I was born to do. I’ve always loved wrestling. It’s my passion.”
Hosch’s story braids heartbreak with glory, tragedy with triumph — and it’s worth a listen. A former state champion wrestler for Salisbury High, he’s spent the past decade meandering from outposts like William Penn University in Iowa to nearby Freightliner and Catawba College and even a brief stint as a record-setting running back for the semi-pro Rowan Rampage.
Along the way both fortune and misfortune have crossed his path, ultimately delivering him to a lively watering hole called Coyote Joe’s last Thursday night in Charlotte.
It was there the aggressive, high-octane world of MMA was introduced to Amer “Warhead” Hosch, a chisled 5-foot-9, 170-pound welterweight who looks like he’s been photo-shopped. He’s got the determined instincts of a contender and body of a ’68 Chevelle — slick and muscular — coupled with an ideal confluence of speed and power. Just for good measure, the guy drips intensity.
And now, after spending just 38 seconds in an octagon-shaped cage with 21-year old Daniel Acton, he’s got his first victory.
“It’s almost like I was preparing for this all my life,” Hosch said with a wolfish smile. “I was ready. I felt strong, fast and explosive.”
Apparently so. With UFC veterans Rodney Wallace and Jordan Rinaldi manning his corner, Hosch decided against trying to walk before he ran and quickly hit his stride. He took a punch in the mouth, then cornered his opponent and unleashed a left hook that caught, then dazed the 6-foot Acton.
“It was such a good feeling,” said Hosch, who’s as intimidating as a puppy outside the ring. “I was free. I could breath.The butterflies were gone. I felt like finally, I was right where I belonged.”
The paid crowd numbered close to 1,000 and included Carolina Panthers D’Angelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. It thundered its approval when Hosch proceeded to level Acton — also making his MMA debut — with a rapid-fire sequence of fist-on-face connections.
Then it was over, mercifully halted by the referee. The official criteria was “stoppage by strikes” — the equivalent of boxing’s TKO. All tolled, the introductions took longer than the bout. During a post-fight interview with a ring announcer, Hosch told the crowd he had dedicated the night to his hospitalized mother, the source of his inner strength.
Two days later Hosch was at ease, offering a battlefield re-enactment. “I did what I wanted to do,” he said. “I had a blueprint and I followed it. In this sport, you have to.”
Which begs the question: “what’s next for Warhead?” Every MMA fighter hopes to reach the big leagues — the Ultimate Fighting Championship — and reap its handsome monetary rewards.
“Right now it’s bigger than boxing, bigger than professional wrestling,” Hosch noted. “I know a guy who just lost a UFC match and he got $50,000.”
That story remains a script not-yet-written. Hosch realizes he’s still a raw, new-kid-on-the-block, but he’ll continue plying his trade as an amateur Friday night when he meets Travis Davidson in Lynchburg, Va.
“This guy’s had three or four fights,” said Hallie “Snake” Hair, Hosch’s instructor/trainer who works with a dozen fighters out of Royce Gracie Jui-Jitsu in Harrisburg. “So it should be a lot tougher for Willie. But with someone like him, he comes from a wrestling background and never stops working. It’s easy for me to push him to the next level.”
For now Hosch will follow his keen instincts. He hopes to fight twice next month, once in Key West, Fla. and later at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Then he’ll reassess his prospects and consider applying for professional status in June.
“Being in MMA has given me new life,” Hosch said. “It’s like I’ve come out of a cocoon. I’ve been working hard, busting my tail for months. I’ve been wanting to change my life — and this, finally, is the beginning.”