Gophers wrestlers Mitch McKee, Michael Blockhus finding success in MMA

A pair of former Gophers’ wrestling standouts are done with their days on the mat, and have exchanged their singlets for boxing gloves and head gear to venture into the world of mixed martial arts.

Mitch McKee and Michael Blockus now train in Florida with former Minnesota All-American wrester Logan Storley. McKee and Blockus will be at the Sanford Pentagon on Friday competing in the Legacy Fighting Alliance, one of the steps to ultimate get to UFC.

McKee, a former St. Michael-Albertville standout, was an All-American in 2019 and finished his Gophers’ career with 91 wins. After a run in wrestling at the U.S. Olympic Trials, he had his first MMA fight at Mystic Lake Casino in 2021. He got started after getting a call from Storley, and spending two weeks training with him.

It was either MMA, or get a job in the real world.

"This is what I thought was the best thing for me to keep competing at a high level, but also make it more of a career. This is my best career where I can stay athletic, and I always told myself if there’s an opportunity to keep doing athletic things and make money doing it and support my family, then I’m going to do it." McKee said. "I don’t want to look back when I’m 40 and regret not doing it."

McKee is 5-0 in MMA. He says a having a wrestling background creates a natural transition to the octagon.

"Coming from wrestling, we’ve been doing 1-on-1 competition our whole life. Once you get in that cage, it’s just you and the other guy," McKee said.

Blockus came to the Gophers after two seasons at Northern Iowa. He was an All-American in 2023, and went 21-8 in his redshirt senior season. He had his first MMA fight, a victory, in August of 2023. 

Like McKee, Blockus said MMA is the best way for him to stay competitive and try to make a living. He lives and trains with Storley in Florida.

"We’re competitors, so as long as you still have that drive to compete, might as well go after something that gets you excited to wake up every morning and go to work every single day," Blockus said. "MMA is one of those things, you’ve got to be a little crazy. We’re the most mentally tough sport out there."

Just like with every wrestling match, Blockus goes into the octagon with a chip on his shoulder regardless of his opponent.

"It relates to me like they have the audacity to get into a ring with us, we’re going to take that as a little offense going in, like they think they can beat us in a fight is a little disrespectful towards us," Blockus said. "I’m ready to compete and I’m going to go out there and put on a show. I’m going to make sure he knows that he messed up signing a contract and wanting to get into a ring with us."

The ultimate goal? A career at the UFC level, and a world championship.