American Top Team coach Ricardo Liborio has high praise for former NCAA champion wrestler Bubba Jenkins.
“Bubba is a talent,” Liborio told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Cheap Seats” show. “Bubba is the complete package. He’s one of those guys that are not just naturally talented, naturally gifted, but this kid is sharp. He can talk. He loves the cameras. He behaves very well. He’s a very interesting character. He’s one of those guys that you’re going to love him or you’re going to hate him, but you’re going to know who he is.”
Jenkins won the 2011 NCAA championship at 157 pounds for Arizona State University. He’s made a quick transition to MMA, scoring three first-round victories while developing his game under Liborio’s tutelage at ATT.
“What he’s doing now is just really getting more … knowledge and tools to bring to his arsenal, getting the striking together,” Liborio said. “I think he’s a natural grappler. He’s the kind of guy that, man, he can train with some really good grapplers and he does very well. Very, very well. He’s one of those guys that you teach him something, [and] he’s already doing it in training. He likes the fancy stuff. He likes to try things. He’s custom made to be a superstar.”
Of course, Liborio said Jenkins still has to put in years of work to achieve his potential. The 25-year-old recently signed a deal with Bellator, which should give him the opportunity to gain plenty of experience.
“Bellator’s going to be a perfect place for him to actually build up, to get to UFC level,” Liborio said. “Of course he could go and fight in the UFC right now. He probably could win a lot of the fights, but if you go to the UFC, you’ve got to go to stay. You can’t go there just to stop by. Especially right now, we all know everybody wants to go to the UFC; the key is to stay in the UFC. The key is to have enough knowledge of MMA that you can be well rounded enough to never get out of there. You make that be your career.”
Some fighters -- Eddie Alvarez being the latest example -- have encountered trouble when trying to move from Bellator to the UFC. Liborio isn’t worried about that with Jenkins, though.
“Even if there’s four, five years in his contract, if he goes that way, now he’s still young enough to step up in his career,” Liborio said. “I believe Bellator, they have some very deep-pockets people behind them that can match a lot of the proposals to go to the UFC. … The UFC is the major league. There’s no doubt about it, but where he is in his career right now, I think Bellator’s going to be great for him. Not just the quality of the fighters but also the intensity. Those guys, they have fights every week. … I think that Bubba can really create a character over there, create a character and [if the time comes to move on], if this is the case, he can make a great deal.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:02:02).