High school wrestling standout is now a top coach with Bellator, UFC champs to prove it
Coral Springs High School formal wrestling star Eric Albarracin has traveled the world, served in the U.S. military, taught a new breed of hand-to-hand combat, and trained some of the best MMA fighters in wrestling.
"He brings a lot of experience, a lot of good energy and a very good attitude towards the champion," said Paulo Costa, UFC middleweight division. "He's very smart at wrestling and will help you develop your wrestling skills - defending yourself on shoots, your shoots on someone, takedowns."
Albarracin, an Arizona State University wrestling alum, is a U.S. military veteran who also competed for the U.S. Army in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling.
Former Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestler Eric Albarracin competed for the US Army wrestling team.
Albarracin won silver medals in the Freestyle 54kg division at the Pan American Championships and the 2000 Military World Wrestling Championships. He is a seven-time armed forces champion and a three-time national champion.
He also went 6-0 in his Greco-Roman and freestyle games to lead the All-Army wrestling team to its sixth consecutive Armed Forces Wrestling Championship. He opened each session of the two-day tournament with victories in the 121-pound weight class that led the Army to triumph over the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy.
Albarracin served as a captain in the U.S. Army in the Individual Readiness Training Company. He was the officer in charge of modern army fighters (the army's new hand-to-hand combat system).
His father, Edilberto Javier Albarracin Rincon, was born in Boyaca, Colombia and lived in Bogota for 30 years before moving to Scottsdale, Arizona. His father longed for military service but never got the opportunity.
Eric did it proudly, however, and his father proudly pinned him (not on the mat, but) during the U.S. Army Captain's ceremony. This moment is important and emotional for both of them.
He spends a lot of time training wrestling in Team Nogueira in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and in Fight Ready in Scotsdale, Arizona. His list of fighters reads like a who's who of the best MMA fighters. The outstanding group includes the talented Paulo Costa, the Korean zombie Chan Sung Jung, the two-part Bellator champion Patricio "Pitbull" Freire and the former two-part UFC champion and Olympic champion Henry Cejudo.
Trainer Eric Albarracin with MMA master Henry Cejudo (left) and Patricio "Pitbull" Freire.
Albarracin, known as Captain Americas, helped fighters win 12 championships in both UFC and Bellator together. With his white glasses he is recognized all over the world.
Trainer Eric Albarracin, a U.S. Army Captain.
In Part 1 of my audio interview with Coach Albarracin, he talks about UFC, Paulo Costa, Coral Springs High School, the U.S. Army, his father, Arizona State University, Henry Cejudo, Dave Batista, wrestling, and more.
In South Florida, Albarracin began his wrestling career at Coral Springs High School under the tutelage of trainers Dan Jacob and Hank Johnson. Jacob helped him attend a major wrestling camp in Minnesota and land at Arizona State University.
Jacob said, “Eric works at every stage of his life. No matter what he chooses, he will work out the competition. He was undersized [80 pounds] when he started wrestling in high school, but he has all worked to become one of the best.
“He was 8-8 in his second season, but as he got bigger and worked harder, he got better. He thinks of a big picture instead of a small picture all the time. He's the best guy that comes out of our room. Pound for pound, not much better than him. "
Jacob began training at Coral Springs High School in 1988 and continues to do so today. His Colts collected 557 wins, 15 district titles and three regional championships.
Jacob added, “Eric is calm, level headed, controls his emotions, and works hard. He was always like that and laid the foundation for the future.
“He was out for a walk in Arizona state and he just tried to do more than anyone else there, and he did it. He hit people with scholarships. He's a very accomplished wrestler, an Olympic alternative.
“He's a very calculating person, the way he markets himself and trains the boys. He was instrumental in helping Henry Cejudo win gold at the Olympics. It's very popular in Brazil; Everyone there wants them to train them. As a coach and a friend, I couldn't be more proud to see the success he has.
“The kind of person he is when he comes to visit, he makes a mini-clinic for free. That's the guy he is. He's a great guy and we always keep in touch. "
Coach Hank Johnson said, “In my senior year, we were both wrestlers for Coral Srpings High School. Eric was too short for his weight class, probably all 80 pounds. He may have been small, but his curiosity about how the sport worked was tremendous. There was a tenacity and passion. He always wanted to learn the next step or perfect the one he had.
“In my first year as a coach for Coral Springs High School, I also had to be a technical assistant to Eric. Eric was still hungry and had grown into his weight class. He had to move, but even in his senior year at school, Eric was still learning about the sport. If he saw someone hit something he didn't know, he would bother him until he taught him to.
“Eric was tenacious in every way, rarely apologizing, and never afraid to do the work it took to take him to the next level. After graduating from CSHS, he joined the wrestling team at Arizona State University, where his same traits only grew and caught the attention of his coaches there.
“Eric returned to the [CSHS Wrestling] room from time to time to share with the team. I remember that every time he came back, I felt less and less keen to crush with him. He was no longer the 80 pound kid I first met, but was on his way to becoming a true elite.
“It was a great honor to see Eric grow to where he is now. He's worked hard for everything. I think it's those qualities of the hungry 80 pound kid that are fighting for a place on the team that are helped him get to where he is today. "
A pro-wrestling fan who grew up in New York, Arizona, and South Florida, he names The Rock, "The Four Horsemen," Koko B. Ware, Hulk Hogan, "The British Bulldogs," Davey Boy Smith, and the Dynamite Kid as being his favorites. He quickly learned that steel chairs, eye knives, punches, drop kicks, and low punches were not allowed in Jacob's CSHS wrestling room. That was his eye-opening introduction to amateur wrestling.
A dedicated workhorse, he finished runner-up at FHSAA at £ 103 and was defeated by (Davie) Western High School's rival Lee Pritts. They're friends now, and Pritts is an assistant coach in the state of Arizona.
What an interesting career / journey for this well-traveled and successful American who also has Colombian and Puerto Rican roots.
Albarracin began his career in the US Army alongside WWE Superstar and the pre-eminent Bellator MMA fighter Bobby Lashley. He met Olympic gold medalist and WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle (and was with Angle in the Olympics). He knows the MMA legend, the pro wrestling star and ASU colleague Dan "The Beast" Severn. He worked with British Bulldog son Davey Boy Smith Jr. while training WWE alum Dave Batista for Batista's first and only MMA fight (one win).
He was a trainer at UFCs The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 2, 3, 4 and UFCs The Ultimate Fighter 24.
In part 2 of my audio interview with Coach Albarracin, he talks about Henry Cejudo, Weight Loss, Patricio "Pitbull" Freire, Stephan Bonnar, Bobby Lashley, Conor McGregor, Fight Ready, CTE and more.
Albarracin's alternative training system, Champion By Design (CBD), has helped many martial artists and wrestlers. CBD focuses on nutrition, mental resilience, health, smart training, adequate rest, linguistics, marketing, branding, ideals of self-help, stem cell research, and more.
Whether it is Ric Flair's "Woooo" or Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Prepare To Be Erased", Albarracin gives his fighters confidence, speaks the conversation and goes the way.
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His fighters compete on big maps in October.
Flyweight Bruno "Bulldog" Silva against Tagir Ulanbekov during UFC Fight Night on October 10th.
Lightweight Patricky "Pitbull" Freire and bantamweight Leandro "Alter" Higo during Bellator 249 on October 15th.
Trainer Albarracin socially acceptable
UFC fighter Paulo Costa (left) with coach Eric Albarracin and his white glasses.
Coach Eric Albarracin (left) and UFC Champion and Olympic Champion Henry Cejudo.
Trainer Eric Albarracin at The ESPYS.
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