Skin Disorder No Match For Jorgensen

Frank sent this in:

At its very finest, sport transcends winning or losing. It is about feeding and molding the human spirit, testing your limits, and charging forward when adversity is dumping on you like a hail storm. Sport can be shelter and sanctuary, as illustrated by Scott Jorgensen’s story. Wrestling didn’t cure Jorgensen’s chronic skin disorder, vitiligo, but his extraordinary success on the mat – including two high school state titles and three PAC-10 championships in college — elevated his confidence and helped him tune out the whispers of others who didn’t understand why his skin turned colors.

“It started in ninth grade. I noticed a small spot on my wrist and I didn’t think much of it,” Jorgensen said of his rare condition, which causes patches of his skin to lose their pigmentation. “My mom offered to take me to a doctor but I didn’t want to go. It kind of bothered me because I didn’t know how to explain it to people … and some people were ignorant. So I just involved myself with what I do best, which is wrestling, and I’ve always had lots of friends.

“It got to the point where I decided you’ll either accept me or you won’t and if it’s because of my skin then you’ve got bigger issues than I do. I just don’t care, it doesn’t bother me. It’s something that makes me who I am. It is me and it’s never hindered me in any way. It’s funny to see people talk about it.”

Jorgensen’s immersion in grappling has bolstered more than just his confidence – it also stockpiled his trophy stash and laid a firm foundation for his burgeoning MMA career. Few, if any, of the current crop of WEC bantamweights can match the wrestling accomplishments of Jorgensen, who joined the sport at a young age while growing up in a mobile home in southern Utah (his father was in the gold mining business). When Scott was 14 his family relocated to Alaska and he had the privilege of training under Lenny Zalesky, a former three-time All-American wrestler at Iowa who would later become head coach at the University of Cal-Davis and mentor, among others, Urijah Faber.

“I learned a lot of my work ethic from him (Zalesky) and the way he ran practices,” Jorgensen said. “Not every high school gets to go through Iowa Hawkeye-style practices, but I was fortunate enough to learn that. I used a fast-paced style and constant pressure and tried to rack up as many points as possible. It set the tone for my MMA training and how I fight.”

Twice in high school Jorgensen finished as state runner-up. Twice he won state titles – once in Alaska and another in Idaho after his family moved there. He turned down scholarships to wrestle for the University of Nebraska and the U.S. Naval Academy, opting to stay closer to home at Boise State University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, won three conference titles and on three different occasions finished Top 12 at the NCAA Division I national tournament. But he never won that final match that would cement the word “All-American” as part of his legacy.

“There’s a lot of disappointment,” he said. “I was always one loss from being an All-American. I lost matches I should have won against guys that were tough as hell and never sealed the deal at nationals. So I was very disappointed and that’s kind of what led me into MMA. I was upset with wrestling.”

Since turning pro in 2006, Jorgensen has been on the fast track to the top. He is 7-3 and half of his fights have come in the WEC against elite completion. In his last fight Jorgensen won by first-round TKO over Noah Thomas. He could very easily be headed into Saturday’s WEC 45 matchup with Takeya Mizugaki riding a four-fight win streak; quite a few cageside observers thought he was on the wrong side of a split decision loss to Antonio Banuelos in June. Known more as a ground-and-pounder, Jorgensen showed a sturdy chin in the Banuelos bout (which was predominantly a standup affair) and he managed to bloody the Chuck Liddell protégé with decent punching combinations. Jorgensen believes that performance changed the way opponents like Mizugaki will prepare for him.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me I won the fight,” Jorgensen said. “It set me back but at the same time I think it showed a lot of other guys in the division, put a little bit of fear in their hearts that I can stand now. I can wrestle and win by ground and pound, but if you want to stand with me I hit hard and I’m explosive. I’m not afraid to stand and bang. If you want to butt heads I can butt heads with the best of them. I have no fear.”

In Mizugaki (12-3-2), who’s coming off an impressive win over Jeff Curran, Jorgensen sees a fighter with a similar mentality and will to win.

“He has no quit in him,” Jorgensen said. “He’s a straightforward fighter who will push the pace. He’s got good standup and he’s well-rounded. Curran couldn’t finish him, Miguel (Torres) couldn’t finish him. He’s tough. But he’s facing somebody in me with a style he’s never seen. There’s not many people that fight the way that I do and that have the tools that I have. I’m fully confident that I have the best wrestling at 135 pounds. Nobody is going to be a better wrestler than me, it’s just not going to happen right now. That doesn’t mean I’m going out there to take him down, but it means he has to be aware of that, which takes away some of his ability to move forward and put pressure on me. Because I always have that ability to put him on his back if I want to and I have very, very tough ground and pound.”

When he walks toward the cage, Jorgensen said he feels “a euphoric feeling” and extreme happiness. The heavy nerves that plagued him during his wrestling career are no more.

“My last few fights have been getting clearer and clearer,” he said. “Things are slowing down, things don’t move as fast. I’m dialed in. I’m so happy as soon as I stand in that tunnel and the music begins and I start my walk. It’s a euphoric feeling. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world except right here, getting ready to go to war. It’s the greatest feeling in the world to have 15 minutes against another man to see who can outthink, outhustle and outmuscle the other guy.”

Jorgensen credits his parents with setting the example for what can be achieved with hard work. The Jorgensens long ago traded in their mobile home for a bigger, nicer house. Dad is a consultant to the Chinese government on gold mining. His mom earned her college degree while raising three children. And Scott, well Wikipedia has him listed as one of the “Public Figures With Vitiligo” along with late, great pop music icon Michael Jackson. Parents even write Jorgensen, asking him to offer words of encouragement to their children, who have been diagnosed with the skin disorder. Jorgensen, who said he hasn’t seen a doctor for the condition since high school, said he always responds to the requests.

“Be you, don’t worry about what other people say about you,” he tells others with vitiligo. “You make your own path, you are your own destiny.”

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