Cole Williams made Nick Sorensen a promise years ago:
When Williams made it to the UFC, Sorensen would go with him to be in his fight corner.
The two wrestled together more than two decades ago when they attended Phoenix Middle School in Delavan, and they remained friends through their days at Delavan-Darien High School and beyond.
On Saturday, Soresen will be in Williams’ corner when he returns to the octagon in Las Vegas. Williams will face Jason Witt in a welterweight bout on the undercard of UFC Fight Night from the UFC Apex.
“I told him back when I first started this, ‘Someday when I get in the UFC, I’m going to have you corner me,’” said Williams, a 2002 Delavan-Darien High graduate. “It was just a buddy promise I made a long time ago, and I’m holding up to it.
“Our freshman year of high school, we were both 5 feet and 95 pounds, wrestling JV. We would wrestle each other every weekend that year. We’ve been best friends ever since.”
This will not be a typical buddies trip to Vegas.
Williams left Madison on Tuesday and was expecting to go through COVID-19 testing and media obligations before settling in and focusing on his final weight cut today.
Weigh-ins for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night event are Friday.
“We’ll be quarantined and restricted to certain locations,” Williams said in an interview before he left the state. “It’s all been a process, but I’ve been preparing for it.”
This will be the second fight in the UFC for both Williams and Witt, who previously took fights on very short notice in exchange for four-fight contracts with the premier organization in mixed martial arts.
Both fighters lost their debuts in quick fashion. Williams lost by first-round submission to Claudio Silva on Aug. 3, 2019, dropping his overall record to 11-2 after winning nine consecutive fights.
Williams was scheduled to fight Phil Rowe on April 11 in Portland, Ore., but like most other sports at that time, the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now Williams is finally set for a UFC fight in which he has had a full training camp to prepare.
“I do Crossfit in the morning, usually at 5:30 or 6, and then I’ve got to plug in and start working,” said Williams, a regional manager for Best Buy. “Around 12:30, I’ll get down to the gym and go through a series—six five-minute rounds of bag work or foot work, wearing a mask to restrict my breathing. I mix it up for the midday workout. Then I go back home, plug in and start working again.
“Then I go back down at 5:30 or 6 for the MMA classes. Then come back home, relax for the evening and do a late-night run before I go to bed.”
Sound hectic? Well, add to it that Williams and his girlfriend, Amanda, celebrated the birth of a baby girl on Oct. 1.
“Amanda has been so supportive. She’s home with the baby and has taken on more of that work so I can focus on training and work and all of that,” Williams said. “She’s definitely stepped up to allow me to put in the time that I’ve needed.
“Between work, the baby, moving and preparing for the fight and getting my weight down, it’s been a hectic time. But we’ve been able to make it work.”
Williams fights out of Chosen Few, a gym and promotion based in the Madison area. He said he has been training with Alex Gilpin—who also made the trip to Las Vegas to help in his corner—as well as Mark Lemminger, Alex Polizzi and Dante Schiro, among others.
“That’s why I don’t care who I fight in the UFC, because it’s a room full of studs,” Williams said. “They’re all right around my weight class, and all of them could be in the UFC right now and do well.”
Witt, nicknamed “The Vanilla Gorilla,” is 17-6 and fights out of Kansas City, Missouri. He lost in his UFC debut after just 48 seconds against Takashi Sato in June but is the slight favorite to beat Williams according to an online review of sports book odds Wednesday.
The event’s main card, which features Anderson Silva against Uriah Hall, begins at 6 p.m. The prelims, which includes Williams’ fight, begin at 3. The event will be televised by ESPN+.