In between punches and stretches Chance Rencountre would take a quick minute or two to think about how he ended up in a training room with some of the best UFC fighters.
Sometimes he’d find himself wondering how the competitive kid from small-town Pawhuska ended up in Southern California.
“I’ll catch myself, it’s usually when I workout, I’ll catch myself doing that,” Rencountre professed. “It was me Alex Gustafson, Ross Pearson, two other UFC fighters, I’m sitting there striking, standing with them being able to train in the same vicinity. Just being able to look over catching a glimpse of what they’re doing.”
The 24-year-old Osage student spent the month of December at Alliance Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., helping to train some of the best UFC Fighters.
He was recommended to help train the fighters by one of his former coaches Chad Parks, a son of longtime wrestling coach Martin Parks.
Parks, who lives in Kansas, has his own mixed martial arts gym where he trains other athletes who have strong wrestling backgrounds. He said he has a strong relationship with Alliance Gym so when they asked him to recommend someone who could help them he quickly named Rencountre.
“Chance is an All-American wrestler in college and in college wrestling we tend to dominate in mixed martial arts,” Parks said. “Chance is just a tough young man, always has been. He’s extremely mentally, psychologically tough, also very athletic.”
Rencountre’s athleticism started at the age of four. He started wrestling then and turned into a college All-American and All-Academic wrestler, the only known Osage to do so.
Hitting the Mat
Connie Rencountre, Chance Rencountre’s mother, said her son took to wrestling very easily and the family stood behind him all the way.
“It’s almost 25 years, he’s been wrestling for 20 years it was an every-weekend deal, taking him, loading him and taking him to some wrestling match somewhere,” she said.
Connie Rencountre said she’s traveled near and far to watch her son do what he loves. She said that when she thinks about his accomplishments she can’t help but think about the little things that show her how much he loves the sport.
“One time he didn’t make weight and he said ‘mom I told you if you just cut my hair I would have made weight’,” Connie said. “He used to love Ho Hos, and he would eat a whole box, one time he had to run because he ate a whole box.”
Rencountre has had knee surgery twice in his wrestling career but that has never stopped him from doing what he loves.
“It’s my passion, my love, I like to compete, grind it out,” he said. “I’ve always been that way since I was young.”
Rencountre started out a wrestler but has since focused his talents toward other pursuits.
In high school Chance was a four-year varsity starter since he was a freshman. He was a four-time regional placer and one-time state placer. His senior year he was ranked second in the state of Oklahoma.
He was known for his ability to adapt. A trait another coach of his, Martin Parks, said was what made him so successful.
“What I remember most about him as a wrestler was his ability to catch on and to adapt to technique very quickly,” Martin Parks said. “He was one of the few wrestlers I had that could change the system in a couple of days and adapt to it, for most it takes weeks.”
Parks coached Rencountre in high school and knew his talent to quickly adjust would carry him far, so he too wasn’t surprised that Rencountre ended up with a prestigious setting.
Martin Parks said Chance has always made a point to return to Pawhuska during the summer or during college breaks to help younger wrestlers in the community.
He is also on the Pawhuska District Committee during In-Lon-Schka and devotes the entire month of June to the dances.
Rencountre graduated from Pawhuska High School in 2005. He attended Labette Community College from 2005 to 2008. In 2008 he was named the Academic National Champion and Wrestling All-American 2008, the only Native American to do so.
He took a year off and decided to earn some money before heading back to school.
He returned to school on a wrestling scholarship at Fort Hays State University in the fall of 2010.
He was an immediate success in his first semester. He was ranked eighth in the nation and was ranked first in the Mid American Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
Rencountre also faced a difficult situation in his first semester at Fort Hays.
After helping a teammate escape a confrontation he faced legal allegations but never served jail time.
The athletic department was forced to suspend him but he didn’t let it get him down.
“I turned a negative into a positive,” Rencountre said.
He continued with his academics and will graduate this May. He let go of wrestling and turned toward mixed martial arts.
“I wasn’t done competing, my body wasn’t completely shot,” he said.
Most wrestling careers end after college due to the lack of long-term careers, it’s something Rencountre realized early on so he started looking into MMA fighting.
“We have to look for other doors for opportunities,” he said. “It was an upcoming sport and I knew what it was about, for us wrestlers we don’t have anything professional like college football to NFL, college basketball to the NBA or Major League Baseball.”
Training with the Best
Rencountre learned of the California opportunity in late November. He said he was quick to take to the opportunity.
“The first thing I started doing was think about how I was going to get my money together for my plane ticket, food,” he said. “I went up to do a bunch of things fundraiser, promote myself through the community. My family helped me so much, it was a spur-of-the-moment thing.”
He took his finals early and headed out to California.
Rencountre said he was impressed with the 60-degree weather and impressive gym he worked in.
He and a couple of others helped train UFC fighters for upcoming fights. He was given the three-week or more opportunity to train in the best facility with UFC’s top athletes. And he loved every minute of it.
“I’m out here I’m training with the best in the world of UFC, I’m not far, all in an arms reach,” he said. “I’m belittled, I just stay humble and keep working at it, it’s good, it’s what I need, what I wanted.”
While in California Rencountre stayed in a dormitory-style living corridor that was housed above the gym. He trained twice a day, six days a week and was given Sundays off.
He and the UFC fighters usually started their days practicing their wrestling and eventually moving into some MMA warm ups. He said he was in complete awe that he got to train in a high-class facility.
“I didn’t have much experience because I came from a small gym that I workout at. It’s more than I can ask for, where I come from,” he said. “I was training with UFC fighters, it’s not something you see everyday.”
Rencountre did so well that he was asked to stay and help train top UFC fighter Phil Davis who was once a collegiate wrestler at Penn State.
He stayed for three more weeks before heading back to school where he will earn his bachelor’s degree in general studies and health promotion this coming May.
He said he’s come a long way since his first wrestling meet and couldn’t have gone far without his close fans.
“(I want to) thank my family and Chad and my coaches, Coach (Martin) Parks for helping me out so much,” Rencountre said.
Opening a new door
After spending a little over a month amongst the best UFC fighters, Rencountre is convinced he can be one. And so are those close to him.
Rencountre said if an opportunity to become a professional UFC fighter came up he’d be more than happy to pursue it.
“Definitely, in a heart beat I would, if I got a chance to come out here full time, if I got paid to fight that would be a no brainer,” he said. “Honestly it’s just in the works, I want this to go long term – I think it’s fun, I like it.”
Chad Parks said he’d like to see a past student of his make it all the way to the top when it comes to the UFC.
“Absolutely, I’m sure you can be pro when you want to be pro, I feel fully confident that Chance can go pro and do really well,” Chad Parks said. “I’m confident he has all the tools for those organizations.”
But no one is more convinced that Rencountre can make the big leagues than his mother Connie.
Connie Rencountre said her ultimate wish is to see Chance graduate but would like to see him put his talent to use.
“He wants to know if he’s capable of doing it and maybe going professional with it,” she said. “His goal is to see how good he is, he’s tough enough to do it and he’s motivated enough to do it.”
Like Chance, Connie Rencountre finds herself thinking about how far her son has gone with his wrestling career and in school. Sometimes when she’s home alone she’ll pop in a DVD and wonder how her competitive son from small-town Pawhuska made it big in California.