Former UB wrestler Desmond Green to make UFC debut after years on MMA circuit

Desmond Green to debut at UFC 210 in Buffalo nearly six years after being dismissed from UB's wrestling program


Six years ago, wrestler Desmond “Desi” Green was ready to put a punctuation mark on one of the greatest athletic careers UB had ever seen. 

He was the fastest wrestler in school history to 100 career wins. He had two Mid-American Conference Championships (149 pounds) to his name. With 36 more wins, he appeared primed to break the program’s all-time wins record his final year.

But Green never got a senior season. 

In the fall of 2011, UB Athletics dismissed him from the wrestling team. Green says the Athletics Department “forced [his] hand” to quit after he tested positive for marijuana for the second time in his career, costing him a chance at becoming an All-American and possibly even an NCAA Champion. 

But the end of his UB career turned into the start of something much bigger.

He will fight in Buffalo again. Only this time, he won’t be stepping onto the mat, but rather into the octagon. Green will be making his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut at UFC 210 on April 8 at the KeyBank Center in downtown Buffalo. It will be the first major UFC event to take place in Buffalo since UFC 7 in 1995.  

“I really believe it was a blessing from God that I was able to get to the UFC and be able to fight basically in my own backyard,” Green said. 

But it wasn’t an easy transition. Green grew up in in Rochester, NY where frequently got in fights on the streets. After leaving UB, he worked multiple odd jobs while taking care of his three children. At times, he reflects on his career at UB.

Green says that he will always have love for UB as his alma mater. After testing positive for marijuana during his sophomore year, UB began testing Green constantly. He says for two or three years he passed every drug test, but they continued to test him more than other athletes. 

“If a guy fails one test and then passes his next 15, you’d think they’d say, ‘OK, we’ll stop testing him,’” Green said. “I had a daughter, I was never academically ineligible, not once did I ever get in trouble with the school or the law or nothing, and you want to test this guy 10 times in almost the span of a year? You got other athletes getting drunk on campus and getting into street fights and they’re still allowed on the team.”

UB Athletics did not want to comment because Green left UB before current administration came to Buffalo. 

A student athlete may be subject to testing at any time if there is reasonable suspicion, according to the UB Athletics website. 

Green says he thinks he would have “smashed” the record books if he had been able to compete for a full four years. Instead, he stuck around for his senior year to finish his degree in social sciences. 

He decided to work toward a new goal since he was no longer committed to Division-I wrestling and transitioned from a wrestler to a mixed martial artist (MMA). 

“Everything happens for a reason,” Green said. “That senior year that I was supposed to wrestle, I ended up fighting instead and that kind of launched my whole campaign of getting to the UFC, fueling my fire.”

He says the transition from wrestling to MMA was easy because while wrestling taught him the technicalities of fighting, he had already been fighting long before his wrestling career began on the streets of Rochester.

“I became so good at wrestling, which in my opinion is just fighting without your hands, and then boom I move into MMA where you do use your hands, your elbows, your knees and everything, so I kind of already came in prepared,” Green said.

Although Green says his transition from wrestler to mixed martial artist was easy, his path from no-name MMA fighter to the UFC has been much more treacherous. 

In the five years since he graduated from UB, he has been forced to move all over the country and take on several odd jobs as he has “risen up the ladder.” 

He started off training in Ithaca for a year and a half after graduation, before moving to Montreal to train at Georges St. Pierre’s Tristar Gym. From there, he moved to Colorado briefly and then Florida, where he made a name for himself as part of the famed “Blackzilians.” 

Green struggled to support himself and his children as he chased his UFC dreams.

“I couldn’t really get into the field of a career because my career is fighting,” Green said. “You only get paid when you fight and if for whatever reason you’re only fighting every four or five months, you’re not getting a check for four or five months. It’s definitely a learning experience having to balance out fighting with my pocketbook and then my kids also.”

In the last three or four years, Green has worked over 10 different part-time jobs. He trains six days a week for four hours each day. He worked as a janitor, a landscaper, a cashier at Walmart, a stocker at Target and any other job he could find that fit his unorthodox schedule.

Even while he was struggling to make a name for himself, he never doubted that he would one day make it to the UFC. 

“There’s certain things you just know in life and I’ve always known this was my calling, and I knew I was supposed to be in the UFC,” Green said. “Every step that I’ve taken for the past six years, it’s kind of been to get here. I’ve always had this in mind.”

Green says that given his circumstances, every fight in his MMA career in chronological order has been “the most important of his life.” Green has accumulated a 19-5 record in his career across several different promotions.

“The hardest obstacle is getting a chance,” Green said. 

Now that he’s gotten his chance, Green is already thinking about fulfilling a prophecy he made for himself back in high school. 

“Since I was in high school, I’ve always known that I belong with the belt around my waist,” Green said. “I’m gonna be a UFC Champion. I don’t even think it, I know it for sure 100 percent. I’ll be a UFC Lightweight Champion within the next two years.”

The hard part for Green has always been getting recognition. This April, he’ll have the biggest audience of his career as he faces off with undefeated Josh Emmett (11-0, 2-0 in UFC).

If Green really wants to become a title contender and move up the card in UFC, it’ll take impressive performances. He says he knows the UFC “doesn’t just want regular wins.” He has his sights set on a knockout or submission.

“[When I approach the octagon] the only thing that’s gonna be going through my mind is murder, murder, kill, kill,” Green said. “I just want to murder this guy. I gotta go out there and prove it, I feel like he’s trying to take food out of my kid’s mouth, the only thing that’s gonna be on my mind is murder.”  

Michael Akelson is the senior sports editor and can be reached at