Jesse Arnett facing off against Pedro Souza on Oct. 30, 2020. Arnett defeated Souza by unanimous decision. His record stands at 17 wins and 6 losses, with 14 finishes. / Gerardo Ramos photos

Jesse Arnett facing off against Pedro Souza on Oct. 30, 2020. Arnett defeated Souza by unanimous decision. His record stands at 17 wins and 6 losses, with 14 finishes. / Gerardo Ramos photos

Road to the Big Show: Mission Secondary’s wrestling champ speaks about his journey through MMA

Jesse ‘Big Cat’ Arnett was Mission’s 1st National Wresting Champion, now a top-ranked 135 fighter

It’s been 18 years since Jesse Arnett was crowned Mission Secondary’s first-ever National Wrestling Champion, and now, he’s among the top bantamweight MMA fighters in the country.

At 36-years old, “Big Cat” is seeking to join the ranks of “The Big Show” – the UFC – the highest tier of combat sports in the world.

“I know that I’ve still got a few years left in me, and I know I can still fight at the highest level,” Arnett said. “I’ve trained with guys in the UFC, I’ve beat guys from the UFC.

“I’m not going to give up.”

As the former TKO bantamweight champion, Arnett’s record stands at 17 wins and six losses, with 14 finishes.

For four years, from 2014 to 2018, he went on a 12-fight win streak – including wins over UFC veterans Johnny Bedford and Roland Delorme – before his streak was snapped and he lost the belt.

In his next fight, he suffered another heartbreaking loss in a much-anticipated clash against Josh Hill.

At the time, Arnett and Hill were ranked the No. 1 and No. 2 135-pound fighters in the country, respectively. One outlet dubbed the fight the most important in Canadian bantamweight history.

“I lost again – back-to-back losses,” Arnett said. “I got caught … It was tough, it really was. But I [came back], and I’m in a great position right now.”

Arnett has rebounded with two dominant victories over tough competition, the latest being on Oct. 30 in Florida.

He now feels on the verge of breaking out of the regional circuits.

It’s been a long road for Arnett, who didn’t start his professional career until he was 27. He remembers his first fight at a casino in 2011 – he was paid $250 to show, and $250 to win.

At that time, he said he wasn’t really taking it that seriously, he wasn’t training properly and didn’t have much of a base in jiu-jitsu (one of the most relevant martial-art foundations in the sport).

He started off his career with a 3-3 record, and as he put it, just went “down to the casino to fight on Friday nights because I thought it was fun.”

But as Arnett’s confidence and abilities grew after finding good boxing and jiu-jitsu gyms in Calgary, he knew he would have a future in the sport.

He knew, because he had experienced the highest level of wrestling competition in the world.

He spent four years on Simon Fraser University’s national team, and was an Olympic alternate one year.

His wrestling career would carry him as far away as Mongolia, Iran and Cuba. In fact, many of his former training partners were already in the UFC, and had even become champions.

Arnett trained with the 2008 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team, a roster which includes Daniel Cormier, a former holder of both the UFC’s light heavyweight and heavyweight titles; Henry Cejudo, who currently holds the bantamweight title; and Ben Askren.

“That was the group that I travelled the world with. When I retired from wrestling, so to speak, I see my wrestling buddies doing MMA,” he said. “And I was competitive with them, so I knew I’d have a shot.”

At one point, at the height of his 12-fight-win streak, he had an offer to go to the UFC on short notice, but was locked into his contract, Arnett said.

He said he’s now under a new management company, MTK Global, which has better contacts with the larger promotions, and he’s expecting to see more options on the horizon.

“It’s a very interesting sport, because you’re only as good as your last fight. People forget about losses pretty easily,” Arnett said. “I’m just doing what I can to get ready for the next one, I’m not giving up on the Big Show.”

Arnett said he owes a big thank you to all of his wrestling coaches at Mission Secondary for his success, particularly his former head coach, Linda Miller.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


Jesse Arnett landing a head kick on Pedro Souza. Arnett defeated Souza by unanimous decision. / Gerardo Ramos photo.

Just Posted

Construction has begun on the new Eagle Mountain elementary school in Abbotsford. (Screengrab from video by CHP Architects)
Construction begins on new Eagle Mountain elementary school in Abbotsford

School, including childcare spaces, is set to open in September 2022

Bill Hireen joined Remembrance Day celebrations in Abbotsford in 2019. The veteran and long-time civic supporter passed away on Dec. 31, 2020. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Long-time Abbotsford city council supporter dies of COVID-19

Bill Hireen was a frequent visitor to council and police board meetings

Uber Eats has announced that it is now delivering food orders in Abbotsford and Chilliwack. (Submitted photo by Justin Walker)
Uber Eats announces expansion into Abbotsford

Food-delivery company is staring with 60 local restaurants

Nakota Hinksman had been reported missing in Abbotsford, but has since been located.
UPDATE: Missing teen with autism has been located in Abbotsford

Nakota Hinksman, 18, had been missing since 3:20 a.m. on Tuesday

NHL Central Scouting has ranked three Abbotsford hockey talents as likely to be drafted in 2021. (Twitter photo)
Trio of Abbotsford hockey talents placed on NHL watch list

Abbotsford’s Chiasson, Milne and Sward all ranked as C grade prospects for 2021 NHL draft

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
RCMP officers wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 stand by. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
RCMP appeal for witnesses after hit-and-run leaves girl, 17, in critical condition

The Metro Vancouver teenager was found unconscious and critically injured after being hit: police

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
5 big lessons experts say Canada should learn from COVID-19

‘What should be done to reduce the harms the next time a virus arises?’ Disease control experts answer

Most Read