Dakota Cochrane (Jade Kimmel/Combat Press)

Road to M-1’s Dakota Cochrane: New Beginnings for a Grizzled Vet

With plants starting pop, temperatures starting to rise, and springtime officially here, everyone is in fresh start mode. This time of year is when people embark on new business ventures and start looking for new homes. There is an energy that fills the air after the vernal equinox, and it really is the season of new beginnings.

Late last summer, a new business was founded in Eastern Nebraska by pro fighter Dakota Cochrane and business partner and friend John Noojin. Cochrane had spent several years as a successful personal trainer in the Omaha area, but the father of three was ready for a change.

“I was capped out, and couldn’t really make any more money, unless I charged my clients more, because all my hours were filled,” Cochrane told Combat Press. “That wasn’t really motivating. I was the top trainer [at Lifetime Fitness] for like a year and a half, and I didn’t really like being capped out.


“I was searching different avenues, career-wise, and an old buddy that I worked with in high school had a deck business. I went out and helped him a couple days, and then I said we can do this and be partners. I didn’t really bring much to the table, other than knowing a lot of people and being able to market really well. But, he knew how to work hard, and it would be a good partnership. We went for it full bore, and I knew if I was going to do it, I needed to commit 100 percent.”

Cochrane’s dad owned a construction company, so he had done quite a bit of underground construction work in the past, but his experience in decks and patios was limited at best. However, Noojin is good at what he does, so the two started Husker Deck & Patio in August. As Nebraska Cornhusker fans, it seemed like a catchy name in the area, and, surprisingly, was not already taken.

It’s no surprise that Cochrane put 100 percent into his new venture, because he has done that with everything. He put a lot of effort into his personal training career, even more effort into his family life, and, yet, an unheralded amount of effort into his professional fighting career. Through November of last year, he had been fighting professionally in mixed martial arts for 10 years, amassing a 32-13 record.

Cochrane has fought so many opponents across so many promotions that his record alone could warrant its own Wikipedia page. In his sole fight outside of the United States, he traveled over to Finland and knocked out former UFC lightweight Anton Kuivanen in just 48 seconds. He has won and lost by almost every way possible, but he’s rarely, if ever, had a dull fight. However, it was his last fight, outside of the MMA cage, that was actually the most interesting, almost 10 years to the day after his pro MMA debut.

“I had an offer to try the bare knuckle boxing, and it was against Marcelo Alfaya,” Cochrane explained. “I was on the card to fight him, and I got to the venue and stuff, and then they said [Johny] Hendricks’ opponent pulled out – that was [Brennan] Ward. So, I said I’d take it, after we negotiated money. I got that fight, and Hendricks agreed to it.”

In the second round of the inaugural event for the apparently now-defunct World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation, Cochrane blasted the former UFC welterweight champ with the aforementioned right and knocked him out, shocking the fighting world. It was a year of many new beginnings for the Nebraska native.

“It was pretty awesome. I think he thought he was going to just come in and run me over. I seem to do better with those guys who are overconfident. I knew if I could touch him with my right hand – I knew bare knuckle would work well for me, because I never wrap my hands – because I’ve been training my hands, and they’re solid. Since day one, I never wear wraps.”

With seven MMA knockouts, and one in the bare-knuckle arena over a former world champ, the lack of hand wrapping has definitely paid dividends. With a new year and a new season in full swing, why not embark on another new venture in the fight game. On Thursday night, Cochrane will fight for one of the few promotions he hasn’t fought for before, as he takes on Brazilian Joilton Santos at Road to M-1: USA 2 in Winterhaven, Calif.

Santos is currently 29-7 as a pro, so he, like Cochrane, has a lot of miles in the cage. This fight could land either fighter with an M-1 contract, and Cochrane is ready to find a home in a big show.

“This is a good opportunity to fight for M-1 Global, where the pay is much better,” Cochrane said. “It’s alright fighting for a smaller promotion, but, if you want to make good money – because I do like the travel portion – in order to make good money, I thought I’d give it a try and see if it’s another avenue I could go.

“I would like to take the bigger fights. I’m more worried about the money now. If I’m going to fight, I want to get paid. I will fight anybody, as long as it pays right.”

Like many of Cochrane’s current clients, the first step is finding a place to land. After bouncing around from promotion to promotion over the last 10 years, he wants to find a place to fight consistently and really showcase his decade of hard work.

“That’s kind of why I am doing this,” Cochrane admitted. “I would kind of like to find a home for MMA, but I’d also like to do the bare knuckle. If I could do one or two bare knuckles, and one or two MMA fights per year, I would be happy with that.”

While WBKFF will likely not be where he lands, more legitimate promotions have gained a foothold in the sport, and any of them would be happy to have the guy who knocked out Johny Hendricks on board. As for MMA, M-1 has been putting on some great shows across the pond, and there are a handful of Americans who have had success there.

This Thursday, live on UFC Fight Pass, Cochrane is ready to climb back in the MMA cage again for the first time since last summer to showcase his hard Midwestern work ethic that he has carried through all of his ventures.

“Never count me out of a fight. I would like to represent Nebraska and America with true heart and a no-quit attitude.”