Gilbert MMA promoter competes for $10,000 on TV

Posted at 1:47 PM, Apr 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-03 10:26:27-04

Like many in the late 1990s/early 2000s, Pittsburgh native Nolan Hyland and his twin brother Nathan grew up watching the World Wrestling Federation and idolizing superstars like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

Years later, Hyland, who now lives in the Valley, finally got to meet his childhood hero -- with a chance to win $10,000 in the process. 

See also: Chandler resident Analisa Marquez shines on "Broken Skull Challenge"

"You get wrestling a little bit, you get into sparring, you're like, 'I want to do this. I want to get in there.'"

"I was really rooting for 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin to be a really cool guy, and he delivered. He was phenomenal," Hyland said after his experience on "Steve Austin's Broken Skull Challenge," which will air Sunday night on CMT. 

"He went out of his way to make sure we were having a good time. He hung out with us. It was everything I wanted it to be."

Hyland has an extensive training and fighting background. Fueled by his passion for pro wrestling as a teenager, he took up weight training, wrestling and, eventually, MMA fighting. He also played rugby at the collegiate level.

Today, Hyland and his brother own Rage in the Cage, the second-longest-running MMA promotion in the country behind UFC and the largest promotion in the southwest.

Hyland has also been a successful fighter within his promotion.

"You get wrestling a little bit, you get into sparring, you're like, 'I want to do this. I want to get in there.' That's how it happened," he said. "The last few years, I took a few fights, turned professional, and it all happened from there.

"We put together fight cards, we put together a lot of great matches all over the Valley. We've sent 49 fighters to the UFC, so No. 50's gonna come soon."

"Broken Skull Challenge" is in its third season, but Hyland and his brother have been watching since Season 1. A few months ago, Hyland decided to apply for the show.

"About a month after, I got a call from them and they were like, 'Hey, you wanna come be on the show?' I'm like, 'Hell yeah, let's go,'" he said.

Of course, Hyland didn't go on the show just to meet Steve Austin. He, along with seven other competitors, took on a series of grueling physical competitions for an opportunity to take home the big cash prize.

When he arrived on the set of the show in California, two things immediately stuck out to Hyland.

"My group... we were tough guys," he said. "It was all fighters except for one guy, Brent Steffensen, the American Ninja Warrior champion and a very famous dude in the Ninja Warrior community.

"I thought we had the toughest group. We knew we were all really good contenders."

"You see him in his Bronco, roll up, throw the dust everywhere -- that's literally how we met him"

The other thing is something that caught all eight competitors off-guard. "We walked up to the set they had there in California, and we were all saying the same thing: It looks bigger than what it is on TV," he said.

"It was intense. It felt big, which was really cool."

After Hyland and his group had a moment to take it all in, the host of the show, "Stone Cold" himself, arrived.

"The cool thing is when you're watching the show and you see him in his Bronco, roll up, skid, throw the dust everywhere and he gets out -- that's literally how we met him," he said.

Hyland isn't allowed to reveal just how well he did on the show, but he revealed a pair of competitions he took part in: an event popular from Season 1 in which two competitors have to race to the top of a steep hill and ring a bell before the other, and another event called "Barnburner" in which two competitors haul a barn door past a finish line.

"It's very heavy, by the way," Hyland said of the door.

Looking forward, Hyland and his brother will continue to grow Rage in the Cage -- and he may get the chance to hang out with "Stone Cold" again and compete alongside his brother in a future "Broken Skull Challenge" episode, as the show's producers are considering a "doubles" episode in the near future.

"We drove off to California together for the show. (My brother) was actually in the lobby when we were talking to the producer about it, so hopefully they remember us, because it'd be pretty awesome to compete with him," Hyland said.

Hyland and his wife, whom he moved across the country for seven years ago, plan on living in the Valley for the rest of their lives. For now, they're busy raising their boy, who just might follow in his dad's footsteps.

"He's a big boy. He's almost 11 months old, he's 27 pounds. He's a monster," he said. "He'll probably be a little bigger than me by the time he's 10 years old. 

"He might be a future little fighter-slash-wrestler himself. We'll see, man."