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Judo, mixed martial arts assist Washington's Hau’oli Kikaha on gridiron

Washington defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha is feared on the football field for his ability to get after opposing quarterbacks, but many might not know that the Pac-12’s leading returner in sacks from 2013 is also a force to be reckoned with on the mat as a well-trained competitor in judo and mixed martial arts.

Kikaha began practicing martial arts before arriving at Washington and has applied some aspects of the respective disciplines to the football field.

“There is a lot to balance and core strength and fighting martial arts, and there is a correlation in that,” Kikaha said Thursday at the 2014 Pac-12 Football Media Day.

[Related video: Latest Media Day video, news and more]

Kikaha’s new head coach Chris Petersen has quickly noticed that the defensive end has a flair for the unexpected.

“Hau’oli always surprises me. He always comes up with something I don’t expect,” Petersen said.

Peterson also noticed some of the key disciplines of martial arts in Kikaha’s personality and work ethic.

“He’s a really hard-working guy," he said. "Really focused and an unbelievable student. I’ll go down to the room on Saturdays and Sundays and if there’s one guy I’ll see down there at rare hours it is him."

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Playing on the offensive line for the Huskies, tackle Ben Riva regularly has to take on Kikaha in practice and is already familiar with Kikaha’s martial arts prowess.

“He was like a black belt champ back in Hawaii. I hope I never see that side of him. I try to stay on his good side,” Riva said.

With professional mixed martial arts becoming one of the nation’s fastest-growing sports in popularity, it’s not surprising that Kikaha draws influence from one of the UFC’s most dominant competitors.

“I am a big fan of Georges St-Pierre. He is a really good fighter and a humble guy,” Kikaha said. 

[Related video: Watch Chris Peterson on Pac-12 Networks' Football Media Day Special]

As a returning All-Pac-12 player who is on the Butkus Award watch list and has appeared in the first rounds of some early 2015 NFL mock drafts, Kikaha has a bright future in football at the next level, but he might have options off the field as well.

When asked if he would ever pursue a professional career in martial arts after he is done with football, Kikaha confirmed that it is a possibility.

“It is something that I have thought about and I really enjoy doing it, so yes."

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