The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 11 veteran, Seth Baczynski, couldn't believe it.
Just over a year removed from losing his job with the UFC after a decision loss to Brad Tavares on the TUF 11 finale, he got the call to step in on short notice to replace the injured DaMarques Johnson against Clay Harvison on the UFC Fight Night 25 card.
Baczynski had gone 2-0 in his stint outside the promotion including a thrilling victory over Tim McKenzie in which he gutted through a nasty armbar and recovered to finish the fight with ground and pound in the first round.
The fighter out of Power MMA has made the drop to welterweight since his appearance on the reality show and he's ready to make an impact this Saturday night (September 17, 2011) in Louisiana.
Baczynski spoke with MMAmania.com about how good it feels to be back in the UFC, getting a second chance to make a good first impression and the current mood at his gym.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Ok, the most obvious first question is, how does it feel to be back with the UFC after about a year outside the promotion?
Seth Baczynski: I was so excited when they called me, I almost started moonwalking and crying at the same time. At first I was just overwhelmed for the first three or four minutes. I was at work and I almost double-legged one of my co-workers and then immediately afterwards I was like, "Man, I hope no one's playing a joke on me. I hope Ashton Kutcher don't come out the corner and punk me because I'd beat his ass." That was the second thought, that this had better not be a joke.
I was so happy for the hard work I've put in and for my family. It's gonna be nice to get back into an organization where I can win a little more cash and make their lives a little easier. It's tough fighting the regional shows. It's tough getting fights and I've always wanted to compete in the UFC and I've always felt like 170 is my home. Even if I had won the show, season 11 of TUF, I was gonna come back at 170. I'm happy to be in the weight class I feel I belong in and I'm excited man.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Yeah, you're coming back as a welterweight but you kinda got stuck having to fight at 185 on the TUF 13 finale.
Seth Baczynski: Yeah, I cut one or two pounds to make weight at 185. When I'm in good shape, I weigh about 186 or 187 so obviously I'm not a big 185-pounder and all those guys I was losing to at middleweight weren't submitting me or knocking me out, they were more taking me down and holding me. I feel a lot better at 170 with my range and my ability to get back to my feet and not feel so exhausted pushing all these heavier guys off me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Were you expecting this call to be coming? Did you feel you'd done enough to get that call?
Seth Baczynski: I was really thinking I was going to get called back up but then they bought Strikeforce so it looked like they were going to just stock up with even more fighters. The only thing I knew for sure was that I had to stay in shape. My training partners and coaches at Power MMA have been really staying after me and keeping me in the gym because I had to be ready to rock and roll within two week's notice. My fight with Tim McKenzie was within two week's notice and my fight with Alex Garcia was the same thing so it's nothing I'm not used to. I wasn't expecting the UFC to call, but I was expecting something to come up.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So do you feel like this is a second chance to make a first impression?
Seth Baczynski: Yeah, absolutely. The last thing I want anyone remembering me for is soccer kicking Brad Tavares in the face. That was a horrible foul and that's the last thing I want everybody remembering me for. I feel like I belong on the UFC and I feel like I can compete with all those guys and I'm so happy that I got another shot. I don't care if it's me, Joe Rogan and Clay Harvison in a shed as long as I get a UFC "W" on my record, that's all that matters.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about Clay Harvison. He was a cast member on season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter. What do you know about him?
Seth Baczynski: From what we've gathered, he's a tough dude. He's gonna come in and fight hard and so am I. There's no easy fights in the UFC so I'm not expecting one. We're ready to go to battle and get down and do whatever it takes to win. I'm expecting a tough, game guy and he should be expect the same. He's a stand-up guy and he's gonna try to mix it up and throw down. When his back is against the wall he fights really hard and so do I. This is gonna be an interesting match-up.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've watched a couple of Clay's fights and he looks like he's primarily a striker. Are you preparing for that or just training for everything?
Seth Baczynski: I learned a long time ago in this game that you can't go into any situation banking that, "Hey, this guy's gonna do that." We're prepared for whatever and I've been working really hard at everything. I've been really putting in the time to get more technical and I'm really excited to have an opportunity to showcase my skills and just perform. That's what it's all about. I want to just go out and have fun out there. That's one of the things that I forgot to do when I got on the TUF show. It was such a crazy experience and I forgot that the reason why I fight is to have fun. What they hell are you doing if you're not having fun? That's just my biggest thing to go out and enjoy myself, put on a good show and have fun with it. All I'm worried about is me. I can't worry about what he's gonna do.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Ok, let's talk about that. Was it pressure that changed the way you fought or was it some change in your mindset going into the fights?
Seth Baczynski: It's really not pressure. I think a lot of the pressure that fighters feel is self-inflicted. It wasn't anything like that. It's just that you've got everyone pulling at your coattails and pulling you in all sorts of different directions. My biggest thing is I have more perspective now in my everyday life. Not so much that I changed my fighting career but I'm a guy that's gonna go to the gym and I'm gonna do what my coaches tell me to do. I changed some things in my day-to-day life and that's one of the key things. I grew up a lot, not so much in fighting but I'm getting older and starting to realize that there's a certain brand you've got to represent. You've got to be a professional seven days a week, not just five days a week and when the weekend comes, you've got to be a civilian again. You've got to be a fighter all the time.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Part of training to be a fighter all the time is where you train. I know you train at Power MMA now but before you did that, you trained at MMA Lab, you trained at Alliance MMA, Southwest and even Lion's Den. What were some of the factors that led to you choosing Power MMA?
Seth Baczynski: For one, C.B. and Bader and Jesse Forbes and Aaron Simpson and Steve Steinbeiss, I started training with those guys just for sparring because I was kind of the biggest one at the gym and when you hit a certain level, you feel like a jerk beating up all these littler guys but you have to let your hands go and you have to practice hard. I started going out for better sparring and they were just open arms, always really good to me and always real respectful. The major things was just how hard these guys worked. On the days I would go spar with them and go back to my other gyms, that day I felt like I was missing out because I wasn't training with them full-time. I wasn't getting as good of training. I didn't have as good of partners and everything just kinda fell into place and when I came back to The Ultimate Fighter, they had set up their own gym and it was easy to make my decision to go over there.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Some of the top guys at Power MMA have had a rough go of it lately like Ryan Bader and C.B. Dollaway. They've fallen on hard times, even Robbie Lawler coming down. What's the atmosphere like lately with some of the top guys in the gym taking some tough losses?
Seth Baczynski: They're fighting the top echelon of fighters in the world and every one of them got their butts back in the gym. Nobody felt sorry for themselves. They were a little bummed and disappointed obviously and everyone here wanted them to win and we know first hand how hard all of them guys prepared for their fights. It wasn't a lack of preparation or work or anything. I'd say it's even better now than it was before they're all really focused and really determined to not go out like that. I have no doubt that all of them are going to come back and start doing well.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How are you visualizing success on September 17th against Harvison?
Seth Baczynski: You know? I'm just going to go out there and take care of whatever I need to take care of to get the win. I'm not really concerned with what he's gonna do. I'm not really concerned with anything other than performing and doing what I can do well. The only thing I can control is myself. I can't control what he's gonna do or anyone else. As long as I focus on myself, everything else seems to fall into place for me.
Seth would like to thank all his coaches at Power MMA, his team for pushing him and his sponsors Tilted Kilt and MTX Audio.
So what do you think Maniacs?
Will Baczynski make the most of his second chance in the UFC? Will the drop to welterweight be just what he needed to make an impact?