Chris Gruetzemacher is ready for the next step.
The 11-1 featherweight prospect trains out of the MMA Lab in Arizona and has slowly increased his level of competition to the point where a major promotion can't ignore him anymore.
Not only is he on a 10 fight winning streak, he's also finished his last seven opponents in a row.
"Gritz" is coming off a very impressive third round technical knockout (TKO) over UFC veteran Roli Delgado at ShoFight 20 less than two weeks ago. Delgado had previously been unbeaten since leaving the big show and Gruetzenmacher's victory really opened some eyes.
Now he's just waiting for that phone call.
Gruetzemacher spoke with MMAmania.com during a special guest appearance on The Verbal Submission where he talked about everything from his recent performance, working alongside UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson and much, much more in part one of this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What is the worst butchering of your last name anyone has ever done?
Chris Gruetzemacher: Aww I couldn't even do that. When some people butcher it, I don't even know that they were yelling my name. It's that bad. My nickname is "Gritz" (which is how the beginning of his last name is pronounced), it's been that way since I was a little kid. Saying Gruetzemacher is not that hard (pronounced: Gritz-mock-er), but when you look at it on paper, it's super-intimidating for some reason. Over the years of playing sports and with teachers, they just automatically started calling me "Gritz" because it was easier.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about your recent victory. You went out there and had an amazing battle against Roli Delgado at ShoFight 20. Only the Canadians got a chance to see it, at least until this weekend. That was your 10th win in a row and your seventh stoppage. Was this your biggest victory of your career?
Chris Gruetzemacher: I guess it's kind of weird. It is the biggest victory I've had. His resume so far out of everyone I've fought is the best but from this point on, every fight will be the biggest. The next fight is always supposed to be the biggest unless you're not trying to get to the top. You've got to beat guys to make yourself worth more.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I heard that he got a fluke cut on you in the first round and that altered the fight quite a bit. How did that end up happening and how did it effect you?
Chris Gruetzemacher: From what I can remember, I was kind of mad. The whole experience wasn't very good actually. Sometimes you just don't have a good day. When I showed up before the fight, before the cut, everything went kind of wrong to be honest. Anyways, I got cut and it was kind of like someone is putting a hand up in your peripheral vision. I couldn't see that well and I was getting frustrated because he was acting like I was kicking him in the groin when I knew I didn't, maybe making them try to take a point away. I had to cool off for a second and get my emotions under control after that first round because I was fired up to be honest.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Did you take that emotion and use that in the third round when you put him away?
Chris Gruetzemacher: That kind of speaks for individual fighters. Some guys don't fight good mad and that's not always true for me but if I get pissed off and get in the right mindset where I just want to hurt you, that's what I'm gonna do. It's gonna happen. I was mad, upset and kept telling myself, "Just do what you're supposed to do. Go out and hurt this person," and that's what I did. Some people get emotional and they lose it but I get emotional and get stronger.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've got to hear about dealing with this guy's size. He was a tall lightweight at 6'3 and this fight was at featherweight. You're 5'7 so that's an eight inch height differential. How did you deal with that?
Chris Gruetzemacher: It was a nine inch reach advantage too. It was tough. You can have a skillset but if you get somebody who's that much longer than you, sometimes you can be less skilled and just have to battle their physical attributes. I'm not saying he's not skilled but he's too long. He's super long. I had to get inside and make it a close fight. I'm comfortable in the stand-up dirty boxing.
I haven't seen the fight yet. I've watched the end of the third round but I have to say that most of the time you shoulder-to-shoulder someone in the over-under position, everyone wants to throw that back elbow but you can't do it because their shoulders are in the way. He was so much taller than me that my shoulders weren't in the way so his elbows were able to just crack me in the face. From what I remember, that's how I get cut. I can't ever remember fighting someone that much taller than me. I realized that I couldn't be in that position during the fight again. That was an on-the-spot reevaluation of what I was doing.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You really got a big finish in the third round, but some people were saying that was a late stoppage. Was that something that was going through your head?
Chris Gruetzemacher: Yeah. I don't like hurting people, but I do like competing against people that say they're game. If you're game to compete, then I have no problem putting hands on you or hurting you. Going out there and being a bully is really not my thing but when I'm in a fight, I'm really not worried about his well-being. I've got myself to take care of. To be honest, getting beat up was his decision. He could have tapped, could have quit or turned away. It was his choice. I don't know what it was. To me, it felt like the whole third round he was just trying to survive. All he was just trying to do was make it through the round. He wasn't in the fight anymore. He was just taking an ass-whooping from me and just prolonging what was eventually going to happen over and over again.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your teammate Ben Henderson, after he beat Jim Miller, instead of his normal "Can I get an 'Amen'" speech, he drops to his knees and begs the UFC to sign his teammates. I'm assuming you were one of those guys he was trying to speak up for, right?
Chris Gruetzemacher: Yes. Yes I was. I already know I got that love from Ben. It's funny. Ben came to Arizona and I've been his main training partner since then. All his pre-Zuffa fights, his WEC fights, I've been with him through them all. I've been a part of every sparring round unless I was hurt or injured for some reason. Every camp I was very much involved in. He didn't need to do that, but our team is so tight, we're a very tight team. Me and Ben are the building blocks at the Lab to be honest. He gets more notice because he's the champ. It's awesome that he did that but it would have been a little cooler if it would have worked. (laughs) I'm still not contracted to the UFC. I'm still waiting.
You can follow Chris on Twitter @GritzMMA.
Stay tuned tomorrow for part two of our interview with Chris Gruetzemacher in which we get him to open up about everything from the strangest thing that happened to him during a fight, the things he gave up to be one of the best MMA prospects and much more.
To listen to the complete audio of our conversation with Chris Gruetzemacher, click here (interview starts at 12:00 mark).