Not everyone realizes what it takes to be an elite fighter.
For Chris Gruetzemacher, it meant giving up friends, basic luxories, cars, everything to keep him afloat as he sacrificed in the gym every single day to become one of the best prospects at featherweight.
All that hard work at the MMA Lab has paid off, or at least it's starting to as "Gritz" has found himself signed with a strong management team and is currently riding a 10 fight winning streak which has brought his overall record to 11-1 since he turned pro in 2008.
Gruetzemacher knows that the big show will be calling soon and he's eagerly awaiting that opportunity. Even if it doesn't happen, however, he wouldn't have traded this current ride he's been on for the world.
The top-ranked prospect recently spoke with MMAmania.com during a special guest appearance on The Verbal Submission. In part one of our interview yesterday, he talked about his most recent victory over UFC veteran Roli Delgado at ShoFight 20. Today, we get to know the Arizona-based fighter much better as he details his sacrifice, his goals and strange experiences in the cage.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're on a 10 fight win streak now with seven stoppages in a row. That's gotta mean something. Do you think the UFC is finally starting to notice. Do you think they're saying, "Alright, we've got to bring this guy in here?"
Chris Gruetzemacher: I think they do notice. I don't think it's more of a business as to why they can't yet. The roster is stacked. They have a big roster with a lot of people but I do think it's just a matter of time before I'm there. I'll just be waiting for that call. If somebody gets hurt of there's an opening, there's only so many shows and so many fighters. The reality is they have guys on contract who need fights too so I've just got to wait.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What's the strangest thing that ever happened to you during a fight?
Chris Gruetzemacher: The strangest thing? I don't know if this is like strange, I don't know if people think about what we're thinking about during a fight but sometimes when you spar or are in training, you have this moment of clarity like you're not in a fight anymore. It's like you're in a cubicle. It's almost like everything goes slow for a second, like normal life. I got up after the second round against Roli Delgado and I looked up and I actually saw Ronda Rousey in the crowd and she was cheering. I was like, "That's pretty cool. She's pretty legit being a Strikeforce champion and a badass herself so to get her up cheering was really cool." I don't know if that's weird but that stood out to me during the fight.
Chris Gruetzemacher: (laughs) Right on. Right on.
Gerry Rodriguez: On a scale of 1-10, what would you rate Ronda Rousey?
Chris Gruetzemacher: How are we classifying this? Are we talking wifey material? Cuz I'm gonna say, that's where I'm putting her at. On paper at least, I don't know her personally but on paper she is awesome. First of all, she's mean as shit. She fights like a savage. She's an Olympic medalist so she knows her shit. There's a lot of fighters out there who are a jack of all trades but a master of none but you can't find anybody who knows more about judo than her and she's a badass. For what she's done, taking it to the next step and being the Strikeforce champ and on top of all that she's fit and good looking, she's tight.
Gerry Rodriguez: Now if you'd have been in The Ultimate Fighter house, would you have been a pussy like those other guys?
Chris Gruetzemacher: You know what, I said I wasn't. I was like, "Look at those pansies, look at those sissies!" But to be honest, she came up to me after my last fight and gave me a hug and I couldn't really get too much out. I didn't ask for her number. I didn't say, "Yo, it's my birthday, can I get a kiss?" Nothing. I froze up too. I can't hate on them too much now man.
Gerry Rodriguez: Who do you think would win a fight between Bryan Caraway and Ronda Rousey?
Chris Gruetzemacher: I gotta go with the Olympian, for sure. She tore his girlfriend up and then who does she train with? Where does she get her tips? Who's her training partner? It's gotta be him. Maybe not. It could be wrong but I'm just saying. Maybe half of her skillset is his skillset. Maybe she can take him too. If nothing else. he would know he'd been in a fight. Even if that dude won, he'd still be beat up. It'd be like if both guys fought, there's a winner and a loser, but both guys go to the hospital. I think if he fought her, he would still be in a fight.
Ben Thapa: What's it like having a world champion in your gym, from an insider's perspective?
Chris Gruetzemacher: To be honest, [Ben Henderson's] a freak. There are some things that regular athletes just can't do. I already knew Ben was special. I've rolled with plenty of guys who are better than me and I've seen guys that should be better than Ben but they just can't do anything to him. They can't. It's like a magic trick. Jiu-jitsu has a set of rules and boundaries and he gets to break the boundaries and set the rules. There are really good jiu-jitsu players out there who can only just bend the rules so it's weird watching him. Things should work and then they don't. If you see one of your best friends having his dreams come true, you're super-happy for him but it's not surprising at all.
Ben Thapa: What have you had to give up to be a pro fighter and what have you tried your best to hang onto instead of becoming wholly obsessed with the fight game?
Chris Gruetzemacher: You know man, to be honest, I've given up a lot. I've given up, shit dude, I've given up friends, good times, I've given up a girlfriend. I've given up time. I'm talking giving up friends, people I don't talk to anymore, people who I love. I've had to not see them as much. I've got best friends, people I consider my brothers and I don't see them for a year or two and they live right around the corner. Because of what it takes and the lifestyle, I had to sacrifice.
There was a year that I worked every day. I worked every day. I would come into the gym, work out at 8:30, clean the gym up in the middle of the day, walk home to my apartment, chill for an hour, make lunch and then head back to the gym. I'd practice for another two hours, borrow a friend's car and then drive for an hour to where I worked from 6-10 at night. I'd be lucky to get to bed by 11, get my seven hours of sleep and then I'd wake up and do it all over again for seven days a week.
And all the money I made? I was still paying to fight. There was always a bill I needed to pay, always a new payment. I was just slowly falling in debt, spreading it all out slowly an inevitably. For a whole year it was like that. I never had cable, I still don't. I didn't drive my car for a year, was barely making the payments on it and it almost get it towed. I had to unregister it and didn't pay insurance just to lower my cost of living. That was just to have it.
Don't get me wrong. As much as I've sacrificed, I've had so many other experiences. I didn't get to go to these special events, but you have to realize there will be another Fourth of July, a Christmas party, another time. My outlook on it is a bit different but I felt like I was having to give all of this up while my friends are having the time of their lives. But you know what? I got to be in Japan watching my friend's hand get raised as the UFC lightweight champion.
I've got friends who have never left Arizona and now I've been to Toronto, Japan and got to be at these cool events and meet these cool people. I'm not really starstruck but when I saw Chuck Liddell and Brock Lesnar, those are great moments. If I get injured tomorrow, I wouldn't have changed anything. I could get a beer anytime, I could always be partying. Christmas will be here next here. There will be another Memorial Day weekend. I can always do that next year but I want to do this right now. I've got a lot of be thankful for. So many good experiences.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've talked about never getting a chance to go to college and that was one of your goals. If you get that chance to take some classes, what is something you'd want to do someday?
Chris Gruetzemacher: To tell you the truth, man, fighting is the only thing I want to do. It's the only thing I've ever really wanted to do. I'm a hard worker and I work my butt off, but I want to go to college because there's so much out there in the world. You can only experience so much and college kind of helps you speed through some of those things. It's just basic skills, good information to be knowledgeable about in your own personal life.
I would never want to stop fighting. This is who I am. I'm doing what I"m supposed to do, but if going to college gets me in a nutrition class and it makes me better at who I am in my life and better prepare me then why not? If I can take an exercise science class and get better conditioning, why not do that? I've got lots of questions. Right now I'm just barely starting to make some money and I'm scared. I'm having to learn to do some of this stuff on my own. I want to be able to depend on myself more and not have to take everyone for their words. I just want to be a better person. I don't have actual goals to get a degree. In all honesty, if they told me I couldn't be a fighter anymore, I wouldn't be able to tell you what I wanted to do with anything.
Chris would like to thank the MMA Lab, his coaches, Crouch, Niko, Joe and everyone who makes it run. He would also like to thank his family, especially his mom and his close friends. He'd like to thank Apex Sports Agency for helping set up his last few fights. You can follow him on twitter @GRITZMMA.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
After winning so many fights in a row in impressive fashion, how long until one of the major promotions comes calling for "Gritz?" Do you feel he's got potential to make an impact on the big stage?
To listen to the complete audio of our interview with Chris Gruetzemacher, click here (interview starts at 12:00 mark).