Sobriety Brings Success for Bart Palaszewski
Bart Palaszewski came to a career crossroads in April 2009.
After suffering his fourth loss in six fights, the former IFL standout was starring at a two-fight losing streak in the WEC and facing the potential of being released. Changes needed to be made, and a biggest, most important battle that needed to be fought took place outside of the cage.
“It was more my personal life; everything was going good [in regards to fighting], I just had some demons I was battled,” explained the 27-year-old Palaszewski when he took a break from finding his Christmas tree to talk with Heavy.com earlier in the month. “I was getting into the party mode way too much, and I had a bit of a – it became almost a drinking problem where my family and my wife and some of my friends were asking me what I was doing.
“If you look at my physique in those last couple WEC fights, I’m not in the greatest shape; I was kind of chunky and I looked like garbage. I had long hair and I just didn’t care; I just let myself go on a personal level and it really reflected in my professional life.”
Palaszewski credits Team Curran assistant striking coach Brett Blendel with helping him see the impact of enjoying the nightlife too much, and making the decision to move in another direction.
“He is really big on not drinking and things like that because when you’re drunk, you don’t have self-control, and he hates not having self-control. He kind of yelled at me and called me out on my problem. I didn’t quit drinking completely, but I scaled it back and was able to put a few wins together.”
If you look at the tape of his last two fights, Palaszewski looks like a different person. Between his bout with Karen Darabedyan in March and stepping into the cage with Zach Micklewright in August, the Polish-born fighter renewed his commitment to training and emerged in the best shape of his career. He scored a second-round stoppage victory over the previously unbeaten Micklewright, his fourth straight win overall and third over quality competition in the WEC.
Even more impressive than his four-fight winning streak, however, was the decision Palaszewski made the day after celebrating friend and trainer Jeff Curran’s birthday in early September.
“September 2nd was Jeff’s birthday and we all went out for lunch. I had one last beer, and since then I haven’t had one sip of alcohol. It’s over three months now and I feel great. My training is through the roof, my strength and conditioning is doubling even from my August fight, and just overall, everything else falls into place. My game is really developing now, and for the second time in my life, I’m really taking this to a different level, and I want to go to the top.”
A chance to challenge for the top spot in the the WEC lightweight division was just a win away for Palaszewski, as Thursday’s meeting with Kamal Shalorus was to be a title eliminator bout. The opportunity was scuttled due to the company’s merger with the UFC, making this matchup bittersweet for “Bartimus.”
“The closer it gets to the fight, the less bitter and more sweet it is. Obviously, after this win I was going to get a title shot in the WEC, and now the winner of Henderson vs. Pettis is going to get a crack at the winner of Maynard vs. Edgar, so that was kind of bitter for a little bit. When I sit down and think about it, on one hand it’s a bummer, but on the other hand it’s like `screw it, I’m in the UFC.’”
Though he’s excited to achieve his ultimate goal of fighting on the biggest stage in the business in 2011, Palaszewski isn’t looking past his pairing with Shalorus. The former Olympian brings truly world-class wrestling into the cage, pairing his expertise with heavy-handed strikes thrown from the hip with evil intent, an approach the veteran of close to 50 fights has been prepared for by his coaches.
“For a guy like Kamal though, obviously it’s about throwing down the pipe and keeping everything nice and tight; peppering him, beating him up with the jab, catching him in between his punches. Like you said, he’s an elite wrestler, so circling and moving a lot so that he doesn’t get a hold of my legs, because if he does, I have a feeling I’m going to be on my butt.”
No matter what the topic, Palaszewski is always completely honest, even when the questions are about life outside of the cage.
Though he admits that talking about his ups-and-downs with drinking is somewhat embarrassing, Palaszewski hopes that his willingness to open up about his issues can help other fighters avoid the same situations he’s encountered.
“I wish I had somebody that went through this already and told me this isn’t the right way to do it, but I didn’t. I had to learn it on my own and hopefully other people don’t have to.”
Now that he’s winning that fight, Palaszewski is looking forward to adding a few more wins to his record as well, starting with a victory over Shalorus at the WEC’s final show on Thursday night.