Veteran makes UFC and featherweight debut this weekend
When we’re talking about athletes on the brink of their 50th fight, the person in question usually falls into one of two categories: a forty- or fifty-something veteran who has been around since the beginning of time or a regional punching bag who has taken bad fights and bad results all in the name of collecting his show money.
Bart Palaszewski is the exception to the norm, and he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I’ve always wanted to be here,” began the 28-year-old member of Team Curran when we spoke last week. “Other opportunities were coming up and I was taking them as they came along, which is why I’ve got a ton of fights, but I wouldn’t change anything for the world. I love where I’m at, and how I got here.
“I didn’t get here because I was a goofball on a TV show or because a couple of my teammates were in the big show and I got in there because they asked Dana for a favor. I worked my ass off, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love the way I got here.”
His journey to the UFC has included numerous organizations across the United States, a four-year stretch between 2004 and 2007 that produced a 23-6 record, and seven fights in the WEC. In total, there have been 49 fights with 35 victories, and every one of them have come at lightweight.
Palaszewski was supposed to make his UFC debut in the organization’s most daunting division back in May, but was forced to withdraw just a week before the event. Annoyed to have to postpone his first trip inside the Octagon, the man they call “Bartimus” decided to make the most of the opportunity.
“Even though being sick and having to pull out of UFC 130 a week before the fight was a bummer, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m just taking fights to take the fight. I’ve done it many times – fighting injured or not prepared all the way or sick or something.
“That was one of the first times where I pulled out of a fight where I thought maybe I could make it through the fight. It was definitely a hard decision, but I didn’t want to make my debut in the UFC and really suck it up.
“Plus they changed the opponent at the last minute. I was training for a six-foot southpaw (Cody McKenzie), and then they brought in (Gleison) Tibau who is conventional, and he’s a freak of nature too. Fighting that guy and not being 100 percent would have been bad for my health. If I didn’t have a concussion before the fight, I’m sure I would have had one after the fight.”
What Palaszewski thought was a concussion turned out to be an inner ear virus. “All the symptoms point to a concussion, but I wasn’t nauseous at all,” he said of the cause of his UFC 130 withdrawal.
The disappointing situation in May paved the way for Palaszewski to make the move to featherweight for his UFC debut instead. While he says it is something he’s wanted to do for years and simply never had the time for, Palaszewski admits there are additional perks to shedding the additional ten pounds as well.
“Obviously, the ’45 division is not as big as 155. A lot of guys are dropping to ’45, but there is still not as big a division as the lightweight division, so I’m sure it’s going to be much easier to get established in that division, for one. I also think I’m going to be one of the biggest guys.
Palaszewski will take on fellow lightweight defector Tyson Griffin in a bout that will kick off the two-fight Spike TV preliminary portion of the UFC 137 program. It’s a pairing that illustrates the new opportunities awaiting competitors like the two former lightweights in the featherweight ranks.
“It’s definitely a high-profile fight. Tyson was established at ’55. He kind of tripped up a little bit, but we’ve all been there. He made his debut at ’45 and beat Manny Gamburyan, which is a super-tough guy. It was an extremely close fight, but a win is a win, right? Doesn’t matter how you win.
“He’s a top 10 guy which is awesome, and that’s what I want. I don’t want to fight guys that I know I can beat; I want to fight guys that are going to be a challenger for me, for one, and are actually going to do something for my career.
“It’s nice to fight scrubs some times and just get your money up, but I think that getting the belt gets your money up even quicker than fighting scrubs. I’m not asking for a title fight after this fight, but ultimately that’s the goal.
“Every fight I pick is going to be a smart fight that propels me towards that goal. I don’t want to stand still or be at a plateau; I want to keep moving forward. Tyson Griffin is a top 10 guy, so after beating him, I’m not going to take anybody that’s not in the top 10.”
The migration to the featherweight ranks is another adjustment that Palaszewski says is long overdue; the first was putting an end to the late nights and unproductive training sessions a foggy head and a hangover produced in the past.
We spoke candidly about his choices prior to his bout with Kamal Shalorus at WEC 53. A year later, Palaszewski still open about the lessons he’d had to learn over time, but he’s also happy of the improvements those changes have made both at home and in the gym.
“”I got into that fighter lifestyle of sleeping in, going out until god knows what time. The lifestyle that everyone thinks that we really live — the party lifestyle — but it’s not; it’s smoke and mirrors, man.
“The truth of it all is that all the big time guys don’t drink, don’t party. When they have the parties and stuff, it’s always soda water and lime, which I learned. It took me many years to learn that it’s not vodka-soda; it’s just soda water with a lime.
“My training sessions are worth something now when I get in there,” Palaszewski continues, pointing out other improvements that have come from his decision to detox from his previous lifestyle. “I retain some of it and move forward, instead of backward. They’re actually worth a [beep].
“The biggest thing is that it had an impact on my family life. I get up nice and early with my daughter and play with her; I’m the one that puts her to sleep.”
Well-rested, focused, and finished with a solid training camp spent preparing with his long-time coach and fellow UFC 137 competitor Jeff Curran, Palaszewski can’t wait for October 29 to arrive.
“I’m extremely pumped; I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. I’ve fought in a lot of promotions, but every time, I’ve thought about the UFC. Now I’m in the UFC and in a new weight class.
“I’m extremely happy, and extremely positive; ready to get out there, mix it up, and put on a hell of a show. It’s going to be Fight of the Night, man. It’s going to be a brawl, and it’s going to be awesome.”