The life of an MMA fighter means that you always have to be on your toes, always prepared to dodge the roadblocks and unexpected detours that will assuredly come your way. For Bellator’s Brandon Girtz, the past few years have been full of emotional highs and lows, including tremendous opportunities on the national stage and frustrating injuries that have kept him on the sidelines.
Friday night may be the biggest opportunity of his career, though, as Girtz is set to compete in Bellator’s Season 10 lightweight tournament.
After spending the past few months preparing to take back a win against an opponent who defeated him in June of 2013, however, a short-notice shake-up in the tournament now pits Girtz against Derek Anderson.
“I never really looked at anybody else in the tournament,” Girtz told Bleacher Report MMA. “I was concentrating on Derek Campos. Then another guy in the tournament got injured, so they kind of switched things up and ended up giving me Derek Anderson. Campos and I are still on the same side of the bracket, though, so I pray he wins so I can get him in the next fight.”
Disappointed, but not distracted, Girtz now shifts his attention to his new opponent.
“I thought Campos was one of the toughest guys in the tournament, so personally I see this as kind of an easier fight for me,” he said. “Campos has heavy hands, so he’s always got the opportunity to get those knockouts. I’ve seen a couple fights from Anderson now and I just don’t see that. I don’t see anything scary from this guy. I thought I was going to dominate Campos, and I'm still feeling like I’m going to dominate Anderson.”
A new opponent presents new challenges for Girtz, however, as Anderson stands 6’0” tall, making him one of the lengthiest fighters in the division.
“I’m not going to try and test out his range too much,” Girtz said. “But to tell you the truth, I think I can stand with this guy more than I could have with Campos, just because I don’t see him having the same kind of power. But regardless, I guarantee you that his back is going to be on the mat.”
A fight camp with coach Trevor Wittman and the team at the Grudge Training Center in Denver, Colo., has been a dramatic change of scenery for Girtz, who has spent most of his career training in the Twin Cities area.
“The elevation out here was a killer at first,” Girtz said. “I didn’t come here in terrible shape, but it sure felt like I did. Trevor Whitman is an amazing coach. I love the guy. He’s a good friend. He’s a very motivational guy. The teammates here are great, too.”
Confident in his endurance, skills and the potential matchups as the tournament goes on, Girtz expects to remain training out of Team Grudge through May, when the tournament will crown a champion.
“The bigger the fight is, the more comfortable I am,” Girtz said. “I expect to win this tournament.”
Friday night’s bout with Derek Anderson will be the first step in that process for Girtz. The opportunity is there. He just needs to reach out and grab it.