Krzysztof Soszynski exclusive: "It's been seven years of hard work."
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Krzysztof Soszynski fought his way into the UFC as a contestant on season 8 of Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter." Soszynski entered the show as a veteran of more than 20 pro fights and proved to be a formidable presence, quickly becoming a fan favorite after winning his two preliminary matches before losing to Vinicius Magalhaes in the semifinals.
"The Polish Experiment" came back strong in his first official UFC fight, earning a submission win over Shane Primm at The Ultimate Finale 8 via second-round kimura. The victory earned him "Submission of the Night" honors, and Soszynski followed that up with another "Submission of the Night" performance using a kimura against former WEC light-heavyweight champ Brian Stann at UFC 97. It was a victory that established the kimura as something of a trademark finishing move for Soszynski, and it also proved that he was going to be a force to be reckoned with in the light-heavyweight division.
Soszynski most recently competed at UFC 110, the organization's inaugural Australian event, where he defeated Stephan Bonnar by way of third-round TKO, improving his UFC record to 4-1. Unfortunately, the fight with Bonnar was marred by an accidental clash of heads between the two men that opened a cut on Bonnar's forehead which eventually led to the stoppage. Both fighter's were disappointed with the cause of the stoppage, and have agreed to a rematch, which is anticipated for The Ultimate Finale 11 on June 22 in Las Vegas.
Soszynski sat down with FiveKnuckles.com's Giada Esposito in this exclusive interview to discuss his recent fight with Stephan Bonnar, his training regimen, how he got started in MMA, and various other topics.
FiveKnuckles.com: First of all Krzysztof, on behalf of the FiveKnuckles.com staff and readers, I would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.
Krzysztof Soszynski: My pleasure.
Krzysztof Soszynski: I definitely feel that the fight was going really well for me personally. I was doing a lot of things right. We had a great game plan going into that fight. My conditioning was fantastic. I was able to push the pace. I know that I definitely won round one. I know that round two was pretty close, it could have gone either way, and I truly believe that I was winning round three before the stoppage. So, I was very disappointed with the fact that the fight was stopped the way it was, even though I did win based on a TKO, because the ref didn't see the cut because of the accidental clash of heads. But it is what it is, and hopefully we'll get a chance to have the fight happen again.
FiveKnuckles.com: You have agreed to face Bonnar in a rematch. Will you be doing anything differently now that you've had a chance to fight him once?
Krzysztof Soszynski: You know, I've watched the fight a couple of times, so I haven't really had a chance to look at it as far as the way he does things. But I'm pretty sure we'll sit down and pick out a few things that he does that I think we can take advantage of, and change our game plan a little bit. I don't think it will be as much of a slug fest as the first fight. I think we'll be a little bit more technical about it, and he'll be looking for some of the mistakes that I made in the fight, and I'll be looking for some of the mistakes that he made in his fight.
FiveKnuckles.com: What was the experience of fighting in Australia like?
Krzysztof Soszynski: Australia was absolutely fantastic. You know, I fought at UFC 97 in Montreal, and that was just an unbelievable experience, just the way the crowd was, and the chants and everything like that. And it was the same atmosphere in Sydney. It was absolutely amazing. People were there right from the start of the show. The place was packed from the very first fight. It was an absolute honor for me to fight in Australia, and I'd love to go back there next year if possible.
FiveKnuckles.com: You had already been fighting for a couple of years professionally when the first season of the Ultimate Fighter came out. Did you follow the show from the start?
Krzysztof Soszynski: I did, yes. I actually applied for season two, the heavyweight season, and I made it to the first set of interviews, but I never got a call back to be on the show. I followed it basically throughout. I missed a season here and there, obviously being a bigger guy I don't watch too much of the smaller guys, but anytime there's the 185's or the 205's or the heavyweights on I'll always tune in.
FiveKnuckles.com: How was your time on season 8 of the Ultimate Fighter?
Krzysztof Soszynski: Season eight was a lot of fun. It definitely helped my career get to where it is today. The exposure was fantastic. I do say that the six weeks of being in the house were really tough mentally, a lot more mentally than physically. You know - no TV, no music, no phone, no contact with the outside world of any sort. You're in that house for a good 20 hours out of the 24 hours in your day. You're stuck around with the same guys. And the guys that don't win their fights start drinking, start getting bad food. So you're around a lot of distractions, and that was the hardest part. But if I had to do it again, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
FiveKnuckles.com: Do you have any heroes? Who do you look up to?
Krzysztof Soszynski: To be honest with you, I don't have any heroes, but I do have tremendous respect for anybody who steps into the cage or the ring to do what we do. I think we're a special breed of people, and I have respect for anybody who steps in and does this.
FiveKnuckles.com: Before you began your career as a fighter, you used to be a body builder and a professional wrestler. What inspired you to make the transition to MMA?
Krzysztof Soszynski: During my time in my professional wrestling days I had a chance to travel to Calgary, Alberta, which is basically the Mecca of professional wrestling in Canada, and I met a gentleman by the name of Bad News Brown. He used to be a former WWE and WWF wrestler back in the 80s and 90s, and I had a chance to be in his training camp for two weeks. And basically what happened was, he makes his students grapple at the beginning of all his sessions. He showed me a few submission holds, jiu-jitsu holds, kimura, Americana, armbar, and I just became immediately hooked. I wasn't a big fan of this sport (MMA) back in the day. I do admit I watched the very first UFC's: one, two, three, four, and it just wasn't really my thing. I was never into the violent stuff or anything like that. So when he showed me those three moves, I don't know, just something snapped in me and I said, "I want to learn this." And I quit wrestling that day. I came back home to Winnipeg, in Manitoba, Canada, my hometown, and I took up jiu-jitsu. And about six months later, I was asked if I wanted to have my first fight, mixed martial arts fight, amateur. I said yes, and the rest, as they say, is history. Seven years of hard work, and I'm in the UFC.
FiveKnuckles.com: With your background and the current training you do, you're obviously very health-conscious. How important is a proper diet to your success, and what is a typical day of meals for you when you're training?
Krzysztof Soszynski: For me personally, diet's a very important part of my success, and my overall daily activity. Diet's very important. I eat seven meals a day; five solid meals, and two protein shakes. My protein shakes are after my workouts, and usually consist of whey protein, veggie greens, fruit powder, mixed with glutamine and amino acids. My meals are very clean. Breakfast is egg whites with oatmeal and a piece of fruit, and lots of water. My next few meals usually consist of chicken or turkey breasts, with brown rice or baked potato, and lots of steamed vegetables. I snack on stuff like almonds, humus, almond butter, those kind of things. So that's a typical day of my nutrition.
FiveKnuckles.com: You started your UFC career with back-to-back "Submission of the Night" victories using a kimura. Was that a coincidence, or is that technique a specialty of yours?
Krzysztof Soszynski: The kimura, I guess, is one of the first techniques I learned. I just found that it works for me, it works really well for my body structure. I found that the second I get hold of that arm on anybody they're having a really hard time to get out of it. And if I can't use it to submit I'll at least use it to sweep or get in a better position. So it's something that I've worked on really hard over my career, over the last seven years. I've kind of mastered it from all different angles, whether I'm on my back or in side mount, or in any other position. So it's definitely something that I look for more than any other submission. But it was definitely a coincidence that it happened in back-to-back fights. The arm was there, I went for it, and I succeeded with it and got the tapout.
Krzysztof Soszynski: Team Quest is fantastic. I've been here for a little more than two years. Dan Henderson is a great instructor, a great teacher. He took me under his wing, showed me the ropes, and helped me out with my wrestling. My clinch game has improved tremendously because of him. Team Quest is one of the best teams in the world, and it's been an honor and a pleasure to be part of that team.
FiveKnuckles.com: Do you have any prediction for Dan's up-coming fight against Jake Shields for the Strikeforce middleweight title?
Krzysztof Soszynski: Dan Henderson by brutal knockout.
FiveKnuckles.com: Your only UFC loss has been to Brandon Vera at UFC 102. But since then, you've accepted an offer to train with him at Alliance MMA. What's it been like to train with Brandon and his teammates?
Krzysztof Soszynski: You know what, it's kind of funny because Brandon and I, before our fight, we had a chance to train together a few years back at Eddie Bravo's 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu. I was down there and I had a chance to meet Brandon, and train with him, and roll with him, and it was a lot of fun. We've always talked about training together. After our fight I was looking to train with some guys who were a little bit bigger, who have a little longer reach and are a little taller, for my fight with Stephan Bonnar, and I called up Brandon right away. He basically said yes, and opened up the door for me and my training partner Lew Polley, and it just worked out perfectly. It's been such an honor for me to fight with him and now to train with him. And Phil Davis is over there, Joey Beltran, Travis Brown, Lew Polley, and myself, so you have six guys who are all top-level athletes who are training together with a great group of coaches. It's been absolutely fantastic and wonderful.
FiveKnuckles.com: Do you have any prediction for Brandon's fight with Jon Jones this coming weekend?
Krzysztof Soszynski: I'm actually very excited to see that fight. I think that a lot of people are giving Jon Jones the victory in this fight, but I definitely think that Brandon Vera's going to surprise a lot of people and do what he does best. And that's come in with a great game plan and pick apart Jon Jones, and win via nice TKO in the second round.
FiveKnuckles.com: You have some really nice ink. What was the inspiration for your tattoos?
Krzysztof Soszynski: My back piece is a gargoyle. My wife and I love to travel, and we had a chance to go to France and see the Notre Dame cathedral. I saw a bunch of gargoyles in each window at the Notre Dame cathedral, and that kind of inspired that. I took that as, those gargoyles were protecting the cathedral, and basically the big gargoyle on my back is protecting me from all the bad things up there, and keeping it clean. So that's the inspiration for that tattoo. My wife and I have tattoos on our ring fingers that mean "my love" in Polish if you look at it one way, and if you look at it the other way it's in French. My right sleeve is basically a lion and a dragon battling it out. I'm a Leo, so I got the lion for me, the dragon is all the tough battles I've been through in life. Then I have a tree, the tree of life going in between with the roots on my fingertips. And the tribal pieces, I've always been a huge fan of tribal and I started drawing it myself. Most of the pieces on my left sleeve are actually designs that I've drawn out, and had a tattoo artist help me with matching them all up and putting them all in one.
FiveKnuckles.com: How did you get your nickname, "The Polish Experiment?"
Krzysztof Soszynski: The Polish Experiment thing, well when I first got into Brazilian jiu-jitsu I was about 285, 290 pounds, basically coming off of professional wrestling, and I was in really great shape. My very first day I was able to roll around for about two or three hours, and usually for a guy who is around 285 pounds he would gas out really quickly and get beat up and stuff. I actually did pretty well. I did get beat out by a few really good jiu-jitsu guys, but I was hanging in there with most of them, and I was able to roll around for a good two or three hours straight without stopping. So the experiment thing started happening from there, they started calling me the "Experiment." Then about a week later, two weeks later everybody found out I was Polish, and that's when everybody started calling me "The Polish Experiment."
FiveKnuckles.com: I'd like to thank you again for taking the time to speak with me. Is there anyone you would like to thank?
Krzysztof Soszynski: Thank you so much for the opportunity. I have a few sponsors that I would love to thank. Skin Industries, my main t-shirt sponsor, thank you so much for all the help. Jaco, Painaway Sports from Australia. Hayabusa, and my tattoos from Living Canvas Tattoos. Thank you again. And to all the fans who have been there for me supporting me since the start, thank you so much guys, looking forward to our big fight in June.
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