Under the the tutelage of a man simply known as “The Master,” Anthony Birchak has developed into one of the southwest's rising mixed martial artists. He represents the new breed, the future, tomorrow's fighter.
With a perfect professional record of 5-0, the Drew Fickett prospect Birchak has already competed for Bellator and now seeks his first title. After a hard fought submission win on his Bellator debut, Birchak has been offered a title shot at the current Rage In The Cage bantamweight champion Carlos Ortega.
With great success comes great expectation, and the shoulders of Anthony Birchak are broad enough to carry the load. He is looking to make good on the expectations many in the Arizona fight community have for him.
Having spent most of his MMA career under the wing of Fickett, Birchak has also spent time on the mats with such names as Bellator's Ed West and the UFC's George Roop. The people who surround him have found their own success and are now grooming Birchak to seek his path to the big stage.
The next step of that journey begins July 16th under the Rage In The Cage banner. Birchak is mentally prepared for this next step against a seasoned veteran for the highest of MMA stakes in the form of an MMA title.
Preparing for and competing under the Bellator banner may have played a large role in Birchak's current preparedness leading into his first title fight. He talked about his focus and his opponent for Bellator.
"Tyler Bialecki was a tough opponent and I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous and scared fighting under the Bellator banner. But when it was all said and done, I was the most focused, and most prepared, that I have ever been for any fight across the board.”
Birchak sees the significance of both fighting for a mainstream show, and also taking on a veteran with a title to defend. Both hold plenty of weight in his eyes and he is focused on the big picture.
“Bellator was the biggest show that I have fought in and now I am going on to a dude that has 25 fights. That's 20 more fights than I have. So I'm trying to take everything in stride and really evaluate how much I've progressed from July 2009 when I debuted, until July 2011.”
Where does Birchak see his progression?
“I think leaps and bounds is what I see. I am really proud of myself. I came through a lot of adversity to get here and I'm ready. I see Dominick Cruz defending his title, I see Nate Vorel winning his title. I'm hungry and I want a title of my own.”
Birchak, of course, gives credit to those who helped him achieve his current situation, knowing he is only as strong as those he surrounds himself with. Most importantly, his coach.
“Drew Fickett is geared for MMA. We are taught to take the back, we are taught to take the neck, and we do that to the best of our ability. I'm not trying to toot my own horn but it speaks volumes that all of my wins have come by submission in the first round with one in the second round. So it's working.
“Being with Drew is an experience, when he is on he's on. He is the reason that I'm in this sport and he is the reason that I do what I do and how well that I do it.”
Spending time with Fickett has turned Birchak into a bit of a ground wiz but he recognizes real when it figures into the equation. And while he is confident, he sees a true threat in the RITC champ he is about to face.
“I know the majority of his wins have all come by armbar. He is collecting arms and he has got a bunch hanging over his mantle. With me being a wrestler, I would love to take him down and ground-and-pound him. But I'm trying to play it real close to the chest and just feel him out.
“I have long, long arms, and am a fine candidate to have one ripped off, but we are going to feel him out and hopefully keep my arms intact. I'm going to come out with the submission.”
He is surrounded by people who have experience competing with Ortega and he is capitalizing wherever he can. While anything can happen in this game he has certain expectations of the champ.
“I have watched film on him against Ed West twice, George Roop once, where his age is at I don't expect him to be further progressed into the game. He is pretty set in his ways already.”
As a man who has made his career tapping fighters out, Birchak sees an opening where he may be able to showcase an ever-growing weapon in his arsenal.
“Hopefully, if he comes out like he has been coming out, I'm going to throw straight punches right down the pipe and hit him in his mouth. If he wants to come with those looping punches like he does then he is going to pay for it.”
Birchak added, “For myself, my standup game has always been a weak point but lately kickboxing with Eddie West and George Roop I'm growing by leaps and bounds daily. This is going to be the time that I showcase my hands and I'm going to let them go.”
Lord help us if this guy gets his hands where he wants them to be.
Long and the short of it is simple: Anthony Birchak carries the kind of athletic talent that has delivered him to one of the defining moments of his young MMA career. He has grown from a wrestler to become a mixed martial artist. Think about it: a wrestler with five submissions. That was unheard of 10 years ago.
As he turns the page and further builds his bag of tools to include a striking game, the sky is truly the limit and he can go as far as his own feet will carry him. But again, it starts this Saturday night as he takes on a man who has five times more fights than he has.
At Rage In The Cage 153, Anthony Birchak will square off with the most experienced fighter he has ever faced in competition. The stakes will be higher than they have ever been before. He will be the greatest fighter he has ever been.
If Joey Rivera and the guys out of Apex MMA and Drew Fickett and his Team Scrub have anything to say about it this, it will become one more victory in a long line of success just waiting to unfold for Anthony Birchak.
This article originally featured at Hurtsbad MMA.