While Seth Baczynski jokes that he is “probably the last one on the UFC’s mind at 170 pounds,” a little less than a year removed from his UFC debut, he is nevertheless confident that he is ready to make the jump back into the Octagon.
Prior to appearing on ‘The Ultimate Fighter: Team Liddell vs. Team Ortiz’ as a member of Team Ortiz, Baczynski held a record of 11 wins with five losses—with all victories coming by way of stoppage.
Despite losing to eventual season winner Court McGee in the preliminary round of the competition, after an injury to another contestant, Baczynski was given the opportunity to re-enter the tournament.
In his second bout of the competition, Baczynski, in a three-round contest, beat Team Liddell’s Joseph Henle.
In his third fight of the season, Baczynski, following an illegal soccer-kick, was disqualified from his bout against Brad Tavares.
Since leaving the ‘TUF House,’ Baczynski has gone undefeated in a pair of bouts—including a victory over Alex Garcia to claim Ringside MMA’s interim welterweight title in April—and is currently looking for more opportunities at 170 pounds—while working full-time for Liberty Water.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Seth Baczynski about his time on ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ training with some of the sport’s elite at Power MMA and Fitness in Arizona, and his future in the sport.
Were you involved in any martial arts growing up?
No. Growing up, I mainly played football and basketball. I didn’t really get involved in martial arts until I got out of high school.
What inspired you to try your hand at mixed martial arts?
I always competed in something growing up and when I got out of high school, I started to put on some weight and I just wanted to do some basic Jiu-Jitsu classes.
One of my buddies was saying, “You should come try this. You’ll beat all of these guys up,” but I did it more just to get in shape and to have something to do. I ended up being pretty good at it and enjoying it quite a bit.
Were you passionate about it from the start?
I liked it the day that I went in. Once I got in there and started rolling around and learning, I was immediately hooked and I haven’t stopped working out since.
Did you think, in the beginning, that this was something that you’d be able to make a career out of?
Yeah, I used to tell people all the time—right from the time I started. People would, you know, ask what my goals for the future were and I would always tell them—with a straight-face—that I was going to fight in the UFC one day and they always laughed at me like I was crazy.
From Day One, I always knew that I could and would compete at a high level.
Did that ever waver in your mind?
Nope—it never has. There are have been low points in my career when I realized that it was a lot harder than I thought, when I realized that I would have to sacrifice more and more, but I never contemplated giving up on my dream.
What inspired you to try out for ‘The Ultimate Fighter’?
They called me and they asked me to put in a video—for season seven—and they flew me up and when I was doing the interview, they straight-up told me, “What the fuck happened to your record?”
And it, kind of, hurt my feelings, but once I got back, I was determined to get better and work on my game. The last time that I tried out for it, the coaches were telling me, “Hey, it’s an 85 season.”
Even though I fight at 170 pounds, I’ve got to diet quite a bit to get down there, so they felt that if I tried out for a 170 show, making weight four to six times in six weeks would be too hard on my body, so 185 would be where to go at. I decided to put in a video and try to make it on.
Did you think that you would make the cut?
I knew I had a good chance. I knew that I would be in the upper-echelon of the competition. They knew who I was, because I had fought in IFL, and I knew if I could put in an interesting video, that would get me close to an interview.
From that point, the interview would determine whether I got on or not. I felt that the interview went well; once I got out of the interview, I knew that I was going to get a shot to compete on it.
What did you include in the video?
I just explained who I was and where I’m from to them. I’m from this little hillbilly, kind of, trailer-trash town and it was really hard for me to explain who I am and where I’m from just talking on a video, so I went out an interviewed locals in my town and did some stupid trivia. It ended up being pretty funny.
Were you at all apprehensive before you went on the show?
Just like in any sport, any athlete has doubts and worries. At the time, my son was only a few weeks old and it was tough, you know? I knew that if I looked back on my life, I would’ve regretted not going on the show. I knew, looking back, that I would want to give it a shot and see how it went. Like anything, there are always doubts and worries.
What were your first impressions on the first day of filming?
I had a good idea of how the system worked, because a lot of my teammates had been on there. For me, it was kind of weird seeing Tito [Ortiz] and Chuck [Liddell] for the first five minutes, but after that, you realize that you’re going to be fighting one of these guys to get in the house and it’s a mental-war from there; preparing yourself mentally to get in there and compete.
My first impression was a little overwhelming, but after that, I realize that I was going to be competing—I didn’t know who, yet—but that’s all I had on my mind.
Do you feel—at the time—you were adequately prepared to go on the show?
Yeah. With the skill-set that I had at the time, and I was in good shape—I went in ready to go three five-minute rounds and to fight until the end.
There are always things that you look back on, where you wish you would’ve done this and you wish you would’ve done that, but I feel that I was in shape and game and ready to go and compete.
Was there anything that surprised you during your time on the show?
Not too much. I knew that you were going to have your one or two guys that were really weird around the cameras, but nothing really surprised me too much. I was prepared for a bunch of weird, crazy stuff anyway.
I’d say the most surprising thing out of the whole experience was how cool all of the fighters are and how respectful they all are to each other—for the most part.
Once you get in there, you realize that everyone has their own unique story, but we’re all, kind of, the same; we’ve all been through trials and tribulations trying to get where we’re going. That was probably the biggest surprise; how cool everybody was.
How do you feel about what you were able to accomplish on the show?
I feel like I could’ve done better. Obviously not winning, wasn’t what I was intending on doing, but I didn’t go on there for a moral victory; I went on there to do my best and I wish I would’ve done better.
I feel like I could’ve beat anyone in the house, but I didn’t. That sucked, but it motivated me to get better; I’ve changed a lot of things in fighting and in my life in general since then. It goes one way for some fighters and the other way for some fighters.
In that sense, some guys take it and build on it, but it’s the end for some guys, and I really feel like it’s the beginning of my career. I learned a lot about myself and, all in all, it was a good experience.
Is there anything that you would change, if you could?
I wouldn’t soccer-kick Brad Tavares in the face when he was on the ground [laughs]. That’s the first thing that pops up. Other than that brutal foul that I committed, no.
That was a mistake, though. That happens, right?
Yeah—it is what it is. That’s probably the one thing that I would change. Not a lot of people remember my really close fight with Court McGee and beating Joe Henle; most people just remember that brutal soccer-kick.
There are a couple athletes that you can think of, where—no matter what they do in their career—they are remembered for that one thing and I’m bound and determined to do bigger and better things, so that’s not what people remember when they think of me.
Did you realize what you were doing as you were doing it?
Yeah, but I was already letting go. If you look at the film, when he’s going to get up, he lifts both of his hands up; both of his hands come up when his knee is still down.
Right when I saw his hand come up—it looked like he was in an upward-motion—I went to let my hand go, and then I realized his hips were really low, but it was already going.
When it’s allowed, do you like that rule?
Yeah, I like that rule when it’s legal; I think it’s a way to end fights and not have a lot of the boring fights that we do have. When it’s legal, I think it’s a good rule, but when it’s not it shouldn’t be done at all—in any instance.
Do you feel that you’ve gotten a bad reputation because of that foul?
Yeah, but it’s my own fault. There’s really nothing that I can do about it except keep on winning. I think, if I keep on winning, then all of that stuff will go away.
Is there anything else that you took away from your experience on the show?
I learned a lot. I learned a lot of cool things about MMA and I learned a lot about the fight-game, in general.
Would you do it again if you were given the opportunity?
Yeah, who wouldn’t [laughs]? Any competitor that has lost on the show—or came close to getting to the end—were offered that opportunity and they already weren’t in the UFC, then they would take it.
How long have you been training at Power MMA in Arizona?
About three months before its grand opening, so probably six or seven months, but I’ve been working out with that core-group of guys from ACS for a year, a year-and-a-half.
How would you describe the environment there?
It’s awesome. I just got done working out about an hour-and-a-half ago. We’ve got tons of talented guys, we’ve got a lot of good things going on with coaches. There’s no hostility or anything like that; everyone that is there is there to get better, and that’s it.
Have you experienced an environment like this elsewhere in your career?
Yeah, I think having a positive environment in any relationship—whether it be with a girl or a work-relationship—where everyone is there for each other, I think you achieve great things.
I think when you have negative energy and negative people around, it keeps you from growing as a person and in the fight-game, if you don’t evolve, you get left behind—and this isn’t a sport where you lose by three points in overtime; you get knocked-out or submitted in front of everybody.
How does it feel to train with, arguably, some of the most talented guys on the planet?
It feels great. I feel that I’m the weakest link on the team, but I feel like I’m growing leaps and bounds every day. When you train with those types of guys—with that type of work ethic—you grow more and you push yourself to compete every day. Nothing is ever easy there, but I feel like I’m growing leaps and bounds.
Is there anywhere else in the world that you would rather train?
Not really—Arizona is my home. It’s about time, with all of the great fighters; [Ryan] Bader, CB [Dollaway], Jamie Varner, Drew Fickett—it’s about time that there’s an elite gym and elite trainers that are all together.
There are so many fighters that are coming out of Arizona now, I think that they should have a cool place—a nice facility—to train in. It’s about time there’s a nice facility that complements the fighters here in Arizona.
What do you feel the future holds for your academy?
I feel big, big things. I feel that we’ve got good coaches, everyone gets along well, and as long as everyone remembers to treat everyone with respect—which is what has been happening—then nothing but good things can happen.
How did you come into contact with Ringside MMA?
They contacted me. We knew, at the beginning of the year, that it would be tough to get anybody to fight me at 170 pounds, so we just had to stay in shape and, it would be one of those situations where we have to take a fight on short-notice. It just, kind of, fell in our lap.
What does that welterweight championship mean to you?
It meant a lot for the fact that [Alex Garcia] was undefeated and there was a lot of hype behind him. I was just excited to get a game-opponent and test myself. Going into his hometown and beating him like that in front of everybody means a lot to me, personally.
Every win, from now on, is going to be very important—I was just happy to get out of there with a win over a guy that has a lot of talent.
Do you plan on defending your championship?
Yeah, if nothing else comes along. There are a couple things that we’re working on right now—and hopefully it works out—but if nothing else comes along and it’s worth it, then I’ll definitely go up there and defend it.
Do you have anything else on the horizon?
We’ve got a couple things that we’re working on. I don’t want to say, but, hopefully, I’ll be signing with someone soon.
What do you feel is the next step in your career?
I don’t know. Hopefully it’s fighting good opponents—that’s all I really care about. I could go fight every weekend in a small show, but I don’t want to fight those guys—for the simple fact that I want to fight good fighters.
I want to compete against 170-pounders who are game and ready—wherever that is. Whoever wants to give me a home and a place to fight—that’s where I’m going to be.
Do you feel that you’re ready to go back to the UFC at this point?
Absolutely! Without a doubt in my mind, I feel that I am. With the merge of the WEC and Strikeforce, though, I have a feeling that there are going to be a lot of other fighters that are going to be getting released and it’s going to be even tougher now.
With all of the other fighters that they have under contract and whatever happens with the Strikeforce thing—everything is up in the air. I know I’m probably the last one on the UFC’s mind at 170 pounds [laughs].
How much better do you feel you are now than when we last saw you in the Octagon?
I feel like I’m much better; I feel that everything is starting to get better—one step at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I feel that with my striking and my flow, everything is really starting to come together and I’m getting my own style, you know?
Everyone—when they become really good—have their own style; Dominick Cruz has his own style. I feel that I’m starting to get my own style, my own flow, my own attack, my own game-plan that’s different from everyone else. I’m happy about that, but with that being said, there is always a ton of stuff to work on in this sport. I’m never going to stop.
How would you describe your fighting style?
High-pace, you know? I fight at a high-pace; I’ve got 13 professional wins and they’re all finishes. I don’t want to win by decision; the one win that I got by decision—over Joe Henle—I was disappointed with. I would just say that I’m a high-pace, exciting fighter.
What do you think is your greatest asset as a mixed martial artist?
Probably my toughness; my all-around will to win.
Have you thought about how much longer you’d like to compete?
As long as my body holds up and I’m able to do this at a good, high-level—I will.
What do you feel you can accomplish in that time?
I think I could do anything I put my mind to. I feel that I’m far from competing at the top-level in any organization, so I’m just going to take it one fight at a time and see how far this road goes.
Have you thought about what you might like to do when you’re done competing?
Definitely spend time with my family [laughs]! I work full-time right now, I train full-time—it’s a lot of commitment and I don’t have much of a life outside of working out and working. I feel that to be a great fighter in this world, you’ve got to sacrifice a lot of things in this world that people take for granted; eating food, going out and drinking with friends—stuff like that.
Where do you work?
Liberty Water. I work on industrial water-pumps.
Do you enjoy that?
Yeah. It’s a good job with good people.
If your mixed martial arts career really starts to pick up some steam, would you plan on focusing solely on that?
I’ve got three children, so I would definitely have to be able to support them financially and when that happens, as long as I can support them so they can have the same lifestyle that they have now, then I’ll do it.
Is your schedule ever too overwhelming?
Absolutely. Every day it is.
Is that what inspires you to really try to take your mixed martial arts to the next level?
When you put this much into something—maybe it’s being stubborn—but it’s hard to quit until you get what you want.
What do you want?
I just want to be the best and I want to compete against the best. I feel that I can compete with anybody in this world and I love that feeling; I love getting in there and competing against great competition and I love beating them and defying all of the odds and coming out on top.