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By: Brad Walker, MMATorch Columnist
MMATorch's Brad Walker sat down this week with UFC Featherweight Bart Palaszewski, who will return to action on October 5 in Minneapolis at UFC on FX 5. Below is their conversation:
BRAD WALKER: To start off, what brought you to the sport of mixed martial arts?
BART PALASZEWSKI: Freshman year in high school I got into a fight with a kid and he beat me up; he was wearing a Team Linxx t-shirt, so I checked it out just to see since he was a crying little kid and he beat me up and I thought I was tough. I trained for fun, and six months in Jeff [Curran] put on a show, and I went to support the show, figured it was like WWE, but the fights were real and I fell in love; and then in the next two years I busted my ass training, eventually I got a fight, and senior year in high school I was working full time and fighting. I loved it, I didn't make money for my first five years into it. Then from IFL - it was just - I took it serious and I met my wife and had a child, and I had to take it more seriously, then WEC came about and here we are in the UFC.
WALKER: When your family moved here from Poland, were you initially familiar with the sport?
PALASZEWSKI: No, I didn't know what it was back in Poland. My older cousin trained kickboxing and used me as a punching bag, and then when I was in third grade I trained judo, but it was more playing around. And my coach became an Olympian, then we got a new coach who sucked, [so] I trained for six months in BJJ and Thai boxing before I got introduced into the sport. There's a reason why everything happened; me getting beat up and joining the gym, it's fate, so I'm running with it.
WALKER: Your career started off on four consecutive losses. Did that ever make you consider leaving the sport early on?
PALASZEWSKI: No, you know I actually won in between there, there was no pro or amateur it was whether the promoter turned the results into Sherdog or not – I think it was two or three in a row, but even back then I didn't care, I was fighting because I loved it. I was getting 50 bucks or a t-shirt from the show, I wasn't thinking about money. After, I quit my job and took it full time and money came into play, but it's just about the love of the sport.
WALKER: You have battled a lot of the top talent in the weight classes you have competed in; does any single fighter stand out as the hardest guy you've fought thus far?
PALASZEWSKI: There's a couple. One was against Andrew Chappelle in Super Brawl. It was a three round fight, and I remember the first round he popped my elbow and my arm was useless, it still clicks, and second round I broke my right hand. It was a fight man, it was a scrap, it was one of the toughest. But the toughest I'd have to say was Ryan Schultz. He was real rough even though I won that fight I was real sore from being manhandled.
WALKER: In 2006 you began fighting for the IFL. Was the team aspect hard to incorporate into your fight game?
PALASZEWSKI: Not at all man, it was really cool. It was you trained with guys daily and you knew your training partners; most of them were bigger than me but we always trained together, worked together it was really cool, and when you and your team won it was a double whammy it was pretty cool. Sometimes I would win a fight and my team didn't make it to the next round and it wouldn't feel like a win, it was awkward. I was happy but we really got into the team dynamic and if the team didn't make it there was a damper on the whole thing, so it pushed us to train and fight harder.
WALKER: Your first stint in the WEC had a couple of hard losses to guys who are primarily considered top 10 fighters. Was that a turning point in your career when you started fighting some of the best in the world?
PALASZEWSKI: Yeah, I'm always trying to get better, I lost the two fights, one was on short notice, I didn't know who I was fighting and they wanted me to fill in, and I just knew he wrestled. I lost the fight, no excuses, he had a good game plan. Then next fight I drew a line in the sand; they wanted a striker against Njokuani and we went tit for tat to see who falls over, and he hit me with a good shot and I fell over. That's when I got together with Brett my striking coach and revamped my whole game. I fought outside WEC against an up and comer; it was a good fight, I guess my new game came out, more explosive movement and kicks and knees came into the game, and a lot more stuff was happening personally. I had a drinking problem back then too that Brett helped me with; he was the one who really put it in my face and said 'what are you doing?' I looked at myself and said 'it's true.' I gave up booze and really started training right, I came back and after that UFC thought I did well enough to bring me in off of a loss.
WALKER: In your second stint in WEC you defeated a man who is widely considered to be a likely contender to the UFC Lightweight Championship in Anthony Pettis. Is that the most important win in your career so far?
PALASZEWSKI: Probably. He went out and started kicking ass after that. Everybody's so afraid of his kicks they stay outside and end up getting kicked cuz he springs right in; if you look at my fight, it was really similar, I just smothered him and got right in his face. But yeah, you know he's doing great, more power to him, and it's one of the top five fights in my career for sure.
WALKER: In your UFC debut you made an incredible impact by knocking out Tyson Griffin and claiming your first UFC knockout of the night award. How did it feel to show the world what you're made of in such a decisive manner?
PALASZEWSKI: It was cool, I really wanted to make a splash when I went into the UFC I was switching weight classes. The camp was awesome, everything was on point, it was important to go in and put on a show; they put me on live TV, not on the undercard - they had a lot of stock in me obviously - that's how I feel. I was really happy that I went out and did what I know I can do.
WALKER: Your most recent fight against Hatsu Hioki took place in Saitama, Japan. How would you say the atmosphere is different overseas?
PALASZEWSKI: Yeah it was different, the whole energy was different, but I'll never fight outside the US again. The whole energy and traveling takes a lot out of you. Switching your food and diet and cutting weight and rehydrating in a country you know nothing about is really hard. I'd never do it again.
WALKER: Next up for you is a guy who is just outside the top 10 in Diego Nunes. How do you feel about that matchup?
PALASZEWSKI: I think we match up well, our styles match up pretty well. We're both strikers, I'm a little bit longer than him, a bit taller and bigger definitely. I'm more of a forward momentum kind of fighter and he moves back, so I'm gonna be chasing him down I think most of the fight, there's gonna be some exchanges. I'm gonna tuck my chin and hope I come out on top. I'm not sure how hard he hits, but he's got some knockouts so he's obviously got the power; but so do I. I know I have that power where I can hit you and put you to sleep. It's going to be an interesting fight.
WALKER: How did the name Bartimus come to be, and what are the origins of the Bartimus Legion?
PALASZEWSKI: The Bartimus name came from Silverback fighting down in Peoria, and a couple people didn't show up. He was 185, I was 155, so I fought then and two weeks later I went to extreme trials and one of the guys from the fight was co-promoting and he called me a gladiator. I kind of blew it off and told Jeff about the guy and the whole story and we started thinking about playing on names and Bartimus came about, like Maximus. They just rhymed and it stuck, and even my mom and sister call me Bartimus. Then the Bartimus Legion came about actually Twitter time they had the Outlaw Army and Carwin Army and one of my fans came up with Bartimus Legion.
WALKER: I know you'll be putting in a lot of work at Greg Jackson's gym for this fight, and recently his fighters have come under fire for using back pedaling in their game plans; do you feel that's a fair criticism?
PALASZEWSKI: No, they back pedal because that's the game plan. Styles make fights, and I'm not gonna defend anybody but then you have a game plan that Greg came up with for Cub Swanson where I think he got "Knockout of the Night" against [Ross] Pearson. Styles make fights, and you know what? You're gonna have a game plan where you come in if it's boring you'll have a different one against a different fighter, but you gotta win the fight at the end of the day, even if it's boring. People just want to see brawls, they don't give a s*** if someone gets knocked out two or three times because they don't back pedal, and they have to flip burgers because they lost too many fights. You can go balls out constantly and hope for the best – sometimes it's necessary, yes, and it's a sport and people have to pay their hard earned money for the tickets, but it's a job for us as well. I don't want to be twitching when I get older you know?
WALKER: You have 51 (documented) professional fights under your belt and you're only 29 years old. How long do you plan to keep fighting? Do you have a goal of how many fights you want to have fought before you hang up your gloves?
PALASZEWSKI: Nothing's set. You know, before I told myself maybe 100 fights, maybe at 35 years old, but I've had so many fights I shouldn't have and they're on my record and it sucks. I'm just coming into my own physically, I'm going to come into my own and start peaking in the next couple of years. Nothing's set. I'm gonna fight until there's nothing left. I won't be one of those guys chasing a dream that's not possible, but right now I feel great and I'm doing just fine.
WALKER: It's not too far off the ball to consider that your teammate Pat Curran - who currently holds the Bellator Featherweight Title - could one day move over to the UFC and claim the top spot. How would you approach the possibility of having to fight Pat?
PALASZEWSKI: We would fight. I mean, we're friends and all but you know you gotta do what you gotta do. If he comes over and makes it to the top we'll brawl it out. Obviously blood's thicker than water so he'll be training here for his fight. Now he's with Bellator, he'll be there for a bit, he's got a good deal with them for a couple years; if we get to that bridge we'll cross it then.
WALKER: Thanks again for your time Bart, and good luck in your fight.
PALASZEWSKI: Anytime man.
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