This is a guest feature by Duane Finley.
In the sport of mixed martial arts a fighter's fortune can change in a heartbeat. Hours of preparation and training to refine muscled mass into a flexible, powerful and agile machine can all be lost under the white hot glare of the stadium lights. The primal gear may shift into fight mode but the warrior has to recite a game plan that has been drilled a thousand times in hopes that once the cage door closes everything that has been picked up along the road traveled will finally produce gains. When the referee steps aside and the action hits full tilt anything can happen but when TUF alum Krzysztof Soszynski faced Goran Reljic at UFC 122 all of the hard work in combination with the desire to bounce back from a disappointing performance brought the end result he was determined to find. "The Polish Experiment" dictated every step of the three round affair in route to grinding Reljic to exhaustion. Several times during the bout Soszynski looked close to finishing Reljic but the Croatian light heavyweight persevered and held on until the final bell. The end result came as a unanimous decision victory for Soszynski and while on paper it will fall as another notch in the win column, to Krzysztof it meant that past issues where resolved and he was back to doing what he does best.
A few days after returning to the states I caught up with Krzysztof to talk about his victory over Goran Reljic in addition to other major topics that have hit the MMA headlines since his fight in Germany at UFC 122. In this Bloody Elbow Exclusive interview "The Polish Experiment" added his unique perspective to several of the larger fires that are currently burning across MMA.
"The positive is definitely my conditioning," Soszynski replied when asked to comment on the positives he took out of his victory over Reljic. "I felt great during that fight. I have been training at Reign now for a little over five months and I have some great training partners. I am developing a conditioning system and it's been going great. Mark (Munoz) used it for his fight and I obviously used it for mine and it's paying off. The second I noticed Goran sitting down between the second and third round, which he didn't do between the first and the second, I knew that he was gassed. I knew he was tired and that really got me going. The juices started flowing and I knew that I could finish him in the third. I should have finished that fight. I probably needed 10 more seconds to finish it but in the end it was a really good fight and I'm looking forwards to the next one."
There has rarely been mention of the words "boring" and "Krzysztof" in the same sentence and when two aggressive fighters are put inside of the cage the outcome is typically a classic in the making. The two fights between Krzysztof Soszynski and Stephan Bonnar have been back and forth, action packed affairs with each combatant claiming one victory apiece. Their most recent exchange ended with Bonnar claiming the stoppage victory and I asked Krzysztof if a possible trilogy was on his wish list.
"I would love to get the third fight with Bonnar," Krzysztof answered. "I won the first fight. Yes...it ended because of a head butt but I feel I was on the way towards a victory. I beat him up in the first round of the second fight and a lot of things happened before that fight where mentally and physically I just wasn't able to get the great camp that I have been able to get the camp in past fights. I had a lot of family issues and problems that put me in a place where I wasn't able to mentally and physically train as hard as I normally do before a fight. I would definitely love a third fight with Stephan and I think it would be better than both of our previous fights. He is on the way back up and if he wins his next fight against Pokrajac then hopefully we'll possibly get that third fight. If it doesn't happen that's totally cool. I'll move on and fight whoever the UFC puts in front of me."
More Soszynski in the full entry.
"In the first fight with Stephan I had just started using that conditioning system and I felt like I was a machine for 15 minutes and could have gone 25 minutes no problem. I had some serious problems before the second fight though. Health and family problems where we were actually really close to calling Joe Silva 3 weeks before the fight and actually cancelling it. My dad got really sick and I was ready to head back home. He had a heart attack three weeks before the fight and I was going to go back home to see him and make sure everything was okay but my mom told me "no, no no stay, fight and train".
Soszynski then continued, "When something like that happens your mental game is just really thrown off and you are focusing on family instead of focusing on what's ahead. I basically had mentally lost the fight before I ever stepped into the octagon with Stephan Bonnar for the second time. But for this fight with Reljic everything was perfect. My health was perfect my body and mind were perfect. The conditioning system worked perfectly and I have some great training partners at Reign training center really helped out a lot. That is a place that I'm going to be for a very long time. Great guys, great coaching staff and everything is perfect for me there."
After another hard fought victory, Soszynski who was born in Poland remained overseas for some much needed relaxation. When asked to comment on his time following the victory in addition to when he foresaw getting back into the gym to train he responded, "My wife and I stayed over in Germany and went to Poland. I was born there...have a lot of family and friends there, my grand parents are there so we stayed for two weeks. I relaxed with them, ate some really good Polish food. I'm actually pretty banged up. I have had three wars...three really tough fights in this past year and we're actually talking to doctors now about what needs to be done. Both of my knees I believe need surgery. The tip of my elbow is really loose from where Goran kicked it and I have some bone spurs in there. Plus my nose is broken as well. I need to get all of those things fixed so I'm going to be on the shelf for a bit but I'm excited to get back in the gym and we are looking at a month and a half, maybe two months or so."
During his time spent on the Spike TV reality program "The Ultimate Fighter" Soszynski was quick to lay claim to the title of practical joker. Aside from his well known sense of humor Krzysztof often carries his trademark smile with him into the cage. I asked Soszynski if there was more to his disposition than just a love for the scrap and found out that a simple smile tells a much deeper story.
"When it comes to fighting and the smiling thing is a method that helps me relax," he stated. "When there is so much pressure constantly put on us to go out there in big fights, making sure the fights are exciting...making sure you win, all of those things add pressure. The smiling part just helps me relax when I get in that octagon and even when I'm all the way in the back it helps me. Then when it gets to the fight I like smiling at my opponent because I want to almost make them angry so that he forgets himself and loses his mental focus. I want him to come after me harder than he should or maybe lose his focus on the game plan that he had for me. The smiling thing is also about me putting all of the hard work that I have invested into a 15 week camp and me telling myself that I only have 15 minutes left and this whole camp is over. I can get back to spending time with my family...my wife and my son and I can get back to eating some great food and having a great time. So it's just my way of enjoying myself and channeling all of my hard work into that cage and just having fun with it."
One of the biggest debates heating up MMA is the current dispute of "safe" versus "exciting" fighting. UFC President Dana White has spoken out publically about fighters needing to put on great fights for the fans and recently made a much bolder statement by releasing Gerald Harris after his lackluster performance at UFC 123. With Soszynski being a fighter who is known for being a guaranteed show, I wanted to see what "The Polish Experiment" had to say on the matter.
"It's one of those things where nothing is guaranteed in this sport. I see a lot of guys being on three, four or five fight win streaks and if they lose one or two...the next thing you know they are cut. Look at Gerald Harris for example," Soszynski clamored. "He goes 3-0 in the UFC, has two "Knockout of the Night" bonuses, all three fights are on the pay per view portion of the card then all of a sudden one bad loss and he's gone. It's definitely tough. There is so much pressure on all of us to perform...to win and this sport is 50-50. There might come a time where you go 0-2 or sometimes 0-3 and I look at it like if I go in there and give it everything I have in that fight, 100%, then I am going to be satisfied with the outcome whether I win or lose. I know that guys are going to beat me. I know that I'm not the best striker...the best wrestler or the best grappler but if I gave it my all the UFC will be happy with my performance. The fans will be happy with my performance and ultimately I will be happy with my performance as well."
Feeling there was a bit more to be said on the topic Krzysztof continued, "To me personally I almost feel like they should let the fighters fight. Don't put any extra pressure than there already is. There is already a ton of pressure in the UFC for us to succeed and to put on great fights. I think when guys like Dana (White) and Joe Silva start talking about cutting fighters who don't win that is when fighters start to seize up and get nervous. If you just let them fight I'm sure you will still get those great performances because the fighters will not be afraid to fight because they have nothing to worry about. Instead it gets into the back of a fighter's mind that if they don't win this next fight then they are going to get cut. Then the fighter starts to change the way they prepare and they start to question how they should fight. Should I fight more defensively? Do they go for that takedown and just hold their opponent down? Or should I just go at it? I'm the type of guy where I just want to go out there and have fun. I can't really say that I listen to Dana and Joe Silva when they say go out there and put on a great show. I just don't think about it. I just go out there and let everything fly. Whether it's a ground game or a stand up fight it's all about entertaining the fans."
Most fighters who enter the TUF house are in the early stages of their professional careers. While there have been some who have crossed into double digit fight records, rarely has there been a fighter come through the program with as much professional experience as Krzysztof Soszynski. Now several years removed from the show I asked Krzysztof to share his insights on TUF from a veteran perspective and if there were any major difference for a young fighter hoping TUF will be his ticket to the UFC.
"Absolutely...100 %," he replied. "These young fighters who are trying to make it to the UFC after having a 6-0 record and haven't fought anybody tough, they feel like they deserve a shot in the UFC. Guys like that are a dime a dozen. They come into the UFC, lose two fights and they are out. Next thing you know they are depressed and have to spend the next two to three years trying to make their way back up. I always tell these young guys to get those tough fights outside of the UFC. The UFC isn't going anywhere...they are going to be around for a very long time so don't worry about building your record to 10-0 or 12-0 fighting bums...have those tough fights. See what it's like to go the distance against a really tough opponent. See what it's like to lose a fight against a really tough opponent and see how you come back from that loss. By the time I reached the UFC I had almost 30 fights under my belt with 7 or 8 losses. I had already fought eight UFC guys and it's all about getting that experience. Getting those tough fights before hand so when you get into the UFC and the pressure you feel from fighting a tough opponent on top of fighting in the UFC is not going to get to you."
The UFC light heavyweight division has long been considered to be the crown jewel of mixed martial arts. Where the division was once ruled by the iron fisted Chuck Liddell, the title has since fallen into the hands of five different champions. Over the course of the past few years only two of the five have been able to successfully defend the belt on one occasion before having it taken away.
"It's a sign of how tough the competition is," Soszynski confirmed. "It seems like in this division anyone in the Top 10 can beat any other guy at any given time. There is such a great quality of fighter at 205 lbs. from top to bottom. I am in the toughest division but I'm working my butt off to get to the Top 10 and hopefully fight for that title some day."
While Soszynski will be taking time to heal from his various injuries there is little doubt that he is already thinking about what comes next. When asked who his ideal opponent would be for his next bout he replied, "As soon as my last fight ended I went to Joe Silva and told him that if I can't get the third Bonnar fight then I would love to fight someone like Matt Hamill. I think he'd be a great fight for me and a really fun and entertaining fight for the fans. He's really close to that Top 10 status and I feel that I'm right underneath him, maybe ranked 14th or 15th in the UFC and it would be really nice to fight a guy who is a little bit above me and see if by beating him I can't get that Top 10 spot."
In the short time that Soszynski has been in the UFC spotlight he has quickly obtained fan favorite status. With his rugged exterior, aggressive fighting style and unique sense of humor, Soszynski has rapidly gained the level of popularity that other fighters aspire to reach. As the interview came to a close, Krzysztof let his fans and our readers know where you can always get the latest news on "The Polish Experiment".
"You can find me on facebook at www.facebook/krzysztofsoszynski. Then I have www.ksos.info. That is my website and we are working on another one as well and we'll be coming out with it very soon. I'm at Reign Training Center and if anyone wants to send me some fan mail they can send it to Reign Training Center in Lake Forrest California. I also want to thank everybody for the great support and love."