Fighting in your home state is something that every fighter I've interviewed hopes to achieve. If it's in their hometown, or somewhere close to it, that's even better. It tends to lend an almost magical quality and imbues the fighter with the 'hometown advantage', which is pretty much like having super powers. At some point, I'm going to have to do a study to find out exact percentages on how much of an effect the hometown advantage has on the outcome of a fight.
T.J. Waldburger will be fighting in Houston, TX on the UFC 166 card against super tough Adlan Amagov. It will mark his second Texas outing during his UFC tenure. He's originally from Temple, TX and still calls it home, so for him, this fight has much more impact, because many of his family and friends will be able to make the trip out much easier.
I recently interviewed Waldburger, who discussed a variety of topics including what motivates him, rising up the ranks in a stacked division, and the reasons behind his 10 month layoff. Here's what he had to say:
Benefits of Experience
I think with my UFC experience, fighting in the octagon has become just like fighting at the gym. Every day you go in there and you fight and you react and adapt to situations, and that's how I feel in the octagon now; it's just an everyday thing.
Becoming a Father
It really hasn't changed me much at all, as far as the risks that I take. I know that the risks that I take are for my son. This job is rough and tough, and a lot of the time I'm in the gym instead of being at home, hanging out with him, but that's what I have to do to provide. I'm willing to take more risks, if anything.
I'm a lot more motivated than I used to be. Before, it was kind of more of a selfish ambition. Nowadays, I've grown to love the sport and supporting my family has become my motivation. I want to put on a good show for the fans, I just love the sport. I love the fact that I have a lot more to give; I'm still learning and maturing in the sport as a fighter. I'm excited for the future because I feel like I have so much more. Being 25 with three years in the UFC, I'm just getting started.
I grab whatever presents itself. In MMA, a lot of times the triangle is there, a lot of the time that'll be open for me. I like the triangle, I would say it's my favorite, and it seems to present itself a lot in fights. I mean, the repetition of techniques I've done over the year means my body will react in certain ways [which helps]. I feel like the triangle works well with my body type. Jiu-Jitsu is an art where you have to flow with the go, so you never want to force the submission. The triangle is a great submission; you're using all four limbs and you're in a great position to strike. As far as MMA goes, I believe it's the dominant submission.
The school I've been at since I started the sport is mainly MMA Jiu-Jitsu oriented. It's a more combative style of no-gi Jiu-Jitsu. We do gi Jiu-Jitsu as well, which is where my brown belt ranking comes from. Gi Jiu-Jitsu is completely different from no-gi Jiu-Jitsu, and no-gi Jiu-Jitsu is completely different from MMA Jiu-Jitsu. I would say my belt ranking is probably different in all of those sports. I'm not going to tell my coach what I am, but because we work mainly MMA Jiu-Jitsu, I feel like I'm a black belt in MMA Jiu-Jitsu.
Competition in the Welterweight Division
Oh man, I love it. I love it. The more competition, the better. I just love competition, it fuels me. To me it just makes me want to train harder and rise above these other guys. It's not about who's the best fighter, it's about who fights the best. It takes mental conditioning and physical condition. It's not all about talent, it's about your mental strength and experience helps a lot.
10 Month Layoff
Injuries are kind of in and out all the time, there's always something that's going to happen, so you have to really pick and choose your fights wisely. If you go in there with something that's pretty serious then you could be out for years rather than one year. I also had a loss in my family, my grandfather died and I had to deal with that.
I came back and was ready to get back on the horse and just suffered injury after injury, and my motivation was kind of gone because of that loss. It was a lot of things at once. I can deal with one or two things at a time, but it felt like my whole body was breaking down. I think it had a lot to do with my mental state at the time; losing my grandfather had some play in there. I didn't feel right, you know? So I went ahead and pulled out of the fight and healed up, and I feel much better now.
Trash talkers put on a show, and some guys like, say, Chael Sonnen, are really nice guys but do it for show. It's entertainment. Some people do it well, others are who they are. As far as I go, I'm the same guy you hear on radio or see on TV as I am at home with my wife and kids.
Fighting in Texas
It's awesome. I'm so excited about it. I'll be able to just drive for about 3 hours to make it to the hotel and everything. I'll be able to bypass all the customs stuff and just drive there. It's been three years since I've fought in Texas, so I'm excited to fight at home with my home town fans.
Favorite Video Game Right Now?
I've been playing the God of War games, and I like playing zombies in Call of Duty, but when it's fight time, I don't play any games because it rules my world. I keep my Xbox and Playstation away from my house because my addictive personality can't handle it and I would never be in the gym, so I keep them at my parents and friends house.
I love home country cooking, like chicken fried steak, barbeque, fajitas and Mexican food... it goes on forever.
I read scripture in the morning, get a feel for the day and share that on twitter. Then I'll get on the grind and fix my eggs and my cereal and get to work.
iPhone or Android?
You can follow T.J. via his Twitter account, @TJWaldburger