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Derrick Krantz ‘took the hard road’ to the UFC, but has no regrets now that he’s made it

Derrick Krantz, who has been a professional fighter for 11 years, says he never lost faith he would make it to the big leagues one day.

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It’s taken Derrick Krantz a long, long time to get his shot in the UFC, but he believes it has come at the perfect time.

Krantz has spent the last 11 years of his life as a pro MMA fighter. He has stepped into the cage 34 times, 24 of which he’s walked out victorious. He’s fought some top names in the sport, including current UFC interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier and Bellator contender Andrey Koreshkov. Krantz has had his ups and he’s had his downs — looking at his record, it seems as if every time he started to put a few wins together, he then fell short at the wrong time.

Krantz, riding a four-fight winning streak, got called up to the big leagues just earlier this week. He is filling in for Neil Magny on five days’ notice against Vicente Luque on Saturday at UFC Rochester.

“It’s kind of hard to put into words,” Krantz, 31, said of his upcoming UFC debut.

Krantz said his manager Jason House called him Monday asking if he could make 170 pounds for a fight on Saturday. Krantz said he could, but at the time, had no idea who he was fighting — in fact, he didn’t even know it was for the UFC.

House told Krantz Tuesday he would be fighting Luque in Rochester, and the following day Krantz was on a plane to New York. He arrived late Wednesday and on Thursday was busy filling out paperwork, completing medicals for the commission, doing media, and all the sorts of things newcomers have to do during their first UFC fight week — the fact that he took the fight the same week just made it a lot more hectic.

“My week has been super busy — definitely not how I was expecting it to go,” Krantz said. “Sunday I was celebrating Mother’s Day, and this Friday I have teammates fighting on a regional show. So I was getting ready to help them cut weight and coach them for this week.”

Krantz, who last fought in March for LFA, said he’s lucky he had been consistently in the gym helping out his teammates. Because of that, the welterweight fighter knew the weight cut wouldn’t be an issue — he was 191 pounds when he got the call. That said, the whole pizza he had to himself on Mother’s Day didn’t exactly help.

“If I wasn’t in the gym or I wasn’t staying steady or helping the other guys out, I probably would’ve declined the offer to make weight because I would have been over 200 pounds,” Krantz said.

Krantz admitted that this week has been crazier than any other week of his life, but said his fight experience had him ready for it. Some newcomers wilt under the pressure that their first fight week brings, but not “D-Rock.”

“It’s definitely the most overwhelming fight I’ve ever been a part of,” Krantz said. “I’ve been bombarded with paperwork, interviews, photo shoots, media coverage, you name it. But it’s part of the game. I knew what I was getting myself — well, I didn’t know, really — I thought I knew what I was getting myself into on a five-day notice. I was expecting a lot of stuff to happen. It’s not too much for me to handle.”

Asked if it feels almost strange to be able to finally call himself a UFC fighter after all these years, Krantz said it didn’t. To him, it feels normal. It feels right.

“It sounds perfectly fine,” Krantz said. “I was overly excited about the news, getting the opportunity, but none of it feels out of place. I feel like I’m at the right place at the right time.

“I wouldn’t change any of it. ... I’ve been able to grow as a person, as a father, as a husband, and as a fighter through all those bouts and living it the way I have been. I took the hard road, but I’m not regretting it.”