For Joe Solecki, Tuesday’s contract winning performance on Dana White’s Contender Series was another step in a journey that began at the same time he started kindergarten.
Las Vegas, NV — Coming off a contract-winning performance on Dana White’s Contender Series on Tuesday, lightweight Joe Solecki was over the moon. And as he’ll tell you, it’s been a long time coming. Solecki started training in jiu-jitsu the same week he started kindergarten. He put a deadline on himself as far as getting into a major MMA promotion: age 25. Which just so happens to be his current age.
At Week 3 of the third season of Dana White’s Contender Series, Solecki fought his way into the world’s biggest MMA promotion, choking out Jesse James Wallace with a first round guillotine. Deadline met. Hello, UFC contract.
“This is unreal. I’m usually sitting on my phone or laptop, watching the interviews you guys do with the guys up here,” he told media members including Cageside Press after the show.
Looking back at the long road to this point, “I started training when I was six, and I started watching the UFC when I was around ten,” he recalled. “Back in those days, the Tito, Randy, Chuck days, it was a little more ruthless. It wasn’t as professional, it was a little crazy. That’s what I wanted to do.”
“So to be up here as real professional athlete now, contracted UFC fighter, it’s unbelievable,” he exclaimed.
A childhood dream come true, really. “I was joking with my coach over there, I said, ‘when I was a little kid, I was a Tito Oritz fan, I beat up Chuck Liddell over 200 times in my basement on the punching bag.’ Now I’m a UFC fighter, this is unreal, it’s a blessing, and I’m sure in a day or two, it’s going to set in.”
Solecki, who had more than his fair share of nerves ahead of the big fight, simply wanted to ensure he got the win on the show, saying “if it was a boring decision, it wouldn’t be the best, but you’re still going to take home the winners share and exposure.”
However, in the end “it worked out amazing, I don’t think I even saw it going as good as it did. I’m just blessed to be here.”
“When he didn’t tap, I was like ‘aw man, this guy’s tough, he’s probably not going to tap, I’m going to have to go to something else.” Solecki hadn’t yet realized that Wallace had gone out. “Then they lifted up his hand, and it switched from in the zone, to like ‘oh my gosh, don’t cry up here man’ — I was excited!”
Next up for Solecki is hopefully a fight near home. While the UFC Newark card next month might be too soon, he noted the promotion goes back to Madison Square Garden in November. “I’m a huge boxing fan, old school boxing, and I’m a Jersey kid — so Madison Square Garden would be amazing, but I can’t call the shots, beggars can’t be choosers.”
Regarding his grappling game, clearly a strength for the now 8-2 fighter, Solecki said that “I don’t grapple with a whole lot of tricks.”
“My coach, John Salter,” said Solecki, “he takes people down and mauls them. In the past, my style really has been tricky. I moved to train with him, because he has world-class wrestling and world-class top pressure.” His whole gym, he said, has that key: it’s pressure. “I don’t want to be a guy with tricks, I want to put pressure, and if I can put pressure like tonight, the tricks will be there.”
He also wants to avoid being a jiu-jitsu guy who can’t throw hands. “My striking really set up everything tonight. Those first two strikes that landed, he felt them, and maybe started to check out a little bit.”
For more from Dana White’s Contender Series 2019 Week 3 winner Joe Solecki, watch the full post-fight press scrum above!