UFC Vegas 38’s Joe Solecki Accidentally Got Into Grappling

Joe Solecki UFC
Joe Solecki Credit: Cageside Press

Just 3 fights into his UFC, Joe Solecki finds himself with a 3-0 record having dominated divisional stalwarts like Jim Miller and Matt Wiman at their own game. His ground game has been as imposing as anyone’s in their first 3 trips into the octagon, and his submission threats are always there.

But while he’s left no doubt in the minds of anyone watching his fights thus far, Solecki still jokes that he really wasn’t ever supposed to be here.

“I think it was kind of luck. That’s what I always say, I’ll joke around on fight night. I’m not supposed to be here because I wasn’t the best athlete,” Solecki admits with a laugh. “But I’m meant to be here. It just kind of fell on me.”

Soelcki doesn’t mean that he hasn’t put in the work or hasn’t got the skills to be where he is right now – in fact it’s pretty obviously that the converse is true. What he is instead alluding to is the fact that he never really intended to embark on a journey that would lead him to becoming the dominant grappler that he has become.

“I was four years old and I wanted to do karate because I liked the Power Rangers,” he said. “My brother was playing baseball, he’s a lot older – he was 10 years old. Things weren’t working out. We moved to a new town, wasn’t getting playing time.”

So with his interest in martial arts and his brother needing a change of pace, his parents signed them both up for martial arts. The timing, as far as Solecki’s journey goes, could not have been any better.

“My parents said we’re going to try something individual. We’ll sign you up for karate,” Solecki said. “But this is 1999, so we walked in at the exact same time the instructor got his blue belt in jiu jitsu.”

The influx of martial artists turning to jiu jitsu was in full force. Everybody was excited about it and the demand was growing. So while the Power Ranger loving youngster was hoping to throw some crane kicks, he wound up throwing up traingles instead.

“He transformed the whole school within a year a half to fully jiu jitsu,” he said. “So my first day was Brazilian jiu jitsu and it was an accident.”

While he may not have been excited at first, his parents saw virtually no difference. The boys would be learning the discipline and honor that goes along with martial arts, and would be doing so in a safe environment. However, had they known where it was going to take young Joe, they may have had slightly more reservations.

“My parents didn’t want us playing football or hockey because it was too much contact, it was dangerous,” he jokes. “Here we are, how many years later and I’m fighting mixed martial arts for a living. Go figure.”

Solecki will look to continue on this accidental path when he takes on Jared Gordon at UFC Vegas 38 this Saturday. That bout will be on the ESPN+ prelims.

You can hear the entire interview below at 27:11.