“Barbarian” at the gates

Story by Anthony Springer, Jr.

Standing across the Octagon from a man trained in several martial arts could make the most experienced fighter nervous.

That is, unless you’ve stood across the room from a group of unruly boys.

Before Tim Boetsch (11-3, 2-2 UFC) earned a reputation for tossing fighters around the Octagon, “The Barbarian” held down a full time job that kept his hands full every day.

“I was a social worker working with adolescent males with behavioral problems,” the Camden native says.

In 2006, Boetsch began his foray into mixed martial arts. Compiling an initial record of 6-0 fighting part time, the married, father of one decided to quit his job after a losing effort against veteran Vladimir Matyushenko. If that sounds surprising, that’s because, well, it is. Most fighters transition to full time fighting after a string of victories. While the decision may sound odd to the average man, Boetsch’s reasoning for abandoning his full time job for the unpredictable world of fighting made perfect since.

“I realized I should probably focus my efforts on MMA because I had some potential there,” Boetsch said.

The decision loss to Matyushenko served as motivation. If the half time fighter in Boetsch could contend with one of the sport’s most experienced fighters, what could he do if he trained full time?

“It was a real close fight. I’d been working another job and not training like I could’ve been. I thought if I had been training full time I probably could’ve beat this guy. He was a tough guy, a seasoned figher. It just opened my eyes to the possibilities of making it my profession.”

The gamble paid off.

At UFC 81, the light heavyweight received an opportunity of a lifetime. Squaring off against striker David Heath, Boetsch made a big splash by defeating the striker at his own game. Heath was beat up on the feet, and the exclamation point on the bout came when Boetsch hurled Heath into the cage and finished the bout with strikes.

“I think a lot of people were surprised,” Boetsch says of the finish. “I came in a relative unknown and was expected to get beat up and lose the striking game. He was a seasoned striker known for having heavy hands. I beat him at his own game and peopol thought, ‘Who the heck is this kid? He’s supposed to be a wrestler.”

The highlight reel finish dazzled the fans, but also surprised Boetsch too.

“That was not in the formula going into it, but that’s how it worked out.”

Boetsch went 1-2 in his next three fights, filling in on short notice in losses to Matt Hammil and Jason Brilz. Though he was cut from the UFC following the losses, he believes that consistently staying in the gym allowed him the opportunity to further his career, despite the fact that all of his short notice bouts didn’t result in victories.

“I think guys that get out of the gym and let themselves get out of shape miss out on opportunities I was able to take advantage of,” he explains. “Even after a victory, I take a couple days off and get right back in. I’m able to keep focus. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to stay in the gym and stay focused.”

At UFC 117, Boetsch will find himself on the other side of the spectrum. His initial opponent, the always dangerous Thiago Silva pulled out of their main card meeting with a training camp injury. Instead of the Brazilian, Boetsch will tangle with relative unknown Todd Brown.

While the last minute change of opponents is far from ideal, there’s a since that Boetsch doesn’t mind all that much.

After all, when you train year round, you don’t train for a specific opponent. You train for a fight.


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