While the upset loss of Urijah Faber is still fresh in everyone’s minds, World Extreme Cagefighting is set to return next Wednesday (8 p.m. ET on VERSUS) from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Miguel Torres will headline the show as he defends his WEC bantamweight title vs. number one contender Manny Tapia. With Torres’ notoriety increasing, his placement on the card has created a vacuum with many other fighters being overlooked.
One of the show’s underexposed storylines is the debut of former IFL lightweight standout Bart Palaszewski. Palaszewski, a former member of Pat Miletich’s World Champion Iowa Silverbacks, is perhaps best known for his highly-entertaining fights vs. the promotion’s one-time wunderkind, Chris Horodecki.
A member of Jeff Curran’s Team Curran, Palaszewski will now fight under the same banner of his trainer when he squares off against TUF 1 season veteran Alex Karalexis in a non-televised preliminary fight.
With a non-televised lightweight bout between “Razor” Rob McCullough and Donald Cerrone having earned “Fight of the Night” honors at WEC 36 earlier this month, the aggressive standup philosophies of both Palaszewski and Karalexis could cause the WEC and VERSUS a case of deja vu.
With his WEC debut fast approaching, Palaszewski still took time to speak with FiveOuncesOfPain.com for an exclusive interview. During the course the conversation, Palaszewski discussed his IFL experience; his thoughts on the budding rivalry between his trainer, Curran, and Torres; as well sharing a one of a kind story about a skateboard adventure down the famed Lombard Street in San Francisco.
Sam Caplan: After the IFL ceased operations and you became a free agent, which fight promotions pursued you?
Bart Palaszewski: None of the promotions pursued me. We went after a few different places but the WEC is the one we decided to go with, obviously. They had the best offer for us, as far as the long run. A couple of different promotions tried to get us to sign a deal but it was all short-term. I was looking for a long-term deal and the WEC offered it, so we went with them.
Sam Caplan: When deciding whether or not to join the WEC, were there any fighters currently in the lightweight division that stood out to you as guys you’d like to fight?
Bart Palaszewski: I mean, all of the guys would be cool. But you know, (Rob) McCullough has been around forever and I’d really like to fight him. I think our styles would mesh really well. I’d also like to fight (Donald) Cerrone in the future too. And obviously, (Jamie Varner). The list is huge — they’ve got a really good stable of ’55 pounders so there’s a lot of good potential matchups for me in the division. I’m in it for the long haul so I’m sure I will get my hands on all of the guys.
Sam Caplan: For a brief time, it appeared as though the IFL was going to sell fighter contracts as assets. Many fighters with EliteXC are in limbo right now because it’s uncertain whether the company will ever promote shows again, yet nobody is being let out of their deals. How were you able to get out of your deal before the IFL officially filed for bankruptcy?
Bart Palaszewski: A couple of people from the IFL helped me, actually. Shannon Knapp, she helped me. I was always pretty cool with the IFL and they were always pretty cool with me, obviously. They pretty much got me that big start and were the first to put big promotion behind me after they picked me up. I was always cool with them and I never caused any trouble or conflict so when it came time to get out they were really cool with me. I think it was kind of mutual and I was cool with them and they were cool with me and it worked out.
Sam Caplan: Was fighting for the IFL a positive or negative experience for you?
Bart Palaszewski: Oh, it was definitely a positive experience. I was doing smaller shows for years and years and obviously I wanted to be in the UFC or WEC, you know, a big, big promotion and those were the only two that were big at the time. But the IFL was the one that picked me up and I am glad. I am really (happy) with everything that happened there. They kept us busy, obviously. That was the only downfall but by keeping us busy they kept the money coming in.
It was, I guess, a 50/50 situation. They kept us busy and there wasn’t much time to improve your game but at the same time you stayed busy and we were careful during training camps not to get injured. And like I said, the money was good because of that.
Sam Caplan: You’re currently a member of Team Curran out of Illinois, where you train under Jeff Curran. Someone told me an interesting story about how you joined up with Jeff. They said that you discovered the school after fighting one of his students and getting bullied around by him. Is that story true?
Bart Palaszewski: (Laughs) Yeah. One of the guys who trained with Jeff, he was actually on break from training for whatever reason. But yeah, I always considered myself a little badass and he beat me up. He was actually wearing a Team Link shirt and Jeff was a part of Team Link at the time with his academy being an affiliate of Team Link.
I was always interested martial arts. I did Judo as a kid and my cousin was a competitive kickboxer in Poland. He used to use me as his training dummy. He would just kick my ass day in and day out. So I figured I would give it a shot after I got beat up. And six months into training Jeff put a show together.
I didn’t even know MMA had existed up until that point and I pretty much just went to the show to support the gym but while watching the fights, I fell in love with them.
Sam Caplan: What was the fight over?
Bart Palaszewski: It was my first hour of biology class and I don’t even remember. It was my freshman year in high school. I couldn’t even tell you what it was over. Something stupid, obviously. It was first hour and I was half asleep in school still. Biology usually occurred during my sleeping hours and yeah, someone said something and we went after it.
Sam Caplan: When you showed up at Jeff’s academy did you tell him who you were and how you found out about his school?
Bart Palaszewski: Absolutely not. I told him a few years later after we became friends but I don’t think he wanted his gym promoted that way. “Hey, I’m here because one of your former students kicked my ass!” (Laughs)
Sam Caplan: You’re a member of Team Curran and I wanted to get your thoughts about Jeff Curran moving from featherweight to bantamweight?
Bart Palaszewski: I think it’s a great move for him. I think that’s a weight class where he’s actually going to have to cut. You know, at ’45, Jeff would get chubby. When he fought at ’45 he wouldn’t have to diet to get down in weight because the only reason why he had to cut for ’45 was because of ice cream and gummy bears. Those were the only reasons (laughs). He would walk at ’45 and ’46 and he’s super light.
At ’35, that’s a weight class where he’s actually got to make weight. He’s going to have to cut to make the weight class and he’s going to be a terror. He’s had to cut a lot of weight and he’s really dedicated to things like that. He’s very professional about it and he’s already made the cut to ’35 and the next time he does it he’s going to be a monster the next day, weight wise.
He just hits way too hard for those guys and he’s going to knock fools out at that weight class, I think.
Sam Caplan: During a recent local show, Curran issued a challenge to current WEC champion Miguel Torres. Being that the two are both Chicago-area fighters, is there any kind of rivalry that exists between the two? A lot of people claim that Jeff called Miguel out, which has stirred up some controversy.
Bart Palaszewski: I don’t know about him calling him out. I think with the way he read it to me, someone claimed he called him out. Well, he’s never called Miguel out. He did talk to Miguel about possibly hyping it up into a big fight instead of being children about it.
They’re both from Chicago and they could make that fight a really huge show and I think some people took it the wrong way and blew it out of proportion. But that’s on them. But as far as fighting Jeff, that would be a really bad move on Miguel’s part.
That’s a fight that I don’t think Miguel is going to want and if he does, he’s crazy because in my eyes, Jeff is going to steamroll him. But I’m not saying that being Jeff is my trainer and mentor. I’ve seen Miguel fight plenty of times over the years and I’ve seen Jeff’s fights over the years and there’s nothing Miguel can offer him. He’s not going to get him down and he’s not going to knock Jeff out.
If he relies on the tap then he’s in trouble because he’s definitely not going to submit Jeff. I really think it’s going to be a brawl but that it will end quick and pretty lousy for Miguel.
Sam Caplan: So you think Jeff is going to steamroll Miguel?
Bart Palaszewski: Oh yeah. It’s definitely not going to go the distance and it’s just not going to happen. Jeff is just going to be way too powerful and way too big for him. He’s just on a tear. Miguel, like I said, he won’t be able to get Jeff down on the ground and even if he does, he’s not going to be able to touch him.
And as far as standup goes, Jeff just hits way too hard. I don’t care who it is, at 135 Jeff just hits way to hard, for one. And for two, Jeff’s hands are just sick. He’s fought professionally at boxing and at ’35 he just hurts guy. And professional boxers actually know how to throw down. I’m not trying to cut Miguel down but I’ve seen his standup and it’s not the hottest.
Sam Caplan: Prior to your win over Jeff Cox during the first Adrenaline MMA show in June, you were coming off three consecutive losses. I know you don’t want to make any excuses, but I wanted to see if there was anything you were able to pinpoint in those outings that you worked to change?
Bart Palaszewski: Oh, yeah. The fight with Chris (Horodecki) was super close and it could have gone either one. Both times, in my eyes, I won the fight. But it doesn’t matter what I think, it’s all in the eyes of the judges. So that’s one thing: don’t leave it in the hands of the judges, I guess.
The fight with Deividas (Taurosevicius) where it got stopped during an armbar, that was just retarded. I don’t want to call a judge or referee or anyone with the commission retarded, but that was a horrible stoppage. He did catch me in the armbar but I wasn’t going to tap. My elbow was popping but I wasn’t about to tap. I was getting out of it at that point and he started screaming that he broke my arm and the ref jumped in and stopped it because he had said that. That’s not really an excuse but it was just a bad stoppage. The whole place was dumbfounded by it.
And the Jim Miller right, I should have done better research on him. My sources weren’t too good. I was told his jiu-jitsu was so-so and that he had no takedowns and that he was the kind of guy I should stand with. So I wasn’t worried about his ground game or his takedowns but he did get me down in the first and put a choke on which almost took me out. After that, it was a hard fight. It’s pretty much like getting rocked when you’re almost choked unconscious. After that, it was a rough comeback and he just kept taking me down and putting me in submissions. I was half-asleep during the fight because of that. So I guess that fight taught me to be ready and ignore what people say.
Sam Caplan: You’re fighting next Wednesday and Thanksgiving is Thursday, leaving only a few days before you need to leave for Vegas and weigh-in and fight. Do you pretty much have to abstain from eating traditional holiday foods in order to stay on weight?
Bart Palaszewski: Well, in between fights I’ve been really watching my weight and eating healthy and eating clean. I’ve also been training really, really hard. This is going to be fight number three where I’ve trained really, really hard while watching what I eat and I’m cooking a huge Thursday morning breakfast. And then we’re going to go to my wife’s parents house for dinner and I’m not going to hold back. With my weight, I am way ahead of schedule. I’m going to have a little fun, as far as food goes.
Sam Caplan: Your opponent next Wednesday will be Alex Karalexis. Everyone knows he’s a big hitter. Do you feel he has more than a puncher’s chance though?
Bart Palaszewski: Oh yeah. He’s got more skills than just his hands. That’s his main weapon, if you want to call it. He does bring a lot heat with his punches and that’s the thing you’ve got to be careful for. But he knows the ground game. Everyone cross-trains these days. So I’ve just got to be careful of his takedowns and top position because at 155 he’s probably a powerful guy so I’ve got to be careful of everything. But I definitely don’t want to get hit with one of those right hands, I can tell you that much. I don’t think anyone does.
Sam Caplan: Jamie Varner is the current champ at 155 and will likely face number one contender Donald Cerrone in January. If you’re able to beat Karalexis, how long do you think it will be before you get a title shot?
Bart Palaszewski: I’m not looking past Karalexis right now. I don’t want it too quick, either. I want to work my way up. I want to be a credible contender for the title. I’m not worried about other fights because right now Karalexis is my main concern. But maybe another fight and I can get a shot at a contender spot. So maybe three fights, hopefully, if I am winning decisively. But who knows? The WEC might not be happy with it, or whatever. But like I said, I am in it for the long haul so whatever I need to do, I’m going to do.
Sam Caplan: A friend of yours told me that you’re an avid skateboarded and that during a trip to San Francisco earlier this year that you decided to skate down Lombard Street. He said that there’s a pretty crazy story to go with that and that I should ask you about it.
Bart Palaszewski: (Laughs) Aw, yeah! Right before Jeff’s fight in gym he took us out to dinner because my birthday is May 30, his wife’s is the 25th, and his wife’s sister is the 28th. So we usually celebrate together that week. So it was 31st and Jeff actually took us to dinner in San Francisco and we cruised the streets to check out the scenery and they took us to Lombard Street. And we saw a bunch of kids riding down Lombard Street on food crates. It’s a really weird surfaced road. It’s not like a regular pavement; it’s kind of like a brick or cobblestone, I guess. So they slid pretty well.
I made it all the way down and at the bottom of Lombard Street and there were a bunch of people in apartments having a party. And someone had pegged me with a full can of beer, actually. And I watched it smash right next to my head because I was sitting down when they did it. And it hit right next to my head and I had a couple of Champagnes in me that night so I had some big beer muscles, obviously.
So I freaked out and I was yelling at this party and I said some things I shouldn’t have said and they ended up actually called the cops on me so that ended it pretty quick. I don’t know how that works — they assault me and then they call the cops on me. But as soon they said (they were calling the cops) I decided to get out of there and went back up street and hopped into a limo.
Sam Caplan: Being that it’s Thanksgiving tomorrow, I wanted to ask if there was anyone you wanted to thank?
Bart Palaszewski: Oh yes, for sure. Tapout, Suckerpunch Entertainment, Gamma-O, Critical Fight Gear, Big Frog Nutrition, all of the guys at Team Curran. And Jeff, my head coach. Doug, my boxing coach. William Davis, my strength and conditioning coach. And all of the guys from [not audible] that helped me with my wrestling.