Joe Solecki is a mixed martial artist who competes in the Lightweight division for the UFC. The Contender Series standout is 9-2 as a professional which include 7 first round stoppages and is returning to action this Saturday at UFC on ESPN: Munhoz vs. Edgar.
Joe Solecki: Perfect man, so how so? How are you doing man uh? How is uh, how has covert in general and the whole pandemic been on you and the family, good man uh, it’s been great. You know we were able to train all throughout uh, shut down and everything you know the beginning was um sneaking into the gym. You know doing like double sessions once a day. Instead of doing our two three sessions a day and then maybe doing our trending conditioning places where we could – which was every day, but we were doing it, you know i was doing some at home – something our a lot of time. Spent at hudson rose athletics in wilmington north carolina, where i live um because we were able to get in there and he was able to put so much time in us. So i ended up doing strength and conditioning like every day uh for that first camp, which would have been my fight with hubbard. You know i ended up getting getting over it. I was fine, healthy i’d, end up testing negative multiple times. Obviously, i’m here so um, but it wasn’t, it wasn’t very bad for me. I had a little bit of fatigue, some back pain, but nothing crazy and i was able to train through it because a couple other teammates had it. So all in all, we’ve been absolutely fine, i’m just very, very happy and fortunate to uh to be out here right now for the fight yeah. So i want to talk a little bit about that that that covet test put a little bit of a delay on your return. I mean: how did it feel not being able to compete back in june uh yeah? It was frustrating. You know it was um. It was stressful, just in the sense of when am i going to get the fight again, because then i, as soon as that fight got canceled, i saw the august the july and august cards booking up and uh. You know my wife just deal with our first child in september, so i didn’t want to fight in september. If i could help it, but beggars can’t be choosing. So it was just a stressful time wondering when i’m gon na get the call and i stayed in camp all along like i had a fight coming up, because i just putting you know having good faith that it would pay off and it did so um. You know stressful for a short time but worthwhile in the long run, because i’m here now, i’m completely ready to go. I’Ve been more ready than i’ve ever been because i’ve been training for months and months and months like i had a fight. You know and um you know everything happens truly for a reason, um. I truly believe that was just the plan for me and i’m here now and i’m ready to go congratulations by the way on uh on the baby um. Thank you that does that add a little bit of extra motivation for for uh saturday, night um, yes, and no, you know. Obviously it’s added a lot of uh purpose to my life. You know motivation’s such a fleeting feeling. Uh motivation is when you get them. You know that, random day, when you wake up and your legs aren’t sore and you’re like oh man, this is great, like i’m excited to go. Do air dines, so it’s a fleeting feeling but purpose is, is forever you know. So i have a redefined purpose with my daughter on the way you know and uh. That’S something! That’S not gon na make me emotional or make me uh. You know fight too hard or fight too little or you know like motivation is like up and down and up and down – and this is just steady, so um yeah, you know motivation will be the word for sure, but i think it’s more purpose. I got a really big purpose with my family um behind me, and you know my family to go home too. So everybody also, you know the grand scheme of things you know for me, i’m such a competitor like uh competing is everything to me and it almost puts things in perspective. Sometimes of you know, competition is super important in my life, but there’s something that’s more important than that. You know other than my faith and that’s my family, so um having those things like the trial, you know the trifecta of the hierarchy of needs. You know where i have my faith at the top, because without that i wouldn’t have you know, be the man i am to be for my family and then underneath that is fighting and you know they’re all very, very important in my life, but it kind of Puts it into perspective, so it’s just been a very, very good time to be home during quarantine, had a lot of time to think had a lot of time to spend with my wife and uh a lot of time to train. So all the all the key areas in my life i’ve been able to really really work on, which has just been amazing. So i want to go back to that that fight there uh the fight that fell through i mean he still fought. How did it feel watching him uh? You know pick up the win um, you know back home not being able to compete yeah, it was frustrating you know not because he didn’t have a great fight. He had a great fight yeah. It was just frustrating because and now it’s easy to sit, i’m on a couch right now it’s easy to sit on a couch and go. I could have done this or that i’m not even saying that. I just know that i would have answered the bell. You know, and it’s not enough on rashkoff, like very tough guy, very skilled guy. I think the moment maybe got the better of him. I know he’s a very talented, tough guy, but um just frustrating for me, because i know that i’ve been in tough fights like that. I’Ve been battered. You know my first loss i kind of had that adrenaline dump i’ve never been out of the first round. This is years ago and i’m just kind of clocked in for two rounds. Knowing i was taking a beating. I didn’t really think i landed one punch uh. I just know that i’m i’m tougher than that in tough moments, so you know. If anything, i think it could have turned into a fighter the night performance for us. Even if that would have happened to me. You know, i don’t think that’s what’s going to happen, i’m very very prepared but um frustrating for sure, but uh they were rebooked and i got to watch one more extra fight footage on them. So can’t complain about that that extra two months you said you got to watch some extra footage that extra two months. Do you think that’s going to benefit your performance or do you think, like you were ready, then, and now it’s just like i’m prolonging it or do you think the two months is gon na going to be super beneficial i was i was ready, then i was But that was coming off of you know if you, if you go 12 weeks back from that, that was the first set of lockdowns in the us and we were like, i said we were able to train, but maybe there would have been that mental of, like Oh man, i was going doing double sessions at night instead of wrestling in the morning doing this at night or whatever it might be and um you know for that first camp. That would have been for him. I wasn’t able to get to jim, oh, which is our mma camp out in uh, charlotte north carolina estonia, north carolina um, which is about four hours from where we live. So we go up there every single week in camp for two days and we put it all together. You know i was. I was all at salted dog jujitsu, which is amazing, but maybe i would have just felt out of routine or something like that. As soon as that fight got pulled, you know in north carolina we’re able to train again as professional athletes, so i got a whole another 12 weeks or so or whatever it ended up being of being able to train the way i do so. I really got two full camps, so i think it’s a blessing in disguise. For me, i’m gon na be at my absolute best, so uh there really is no stone unturned for for saturday night when that fight fell through uh the day after two days after a week. After is that the fight you still wanted like, i know, i’ve talked to some people who are like you know what the fel the fight fell through. I was ready for it it’s time to move on or or were you happy to get his name opposite yours on the contract? I was definitely happy to get his name opposite the contract, but it looks like a little while it might have been some other people, and maybe they weren’t ready or just they got other opponents or whatever it might have been. So i kind of had quite a few names tossed out there and we ended up back at hubbard. It wasn’t quite the uh, you know. Oh, this fight got cancelled, let’s rebook it right away, um, it just ended up going through the cycle again and he was available and ready to fight he’s a game dude, very tough guy. I think he was excited coming off that performance to get back in there. So it just worked out perfect, but uh glad to see some of my name that i was familiar with, because i had already you know had two three weeks of preparing for him in june and now we’re here again. I had another two three weeks of preparing for him, so um yeah, just very, very fortunate that i was able to. I had him in mind all along just because i was my last scheduled opponent, so uh just kind of kept that in mind. So i had a face to train for and ended up being him. You talked a little bit about it. Um talk a little bit more about what i thought i’ll tell you the door real quick! I’M sorry! Oh it’s all good! Hey! Hey! Sorry! Sorry about that! Man, oh it’s all good! So what’s your thoughts on him as an opponent, you touched on it a little bit, but he comes from a very, very good camp, possibly camp of the year. So, what’s your thoughts on him and his team uh yeah much respect to them. Man they’ve got uh. You know gay she’s, gon na fight for the world title a bunch of guys having great performances but uh. That being said, you know, i think i come one of the best camps in the world. You know uh got some really really fantastic coaches behind me, i mean uh the performances that have been coming out of our gym in gastonia north carolina. You know a small little gym on the east coast here and we have you know uh, just some of the some of the best fighters you could ever have. We’Ve got uh scott holtzman. You got brian bart reynolds coming back in september, everybody saw what impact saga and i did last week and now you’re gon na turn around again and fight like that uh. You know next weekend so um friday night we have john salter fighting in bellator, so we’ve got a bunch of a bunch of world-class fighters in there and then other guys that maybe haven’t even been heard of yet so um. I think the benefits of that is we’re all under the same coaches. You know we all have very individualized attention and i’m not knock a mega camp like that. It’S just it’s different right, you’re kind of left to your own devices there. I think, whereas i am in touch with all my coaches every single day, you know i’ve got uh, you know with our head coach jeff jimmy. We communicate all the time he’s right here right now, like we’re ready to go for saturday night. My boxing coach is literally, i think, i’m one of his only pro fighters. He works with you know, so we’re constantly focusing on what i can do to get better with john salter, who i trained at salt dog, jiu jitsu, and then we go to jim. Oh together, we’re able to do this together, so we’re going through this together. I have like direct tutelage, you know and then, with hudson rose, athletics and strength and conditioning uh. I’Ve got a coach, that’s focused on us. He knows how to train professional athletes. He has other fob, not other fighters, other athletes in other sports where’s, only two mma fighters and we’re scheduled at the same time slot. So we are the main focus of all of our coaches and i think, there’s something to be said for that uh. They have an amazing team going out there, so i would never knock their process. Obviously, it works, but i think this is the best setup in the world for me personally, i i used to be a swimmer and one of the things i always found is. I always put my cap on before my goggles. It was just something that got me in in the right mindset. If i did it the other way around, i felt a little bit uneasy. I don’t didn’t know if i was my race was going to go well this pandemic, and this fight week has to be so so weird. How has it been trying to like prep? It’S got to be very, very different than what you’re used to how has fight week been different than usual and how have you kind of adjusted to uh to the difference? Yeah um? Well, i think, with fighting you know, there’s so many variables, so we can never get you know set on one thing i want to do it then we have things we like to do. You know everybody’s like that um, but with everything going on you just can’t plan for that. The one thing that my strength conditioning coach hudson goes, the entire time we’ve been training throughout this pandemic. He said the same thing is our vision is greater than the circumstances. So whatever happens like the other day, one of my last training conditioning sessions – usada came super early and it was i was trying to sleep in so i could go, have a good hard push and they woke me up at like 6 30 in the morning. You know and i got up and i did what i had to do and then i went straight straight to conditioning and we still had a great session. You know, but he was i was mad about. I was whining about it when we were warming up he’s like dude. The vision is greater than the circumstances, and that’s all it’s been throughout the pandemic is okay. You won’t let us train in the morning you’re gon na call the police on us. Then we’re gon na go in at night when you’re, not there we’re gon na train. You know, okay cool, i can’t go in and uh you know hit pads here. Then we’re gon na meet at a park and we’re going to hit pads. So i think it’s just uh and i think that’s why fighting especially you watch the ufc fights have been phenomenal all pandemic. You watch these other sports, not so much they’re kind of prima donnas. You know they’re not used to it guys are holding out, for you know more money or they’re, not safe or whatever it might be, but fighting we have to adapt right. We’Ve got ta, you know i can plan to go out there and not get hit. That’S great: it’s not gon na happen. You got ta, be ready for whatever’s gon na happen. So same thing with the training is uh. The vision has been great in the circumstances and we’re just ready to go. One thing, that’s also been very different in fighting. Is the empty arena you’ve had experience on the contender series competing in front of a small crowd? How do you think that’s going to affect your performance? I mean, do you? Are you someone that feeds off the crowd, or do you like being able to hear the commentary in both corners? Oh i mean, i think, it’s fantastic. It’S a great feeling to walk out in front of you know. I think there was like ten thousand people there. Uh in dc – and it was amazing – it’s great it’s a rush, but i wish they could all disappear and fight starts. I don’t need praise from uh, you know a bunch of drunk people in a crowd. It’S cool, i mean i love. Anybody reaches out and fans. It’S great it’s amazing, but that being said you know i come from a jitsu background. You know who cared about my jiu jitsu matches the purple belt. Nobody, you know just me, i don’t think my coaches did so um. I’Ve always said it, and we said about the guys like sometimes you guys don’t show up to the gym, train, they’re kind of lazy. I always said they were doing it for attention. Right is, if you just showed up with your coach and they showed up with their coach and nobody knew the result. Would you do it? That’S what i would always say, and i definitely would i’ve got ta know you know. I’Ve got ta know how good i can be i to know if i’m better than him, i’ve just got a nose. I want to compete so that’s kind of how i fall with it. It’S awesome to look back and see your family in the crowd, especially after a win, but this is this: is you know? This is a different time right now. This is coming out here to provide. This is coming out here to to shine during a time when there’s not a lot of positive things going on so just coming out here and working. This is the mission and uh we’re ready to go. I don’t need a crowd for that and i think if anything, i really enjoyed the contender series with no crowd and we had a little bit of a crowd there. But it’ll almost be nice, not looking up seeing you know some four of the closest people to me very, very nervous before i fight it’s just gon na, be me and my coaches and we’re all very, very confident. So i think it’s gon na be a welcome change. I want to touch on a big fight that happened last weekend, daniel cormier lost uh in his last fight. Ever possibly i’m assuming he’s retired. I kind of built this platform based on making matchups um. That being said, is there anybody currently in the ufc or someone that used to fight in the ufc, whether it be a guy like bj, penn or or frank yedger? Is there some? Is there a name that you’re, like you know what i have to get his name on my resume before it’s all said and done? No definitely not anybody specific, there’s, a cool little dream matchup, but i guess, but if you got offered them like, i think i was saying an interview before it’d be cool to fight bj penn in his prime, because the game’s changed so much like. Wasn’T he that amazing would he hold up? Now? We don’t know you know, that’d be cool, but uh. No, definitely not and definitely not frank yeager, because i probably sit there and get hit 400 times because i’d be star struck as my favorite fighter of all time. So that would be like, even if i could hit him back. I probably wouldn’t i’d like. Oh i’m, sorry, mr edgar, so uh yeah that wouldn’t be the that wouldn’t be the dream fight for me for sure, but uh, no, nothing specific! You know! I really just want to climb the ranks i want to work to the you know the top upper echelon of the sport. I want to work toward a world title. I want to feed my family and just have a good life and keep doing this. This is what i love to do. You know. That’S the crazy part about the early stages being signed to the ufc. Is it sounds negative, but for me it’s positive. I want to keep my job. I want to do this. This is what i love to do. So just going out there and beating absolutely whoever they put in front of me and i’m sure those names are going to get. You know more dream type matchups as we go, but right now i’m not worried about it. I can’t go without talking about your last performance. I mean i i’ll be honest. I wrote matt matt wyman’s name down when i thought, when i wrote down who i thought was going to win, i mean he’s a veteran of the game. He’S done it all. Did it feel extra special knowing that you beat someone who’s kind of been around and he’s done it for a long time or did it feel like any other fight uh? No, you know i think leading in was looking at his last performance before mine. We were a little nerd uh. You know i was very confident. I didn’t think that was the same matt wyman that he had seen in his heyday. You know, but that being said with all the experience we knew he’s a wily vet. He may have something up his sleeve and um, even in the end, with the talking and then uh, you know i kind of woke a sleeping dog there or poked a bear when i said something back to him, the one time i did he got out of Back control, so he was cagey and a seasoned vet. So um. You know it was a cool fight to have, but i wasn’t terribly worried about you know the name or anything like that. It was one of those little things as we were walking out being like holy crap. I used to watch him ultimate fighter when i was like 12., but then i get to put that on my mind. You know, and that’s the one thing i’ve always been able to do. Super well is, and i always talk about it, because i got nothing to hide it’s on fight week, i’m a human being man, i get nervous. I get excited. I get anxious this that the other thing as soon as that walkout song plays. I don’t even know that, guy that walks out there i dial in and it doesn’t matter if i’m fighting matt wyman uh anybody it doesn’t matter. I can be anybody across from me. I’M gon na go out there and literally just it’s a body, it’s a shape and i’m going to try and implement the game plan. I want to ask a couple more questions and then i’ll and then i’ll. Let you get back to uh to your fight week. Preparations there’s a big announcement on on monday that jon jones was relinquishing his title. Moving up to heavyweight that leaves a vacant spot and dominic reyes versus yamblahovic was made for the light heavyweight championship. What’S your prediction for that fight, oh man, uh, honestly, i really don’t have any good prediction on that because i mean dom rays sound like you did fantastic against jon jones. I forget what we were doing that night, but i fell asleep before the main event uh. So i’ve only seen don reyes knock out, wydman, which he looked amazing and young blockwoods knock out rockhold, which looked amazing so uh, i guess i’ll, say dom ray’s because he gave uh jon jones such a good run for his money. But i really, i think it’s like a pick and fight. I mean i agree. I couldn’t pick between the two um and last question man. What can we expect from you on saturday night? You expect a hard fought. 15 minutes. You know i. I say that every single time, but that’s the truth, that’s what we prepare for. You know it’s always great. If i go out there and i land that first punch and he goes down, that’s amazing we’ll go home, we’ll celebrate fantastic, but i never planned for that. You know and same thing, if i take him down, he gives his neck up. That’D be amazing, but i know i have a tough guy in front of me and i know that it’s going to take 15 minutes of just a fantastic effort like i did with wyman like i’ve done in fights before so i got, got ta, go out and Win positions: i’ve got ta win the footwork battle before we even start striking. I’Ve got ta hit and not get hit. I’Ve got ta, put him on his butt and hold him there and uh make him want. You know make him one out so uh 15 hard hard hard fought minutes is all we can expect all right. I’Ll ask one last non-mma question: what sorts of things are you doing to kind of stay occupied? I mean you, you had that quarantine, you’re stuck in a hotel. What sorts of things are you doing to just keep your mind, occupied yeah, uh, we’ve just uh netflix i bought the fire, stick always prepared um. We do a lot of traveling for training camp. So i bought a separate fire stick for my gym bag and never leaves so uh. We watched we’ve been binge watching last chance, you, which is awesome. I’Ve never seen it so that was really good and then uh right now, while everybody’s kind of on some down time, i was watching diners, drive-ins and dives, because i guess i’m a uh masochist and i like to watch delicious food. While i can well, i can’t eat it, but uh in some way. It’S almost therapeutic. I don’t know so. Just watching tv i’ve been reading some and just hanging out man. We’Re gon na get some fresh air out here, a little bit we’re out of quarantine. So maybe go walk around a little bit, not go inside anywhere. Just kind of uh hold on sorry! Sorry about that. My wife tried to facetime me uh, but yeah just catch some fresh air walk around, maybe at the strip or something and just uh. You know just soak in some of that. Good energy, good air and uh enjoy our time here, just trying to enjoy the journey man, it’s kind of nice. It’S been very quiet. It’S a good time to reflect it’s a good time to think about what we’re doing while we’re out here and keep the mission at the forefront. There is no family and friends running through the room. There’S! No! You know your third cousin’s here wants to come in and see you before the fight, because he thinks he’s the most important person in your life and uh as much as it’s great to have that support. This is a very different welcome change. So it’s been great. I’M just gon na try and uh enjoy the time best. We can and then make weight fight and then we’re right back on a plane home all right man, all the best on saturday, i’m looking forward to watching your fight. I was super impressed last time out. So i’m really looking forward to it all right thanks. So much man have a great one, all right man, all the best, take care.