Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fighter Interview: Catching Up With Paul Georgieff

I recently did an e-mail interview with Paul Georgieff. Georgieff was on last season’s Ultimate Fighter reality show and I was wondering where he had disappeared to since the show. It turns out he has been living my dream, which is to be a ski bum in Colorado during a season of record snowfall. I had the opportunity to ask him about his training and background in BJJ and MMA, his release from the UFC, and what lies ahead in his future.

Wisconsin Combat Sports: Hi Paul, first I wanted to say congratulations on graduating from UW – Madison with your masters in structural engineering. I had read reports that said while training for the Jonathan Goulet fight you were still going to school full-time and working a part-time job doing research. That to me seems like a pretty full plate, how did you handle the time and did it affect your ability to train for your fight?

Paul Georgieff: The months leading up to my fight with Goulet were definitely not ideal for preparing for a fight in the UFC. In all my interviews, I said that I was training full time, spending 4 hours a day in the gym. But this was far from the truth. Almost all my time and energy was consumed by the thesis, which I had to write and be prepared to defend 4 days after the fight. I barely slept at all and lost contact with most of my friends because I just didn’t have time to do much of anything except write. I lost close to 20 pounds, and could have easily made 155 for that fight.

As a result, I had to be really flexible with my training schedule in order to get a couple hours in every other day or so. For example, Mark Plavcan would have me run rounds on Sunday night, and then I’d go to my office and stay up all night writing a chapter of my thesis. Or, Nick Klein would come over to my place at 8 in the morning before class and hold Thai pads or focus mitts for me. I’m really fortunate to have teammates who were flexible enough to work around my schedule and push me to train when all I really wanted to do was sleep. It sucked, but we made the most of the time that we could find. Each training session was intensely focused and well thought out. We tuned the parts of my game that needed work, specifically my stand up. WCS: I heard that after the Goulet fight you took some time off and went to Colorado to ski for a while. Are you still out there or are you back in Wisconsin now? Also what resorts did you hit up and how was the snow? Did you get any fresh tracks while you were there?

PG: After the Goulet fight, I moved to Aspen, where I currently reside. I’ve skied or snowboarded every day since I moved here at the beginning of January. I definitely picked the right season to be a ski bum, as there has never been so much snow here in all of recorded history. I’ve had some really epic days with as much as two feet of champagne powder. I mainly ski Ajax, Snowmass, and Highlands.

WCS: Sam Caplan of Pro Elite reported that you, as well as Hightower, Kolosci, Price, Barrera, and Miles were all released from your UFC contracts. Did the UFC give any reason for the release and how do you feel about the whole experience of the show and fighting Goulet in the finale? Would you do it again?

PG: Joe Silva emailed me to tell me that the UFC was cutting my contract because I need more experience. And from what they saw, I can’t really blame them. The hard part is knowing that if I had trained full time like a professional athlete is meant to, there’s no way that I would have been cut. On one hand, I feel like I blew a great opportunity. On the other hand, getting a masters means a lot more to me than being in the UFC. At the same time, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Even given all the struggles and the two losses added to me record, it was all an incredible experience that I don’t regret at all.

WCS: The big question I want to ask is about your future. I’m sure there are plenty of other MMA shows that would like to sign you as well as some of the local shows? Are you going to continue to fight in MMA or are you going to hang up the gloves for a job in structural engineering?

PG: As far as my future in the sport is concerned, I plan on shifting my focus back to BJJ and submission grappling. I’ve always said that competing in Abu Dhabi would mean a lot more to me than competing in the UFC. I believe that submission grappling is a far more technical sport than MMA, and that really appeals to me. There are so many slick moves that can be countered by simply punching someone in the face, and it takes a lot of what I like out of the sport. I mean, how often do you really see any cool Jiu-Jitsu moves in the UFC? So, once I leave my ski bum life in Aspen, I’m going back to grappling...but I’m sure I’ll fight again too.

WCS: Can you tell me a little bit about where you train, who your training partners are, and your background in BJJ?

PG: I became interested in grappling when I started training at Midway Judo in St. Paul my senior year of high school. My Jiu-Jitsu training started under Chris Owen (currently a black belt at Boston BJJ) at the University of Vermont in Burlington in 2001. The university paid all of my competition fees and even flew me out to the PanAms in LA. I took full advantage of this, and competed in every tournament that I could. While at home for summer vacation in St. Paul I trained with Team Bison and began fighting on local MMA Shows. After graduating from undergrad, I moved to Madison, where I trained with coaches Mark Plavcan (BJJ) and Ron Faircloth (MMA). Besides my coaches, my main training partners in Madison were Nick Klein and Kain Rizzo, both of whom are excellent rolls and solid competitors in both BJJ and MMA.

WCS: Do you follow the MMA scene in Wisconsin? We have a number of good welterweights including Jon Friedland, Jake Kuester, Gerald Meerschaert, Caleb Krull, and Charles Brown. Is there anyone in particular that impresses you?

PG: There are a lot of good fighters in Wisconsin. I’m most impressed by Nick Klein. He’s going to be big, so keep an eye out for him. He’s got slick Jits and his Muay Thai is crisp as hell.

WCS: Finally, will you be competing in the King Grappler in Madison on March 15?

PG: I wish I could make it to the King Grappler tournament, it’s a good one. Unfortunately, I’ll be busy skiing in Aspen still. But I really recommend to anyone who wants to get good at BJJ or MMA to do as many tournaments as possible. Competition is what drives us to perform; it gives our training a purpose, shows us our weaknesses, and often teaches us humility.

I would like to thank Paul Georgieff for taking the time to do the interview. Best of luck in your future and I look forward to seeing you either back in the cage or in the Abu Dhabi tournament some day.

To read my earlier articles on Paul Georgieff click on the links below:

Paul Georgieff Released From the UFC

Madison’s Paul Georgieff in the Ultimate Fighter Finale

For some video clips of Paul Georgieff click on the links below:

Training with Paul Georgieff

Paul Georgieff Highlight Reel

This article originally appeared on Wisconsin Combat Sports on 03-12-08.

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