1 month ago
On this day ten years ago, I’ve stepped into the world-famous Octagon for the first time at UFC 99. It was a time quite different from today: JoeRogan still had hair, the UFC had half as many events as they put on today and the roster was much smaller as well. European fighters were few and far between, if it wasn’t a UK card, you had an average of one per show.
Making the UFC back then was like receiving a medal of honor – only the elite of the elite were invited to compete inside the Octagon. As a result, there were no easy fights. Every single time you made the walk back then, you were fighting for survival. In my first three fights, I fought a guy with five times my UFC experience and two “Ultimate Fighter” winners. It was murderers' row.
As you all know, I had to stay down a couple of years and earn my way back into the UFC. Fortunately, with the help of my good friend and longtime manager TimLeidecker, I became one of very few European fighters to be given a second chance. In my second run with the UFC, I’ve gone 4-2 with two wins before the final bell while fighting on some of the biggest shows and against some of the best.
Good friends I’ve made, good friends I've lost along the way. I’ve been blessed to work with and learn from some amazing coaches during this time. The hard-as-nails training with coach Piotr.Baginski.18 at BerserkersTeam was a clear sign that the serious side of life had begun. JockoWillink taught me discipline, Yasin_Seiwasser showed me the power of the mind and Wolfgang_Unsoeld opened his treasure chest of knowledge about weightlifting for me.
There have been many others who have helped me become the fighter I am today. There is only one who has been there with me from white belt to black belt, the one and only DeanListerBJJ. Thank you for believing in a skinny white kid from the Swabian province when I walked into your gym for the first time, Sensei!