Joe Solecki: The Championship Mentality

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Coming into UFC Vegas 7, Joe Solecki is getting ready to take on Austin Hubbard. The two were originally scheduled to fight at UFC Vegas 3 back in June. But, Solecki was forced to pull out due to a positive COVID test. Fortunately for Solecki, Hubbard and fans alike, the UFC rebooked that fight.

Solecki is ready to get back to action. He respects what Austin Hubbard brings to the table. He is very happy that the UFC made this fight again and is ready to get to work.

“I’m ready to finally do this fight. It was supposed to happen a little while ago. It’s pretty cool that he still got to fight that weekend and we still get to fight. We all win so it’s good.”

As mentioned earlier, Solecki pulled out of the fight due to a positive COVID-19 test. While Solecki has fought much more sick than he felt, he felt led to do his due diligence and not fight when he was sick.

“I had a positive COVID test,” said Solecki all non-nonchalantly. “I was fine. I was a little run down. It wasn’t anything severe. I’m young and I’m healthy. But, I just didn’t want to go out there. I felt off, but I’ve fought sicker than that before with a cold or flu-like symptoms. With everything going on, I wanted to make sure I did the responsible thing. I went to CVS and have a test. It was my last sparring session before the fight, it was eight days out. Then I got the results back from the doctor. I felt terrible about it, I have never had to pull out of a fight before, and it was unfortunate. But, we got rebooked, so it’s all cool.”

Solecki has been in training camp since March. He was prepared to fight before the pandemic and when it hit, he stayed ready knowing the UFC would be back to action soon. Then with the training camp for Hubbard and a positive COVID test, Solecki feels he’s more ready than ever.

“Honestly, camp has been great. I’ve been in camp since March because I was told to be ready for April or May originally before COVID and then COVID hit. Then I was told May or June and I got right into training camp thinking June was 12 weeks away. It ended up being June right at the 12 week mark. I had to pull out. Because some other teammates had it as well, we were able to pull aside in a garage and train together. We made the joke that we are the undesirables. But, we quarantined together so I didn’t miss a beat. I’ve been training for a fight, maybe not Hubbard. It was a couple weeks for Hubbard and a couple weeks for some other names thrown out there. But, I’ve been in a training camp for over 20 weeks. If I’m not ready for this fight after that, then Hubbard is better than me. And I can live with that. But, I’ve done everything I possibly can. I’ ve done a good job as far as riding the wave and not coming in overtrained. I feel great, I feel absolutely sharp and ready to go. It’s the best I’ve ever felt. It’s been great.”

Joe Solecki Training For UFC Vegas 7

Joe Solecki knows what he’s getting into with Hubbard at UFC Vegas 7. He knows how tough a fighter his opponent is. But he feels up for the challenge and thinks he has the opportunity to shine.

“As far as gameplan, he’s super durable, he’s a tough guy. He looked great in his last fight. I look forward to testing myself against a guy like that. I feel like there are a lot of areas where I can shine against him. He’s that kind of guy, kind of like Wiman was, but a lot younger and he’s more evolved than Wiman. But, it’s that same thing. This guy’s going to be here for 15 minutes unless I put his lights out, weather it be a choke or a KO. I know who I’m dealing with. I know exactly who is in front of me.”

The camp for Hubbard is going well. He doesn’t focus all his time on his opponent, he truly believes that being the best version of himself is the best way to compete. He also relies on his team of coaches to prepare him for his fight.

“I spend 90% of on me and 10% on them. That being said, I’m never going to go into something you’ll never hear me sound ignorant about it in the sense that I don’t care who’s in front of me. I want to know what to expect. If this guy has the tendency to do A or B and I can capitalize with C, then I need to know that. I don’t obsess over it. I haven’t watched a ton of tape, but I watched enough to see what I’m getting into and just to see who is going to be in front of me. Then I let my coaches come up with a game plan. I’m a listener, I listen to whatever they tell me to do. Why would I have coaches if I’m not going to them. It’s just insane. I’m definitely prepared. It’s more of a template than a game plan. Fighting isn’t like any other sport with X’s and O’s. I’ve got to fill in the gaps and I think that’s where I shine.”

COVID has put a strain on a lot of fighters and their training camps. Solecki has been on the fortunate side of politics, time and having an infected team to train with.

“It hasn’t been two bad. Ever since they’ve let athletes train here in North Carolina, we’ve been good. Going into the first Hubbard fight that didn’t happen, we were cramming in our double sessions instead of coming in morning and afternoon. We were kind of getting it all at night because we had to sneak into the gym. Maybe two weeks before what would have been my first fight this summer is where they said pro athletes can train. On top of the first 12 weeks of the regular camp where we were just cramming and I was a little extra tired because it was longer sessions instead of more sessions, now we’re back to our normal. I was able to go up to Charlotte and train with all those guys. I got back with my boxing coach at Myrtle Beach. Everything’s been a whole other training camp on top of my routine. It’s been great, not too bad.”

Always Looking to Improve

In his UFC debut, Joe Solecki felt he did well but being the competitor he is, he thought it wasn’t the best example of his skills. In that fight, he took on Matt Wiman at UFC DC last December. He looks forward to fighting a much younger opponent in Austin Hubbard and proving he is one of the best up and coming fighters in the lightweight division.

“I was happy with it. I discredit myself in some sense. There are things I could have done better. You know, he was coming off a loss or two and definitely on the tail end of his career, that’s no secret. It will be good to get in there with another prospect and test myself. Not overlooking Wiman. One day I will look back and think it was awesome I fought a guy with 17 fights in the UFC. I felt great, but there’s a lot of areas where I thought I could do a lot better. It will be good to not have those questions about if this guy was active in the last couple years. It was great to get out there and get a win in the UFC, it was a dream come true. With every win, I feel the stakes are higher and higher and higher. Now I feel that I have my work cut out for me against a guy that’s me. He’s a guy that’s real hungry. We’re both going to have that dog in us for sure.”

Solecki’s goals are similar to a lot of fighters: become a champion. Solecki believes that training for this should be at the forefront of a fighters mentality. While he’s not looking past Hubbard, Solecki has compartmentalized his goals and works at them every day.

“If I didn’t want to be a world champion, I should turn in my contract and find a way to do something else. That’s at the very, very top of the pyramid. The way I look at it, there’s a hierarchy of needs. That’s my epitome of my whole career but right now, I’ve got Hubbard in front of me. I always say keeping my job is the most important thing. So I’m training as hard as I can, winning fights, performing well. Some fights aren’t going to go your way, but showing what you can do even in the losses. I’m trying to minimize as much as possible. So, I’m showing up to work every day and keep getting better. Keeping my job and feeding my family. Climbing the ranks is above that then at the very top is a world title. If I didn’t want to be a world champion, especially because I’m in the UFC very young, I’m 26 years old, if I didn’ t have that on the horizon, it would be time to hang it up at 26. I’ve been wanting that since I was a little kid. Hubbard is in front of me so I don’t look past that at all. I’ll never look past anyone, I never have. But, down the line, that weighs on my mind every single day. That’s why I wake up and train even when I don’t have a fight.”

The New MMA Breed

Joe Solecki believes that MMA is going through a new wave of athletes. He believes that fighters in the past have only focused on being good at one thing; striking, wrestling, Jiu Jitsu etc. Now, Joe Solecki says that the first generation of pure MMA fighters are coming of age and making the sport that much better.

“I grew up doing jiu jitsu and grappling, but that being said, it was always done with MMA in mind. I’ve been a lifelong martial artist. I was involved with karate and stuff when I was a kid. I’ve always been involved with martial arts and I’ve always watched the UFC. Then ever since I moved to the south to the Carolina’s, I was involved in MMA gyms even when I was grappling competitively and wasn’t fighting yet. I’ve been around the sport my entire life and I think I bring that new generation of blending everything together. I’m not going to win any world titles in jiu jitsu any time soon, it’s a very different game. But my MMA jiu jitsu I can beat a lot of guys that are placing in the Worlds, but I can beat them in MMA. I can do stuff like that. I can really shock some people; when you think I’m doing one thing, I’ll do another. Fighting is ultimately deception, that’ s why we feint and fake a level change. We do all these things. I think the way we put it together is what makes me special.”

He also believes that the sport is still improving. Solecki has his methods and looks to those around him to improve it even further.

“Sometimes you hear guys that don’t do jiu jitsu, or maybe they do it once a week. They never really learn it. Their whole thing is not getting there. You see guys like Frankie Edgar in a boxing gym sparring. They box at a gym and they still wrestle at a college. I think it’s important to keep that, but I think it’s also important to blend them all together. People couldn’t do that in the past, they could only do one thing. Now, you wrestle with college wrestlers, box with boxers, then you have your practice where you put it all together. I think as long as we keep that and keep becoming experts in each thing and not just good at putting them all together.”

Predicting Khabib Nurmagomedov Versus Justin Gaethje

It’s no secret the whole world is looking forward to the return of lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. He takes on perhaps the toughest test of his career in a Justin Gaethje who has made leaps and bounds of improvements since losing to Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez. Joe Solecki weighed in on the impending super fight as well.

“It’s weird, when you watch these guys be unbeatable for so long, like Anderson Silva. He got cocky. I didn’t like him, I was a Demian Maia fan, I like the jiu jitsu. Ever since then, he could do no right in my book. Ever since then, I was like, ‘This is the guy to beat him,’ and it never was until Weidman. That being said, it’s not the same thing with Khabib, I like watching Khabib. He’s incredible. But it’s so hard to pick against Gaethje, even though Khabib has been so dominant, Gaethje looked unbeatable in the last fight. So, I’ll take the underdog, I’ll take Gaethje. But, I will not be surprised if Khabib goes out there and beats Gaethje and then beats GSP and walks off into the sunset.”

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