by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Since the IFL’s debut earlier this year one of the more recognizable fighters has been Quad City Silverbacks lightweight Bart “Bartamus” Palaszewski.
Coming out guns blazing in his first bout against John Shackleford in April, Palaszewski hasn’t let up, winning all three of his IFL fights including the two that helped lead the Silverbacks to the first ever World Team Tournament Championship.
With their win this past September over Renzo Gracie’s New York Pittbulls, the Silverbacks are headed to the WTT semi-finals on November 2nd in Portland, Oregon to take on the Carlos Newton coached Toronto Dragons where Bart is set to lock horns with highly regarded Ivan Menjivar.
MMAWeekly caught up with Palaszewski during the team’s last week of hard training before heading to Oregon to discuss his most recent fight, his team, and his legendary coach, Pat Miletich.
MMAWeekly: First off Bart talk to us about your split decision win this past September over Marcio Feitosa, how do you feel about that fight?
Bart Palaszewski: I wasn’t happy at all to tell you the truth. The biggest mistake I made in that fight was underestimating the guy. I thought he was just a jiu-jitsu guy and wouldn’t have much, but after the fight I thought about it and was like, “yeah he’s just a jiu-jitsu guy – but – he’s a World Champion jiu-jitsu guy in Abu Dhabi and everything.”
I also think there was a lot of ring rust as well. I hadn’t fought for four months and that’s the longest break in my career ever. Between the ring rust and underestimating him I don’t think I prepared right for him.
Going back to not being happy with it, I’ve really picked it up for this [upcoming] fight. I’ve done a lot more training, strength and conditioning, I picked up a new coach for that. I’ve done a lot more mitts and Thai pads, just busting my butt so what happened in my last fight will never happen again.
MMAWeekly: How do you feel overall about the Silverbacks’ performances against the Pittbulls?
Bart Palaszewski: I think we did well. We did move on even though a couple of our guys lost. [Ryan] McGivern just got caught; he was dominating but just got caught. That’s how fights go sometimes, one minute you’re winning, dominating, and the next you get hit with a punch or something. For us it’s a team effort, we try to win each fight and go 5-0 every time, but if you don’t we all depend on each other for winning the bracket and moving on.
MMAWeekly: Being one of the original IFL fighters from last season, how would you say your experience has been so far with the promotion?
Bart Palaszewski: It’s great; they’re really about the fighters/athletes. They really take care of us financially and if we need something or have any questions about anything they are there for us no matter what. You can always call the right people for different things. They’re super-nice and they really take care of us…that’s the main thing, it’s all about us.
MMAWeekly: Of course it’s got to feel good also to get your fights on TV.
Bart Palaszewski: I think it’s great. To get on TV that’s what everybody’s going for. If people have a choice of paying 30 dollars or watching something free on basic cable/satellite, most likely most people would rather check it out for free.
MMAWeekly: Have you noticed any difference in the level of recognition you’ve been getting since the IFL debuted on FSN?
Bart Palaszewski: I think so; I’ve been getting more exposure from the local MMA communities I think mostly. It’s great, but also somebody will walk up to me on the street and say, “hey I saw your fight and keep up the good work,” and it just makes me feel great. Most importantly the MMA communities, the fans are keeping it going and keeping the sport alive.
MMAWeekly: Okay let’s talk about your upcoming fight against Ivan Menjivar. What are your thoughts about this match?
Bart Palaszewski: I’m very excited about this fight. My instructor Jeff Curran fought him in ’02 and lost a decision, it’s been about five years so I’m sure Ivan’s improved on a lot of things. I’ve always wanted to fight him…always wanted to fight him. It’s not like a grudge thing, but he’s one of the top contenders out there and I want to work my way up and he’s one of the top ten or top five guys.
I think it will be a great fight. He’s very athletic, fast, likes to throwdown and is a great jiu-jitsu guy. I’m not sure about his takedowns, I’ve only seen some highlight videos and they didn’t show any of his takedowns, but I’m expecting a good fight.
MMAWeekly: He’s kind of a late addition to the Dragons; do you think that will have any influence on the fight?
Bart Palaszewski: It’s not really late notice…I’d known for a while that I wasn’t going to fight the guy from the last show. I knew it was going to be somebody else and I was hoping it was going to be Menjivar and when they said it was going to be him I got real excited. I was actually up in Canada for Jeff’s fight when they told me and I actually met Ivan the day after they signed him. He’s a super-nice guy and I’m looking forward to the fight.
MMAWeekly: When we spoke to Ivan shortly after he was signed he mentioned how when he met you he was surprised by how big you are, do you think your size advantage will play a factor in this fight?
Bart Palaszewski: I’m going to use all the tools I can. If I can use my reach, I’ll use my reach, if we clinch and I feel a stronger I’ll throw him around/muscle him around a little bit. Hopefully it doesn’t come down to that because I’m looking to throwdown with him. In the highlight videos I saw it looks like he can throw, so I want to throw and make it an exciting fight. I want to win of course, so if I see a submission I’ll not pass it, but if we can keep slugging away I’ll take that.
Going back to the size, I’m not cutting a lot of weight for this fight. I’ve got a new trainer who put me on a new diet and I’m walking around lighter. I was 175lbs before I think and now I’m 165lbs, so it’s not going to be much of a weight advantage and Ivan for a 145lb fighter is a big guy.
MMAWeekly: So no hitting late night McDonalds with big Ben Rothwell huh?
Bart Palaszewski: No [laughs]…I can’t remember the last time I had McDonalds [laughs].
MMAWeekly: How do you feel about the Silverback’s overall chances against the Dragons?
Bart Palaszewski: I feel good. A fight is a fight is a fight and we have just as good of a chance as they do. You never know until we step out there because we all have tough fights. The whole Canadian team is really tough, but we’ve been going good so far…we’re the defending Champions so obviously we’re doing something right.
MMAWeekly: One thing many people have noticed this season compared to last is that teams are fallowing the Silverbacks’ suit and are beginning to train together on a more consistent basis. How important do you feel it’s been that you guys all train together?
Bart Palaszewski: I think it’s very important. This whole thing is a “team” competition, that tells you right there. Training together is important because of team comradery; everybody being friends and brothers is what we’re looking for. Everybody can coach each other, point out each other’s mistakes and work on them, and get each other’s spirits up before and after the fights.
There’s five different weight classes, so we can’t all train physically together, but we’re all watching out for each other and keeping a close eye out for each other. Every fight is important and if one person loses a fight you could lose in your bracket and be out for the season, so being there for each other helps keep everyone on top of their game.
MMAWeekly: Working with MMA living legend Pat Miletich probably doesn’t hurt either.
Bart Palaszewski: It’s great because Pat’s been there, done that, he’s been a champ and he knows everything about the sport. It’s great to have him as a coach because he’s got great jiu-jitsu, wrestling and stand-up and a great eye for coaching which is really important.
Coaching I think is harder than being a fighter because you’ve got to keep your eye on 20-30 guys and remember who makes mistakes and make sure they clean it up and he’s really great at that. He points out every little detail and mistakes I make and really stays on top of us and make sure if something needs to get done it gets done.
MMAWeekly: Of course it’s got to be motivating knowing that if you do screw up he’ll kick your butt himself if he has to right?
Bart Palaszewski: I don’t know about “motivation,” but “fear” maybe [laughs].
MMAWeekly: Funny stuff Bart, thanks for taking the time, we always appreciate it. Is there anything you’d like to say as we head out?
Bart Palaszewski: First of all I want to thank Pat Miletich for training me…thanks to all my teammates for staying on top of me. Thanks to my other coaches Jeff Curran back in Chicago…Dr. Doug Mango my stand-up coach…Dave Davis at Dave’s Speed Center [www.MCSSC.com], he’s a great guy and my strength and speed has gone through the roof.
For the fans out there, just come out and support the IFL. I think it’s one of the greatest organizations out there, if not the greatest already. I’m ready to fight, I want to get some recognition and I think beating Menjivar will do that for me.