After more than two years away from MMA, former Ultimate Fighter 7 participant Luke Zachrich recently made his return to MMA at UVC 20 and he says it feels just like old times.
“Leading up to it was kind of a mixture of emotions,” he said. “I’m not one to get nervous, but basically five days (out), all the way up until the fight, I was pretty nervous.
“It wasn’t bad nerves, like I was afraid; it was nervous anxiousness to get back in there and do it. As soon as I arrived at the venue, it was like I was in the locker room at Bellator a month ago and it was game time, I was ready to go and hadn’t taken any time off at all.”
Zachrich was able to come away with a unanimous decision win over rising prospect Nick Kraus, and despite some hiccups, is pretty happy with how things turned out in the fight.
“I did a lot of things that I was very happy with, and then there were some things that were outside of my control, and then there were some things that you could just tell I was rusty and had issues with when I was in there,” he said. “Overall, I’m happy and I’m just glad I got to fight and walked out basically injury-free. Now I can look forward and go from there.”
Zachrich told MMAWeekly.com that he credits a skill he developed more fully in his time off for the win.
“I really upped the ante on one of my weak points in my game, which was my Brazilian jiu-jitsu,” he said. “It really shined this weekend and I think that’s what’s sealed the deal in my unanimous decision victory over (Kraus).”
Having been 11-1 before a series of injuries sidelined him, Zachrich feels like a completely new fighter; one that can go further than he feels he could have before the layoff.
“When I was really training hard before this, I might have been able to make it, but I don’t think that the skillset and mental clarity and everything like that (was there before),” he said. “I’m more mature as a person and I think right now is the best and most confident that I’ve ever felt in my MMA career.”
After a disappointing showing on TUF 7, Zachrich would like to use the rest of this year to build momentum towards a possible return to the UFC. However, if he doesn’t make it back for whatever reason, he’s fine with what he’s been able to achieve up to this point in his career.
“Preferably, I’d like to fight two more times before the year’s done,” he said. “Since my release from the UFC, (two more wins) would put me at 6-1, and if I can go on a three-fight win streak here including (UVC 20), I think at that point it would garnish some attention for myself.
“I’m at a different place right now, so it’s not like I have to be back there. I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I’m loving it. I’m really reinvigorated and it’s like I’ve fallen in love with the sport all over again. Maybe it will be a different story if I go out and win 10 fights (in a row) and I’m still not in a big show. I might get upset at myself and about my situation, but for now I’m happy where I’m at.”