Texas’ own T.J. Waldburger is ready to put on a show at UFC 166 in Houston.
The Grappler’s Lair fighter told MMAWeeky.com that he’s back from a layoff that not only included the numerous injuries that fighters regularly experience, but also the loss of his biggest supporter.
Waldburger’s grandfather passed away before he was supposed to compete on last June’s UFC 161 card. That combined with several nagging injuries wouldn’t let him put on his best show in the Octagon.
“I had a lot of things going on at the time, (like) the recent loss of my grandfather,” Waldburger admitted. “I can handle one or two injuries at a time, that’s part of the sport. But just one thing adding to another, it just wasn’t smart to fight at all in front of a full house, so I had to pull out.”
Waldburger said his grandfather was his biggest fan and losing him made it difficult to focus on things. Training and sparring didn’t hurt nearly as much as losing his emotional backbone.
As time went by and the grieving process played itself out, Waldburger explained that his focus returned and his drive to compete is back to the way it’s supposed to be.
“He was my heart. He was my biggest fan and I loved him to death,” he said. “I had a hard time dealing with it, but now I’m good and I’m motivated more than ever. I have a drive I haven’t had in so long, and I know he’s looking down and proud of who I am and where I’ve been.”
At UFC 166, Waldburger will look to prove his fire is lit against Adlan Amagov on the preliminary portion of the fight card. In breaking down his Russian opponent, Waldburger said being the smarter fighter is what will win the fight. Grabbing a win over someone with the experience that Amagov has will mean big things, Waldburger explained.
“I expect a fast-pace fight,” he said. “This guy is on his toes, he likes to move, likes to scrap. So I have to be the smart fighter and slow him down a little bit, pick my shots, and try to wear him down. I expect a great fight. He’s got a huge Combat Sambo background and won a lot of grappling tournaments with some good camps. He’s got experience, so I think it’s going to be a good win for me.”
With fight only hours away, Waldburger is getting ready to walk to the Octagon with the passion he lost when his grandfather died. But he knows he’s being watched by his departed grandparent, and Waldburger is still listening to the words his biggest fan used to tell him.
“I know exactly what he’d say. He’d say, ‘Go in there and do your best – that’s all you can do.'”