While conventional wisdom may say that being released from the biggest MMA promotion in the world is a bad thing, for Justin Buchholz it was just the jolt he needed to get his career on track.
“I had a big confidence problem after I was cut from the UFC,” he said. “I didn’t really know what I was doing. I describe it like I was leaning up against a door and someone opened it and I fell backwards and was fighting in the UFC. I was just a super fan and loved the sport so much I just ended up fighting in the UFC. It’s crazy.
“When I was in the UFC I had zero goals, but if you talk to me now, the most important thing in life is having a goal to reach for. I have short term and long term goals and the main long term one is to be the UFC champion. For a long time I wouldn’t really have the confidence to say that to anyone, it would be even hard to say that to myself, but now I can say that confidently.”
What’s helped bolster Buchholz’s confidence is work he’s been putting in at the gym to become a true mixed martial artist, and the results it has produced in his fights.
“This entire year, I haven’t been out of the gym except when I went to corner guys,” he said. “I haven’t missed a camp in, I don’t know, years. I’m in there more than anyone, and I think it’s paying off big time.
“That front kick (I defeated Steve Lopez with in May) kind of changed my life and made me realize I could do anything. I’m athletic enough and tough enough to hang in there with any guy.”
Buchholz’s experiences have him feeling like he can’t be stopped when he returns to the cage at SCC 4 for a lightweight title fight on Friday night at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas against a fighter he’s been following for years in John Gunderson.
“I’ve been through the ringer,” admitted Buchholz. “I’ve gotten my ass kicked in front of the world. I got trashed on fights that the UFC was pumping me up and I got beat in those fights. There’s nothing this guy is going to do to me that hasn’t been done.
“Back then, I never would think that I could compete with the guy, but now I’m going to destroy him. I’m pretty confident. I know how he fights and I’m going to go right to him, do my best to put it on him, and I don’t think he’s going to hold up.”
Buchholz told MMAWeekly.com that thanks to the work he’s put in with UFC title contender Chad Mendes, he’s more than willing to go a full 25 minutes if need be.
“I’ve cornered (Mendes) for the last two or three years since he joined Alpha Male and I’ve really learned to cut weight at a professional level and come in there even stronger at a lighter weight,” said Buchholz. “I’m just excited to push for five rounds. I want to test (Gunderson’s) cardio, test his chin, and test his heart. I know I’m not going to break.”
A win over a fellow UFC veteran could go a long way towards returning Buchholz to that promotion, but if that doesn’t happen right away, he’s more than happy to continue to work for the company that’s helped him rebuild his career.
“Every fighter’s goal is to get to the UFC, but the SCC has been such a great promotion,” he said. “I’ve got some loyalty for these guys. They’ve treated me well. This is my third fight for them, and I’d be happy to defend the belt for them. But by the end of this year or next year, I’d love to be back in the UFC. I train with UFC fighters and I feel that’s where I belong.”