by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Despite some of its shortcomings, the International Fight League helped produce some of the best young talent in MMA across multiple weight divisions over the last couple of years.
In particular, the lightweight division saw the coming of lone league champion Ryan Schultz, Canadian standout Chris Horodecki, and Jeff Curran product Bart Palaszewski.
With Schultz headed to World Victory Road (Sengoku) in Japan and Horodecki to Affliction, only Palaszewski remained to find a home in a major organization… until now… as he readies himself to make his World Extreme Cagefighting debut on Dec. 3 at WEC 37 against “Ultimate Fighter” season one alumnus Alex Karalexis.
“I had some minor injuries that happened before my last fight that I’ve tried to heal up, otherwise just been in the gym, every day all day long,” said Palaszewski of his time off since his last fight in June. “(I was) training hard like I’m getting ready for a fight, and then the call came through for the WEC, so I was right on track and just kept on with it.”
After a period of time that saw him fight 12 times in two years for the IFL, Palaszewski used his relatively light schedule this year to focus on becoming a better overall fighter.
“I’ve been wrestling a lot more, taking a lot more jiu-jitsu with the gi on; just going back to my roots with that,” he stated. “Just sharpen up my game more than anything, and really picking up my game as far as conditioning. I’ve taken it to a whole new level.
“I wanted to get to a new level of conditioning so I can go out there and really make a statement right off the bat. I kind of slid off the face of the earth the last few months, so I really want to come back strong, climb that ladder and be Top 10 some day.”
Having a chance to get healthy prior to his fight with Karalexis on Dec. 3, Palaszewski is truly anticipating a great performance in his WEC debut.
“I feel great about this fight,” he exclaimed. “I think I’m in the best shape of my life for this fight. I know I’ve said it before, but it is true.
“I think conditioning is going to be a big factor in this fight. He’s a big guy, and I’m sure the weight is going to take a toll on him.”
While he has been working on different aspects of his game, fans know Palaszewski for his stand-up ability, which he feels will inevitably be featured in this fight.
“I think we’re both willing to duke it out a little bit,” he commented. “I think I may be a cleaner boxer than he is, from what I’ve seen. He does pack a lot of heat in his punches.
“You have to be careful about his wild punches, but I think I will come out on top.”
With the WEC focusing solely on 170-pound fighters and below heading into 2009, the lightweight division looks to be the focus of a lot of attention over the coming year. And it’s attention Palaszewski looks to use to get him the fights he needs to put him in title contention.
“I don’t want to get a title shot just because I have some experience,” he said. “I want to go out there, make a statement, and fight whoever I need to fight to get the belt.
“I want to fight a legit contender, beat him, and get a title shot. The ultimate goal is to get the title belt, but I don’t want to get it the easy way. I want to work really hard and really deserve it in the fans’ minds, the promotion’s mind, and in my mind, as well.”
A win over a WEC veteran could go a long way towards helping Palaszewski make his case of becoming the first IFL product to make a serious run towards taking a title belt, a legacy that that would be just fine by him.
“Stay tuned to Versus. I hope my fight gets aired,” concluded Palaszewski. “I’m going to do my best to put on a great show.
“Thanks fans for all the support. I want to thank my coaches, Doug Mango, Jeff Curran, Brian from SuckerPunch Entertainment, and all my sponsors: Gamma-O, Tapout and everyone I’m forgetting.”