Following a quiet 2018 that saw him only fight once, former UFC bantamweight Anthony Birchak has once again had difficulties finding bouts as he’s been sidelined from MMA the whole of 2019.
With just one MMA bout in the last 20 months, Birchak has been forced to focus on other combat sports, and thankfully it’s helped him develop his game for the long run.
“The last fight I had was for Combate Americas here in Tucson (last October), and before that it was RIZIN (in 2017), so me trying to find matches has been super hard,” Birchak told MMAWeekly.com. “Even doing Jiu-Jitsu and doing superfights here on the local scene has been difficult for me. I’ve had to go as high as 170lbs against a couple of high-level black belts to find competition.
“I’ve just been passing the time doing Jiu-Jitsu, and with that being my focus I’ve been able to really polish my wrestling and grappling, and stitching the two together.”
When it comes to his development, Birchak feels that’s been able to move forward while embracing what made him dangerous in the past.
“Being able to look at what I’m doing now when I spar, it’s more kind of the version of me when I started MMA where I was a really good heavy wrestler, but now I’ve got black belt level Jiu-Jitsu attached to that,” said Birchak.
“The things I’ve been working on is taking them down and holding them down. If they get back up somehow then I’m putting them right back on the deck and keeping them smashed out.”
On July 26 in Phoenix, Arizona, Birchak (13-6) will finally have his first MMA bout of the year when he faces late replacement Raphael Montini de Lima (6-2) in the 135-pound co-main event of LFA 72.
“This kid’s actually got confidence enough to sign on the dotted line, where other guys have not, so I respect him,” Birchak said of Montini de Lima. “The kid hasn’t fought anybody with more than five fights, so the big thing is the experience that I bring to the table.
“Where I feel I excel is tying my wrestling to my kickboxing and my wrestling to my Jiu-Jitsu, so I think that I just bring too much to the table for him. I’m expecting a grueling fight from him, but I think that I pose too many problems in the long run.”
Though he’s hit a rough patch of late staying active in MMA, Birchak isn’t one to get downed by such things, but rather focuses on the possibilities he could provide for himself with a good showing on July 26.
“You always have to be optimistic and have an eye on the future,” said Birchak. “Sometimes it works against you because you overlook people, but to be honest, it’s just so hard for me to find competition outside the UFC or Bellator, so if I put on a highlight performance that I’m head and shoulders above the competition in the UFC I give them no other choice than to bring me back.
“I belong in the UFC. I belong in a big name organization where I can fight in the Top 10 against any of those guys. Even though I’m 3-5 in my last eight, I’ve matured so much since my last run in the UFC and I’m more dangerous than I’ve ever been.”