Peter Sobotta may have been the only child in the village of Balingen, Germany whose aspiration in life was to be action film star Jackie Chan, but that was just fine with his parents, who saw martial arts as a way of not only encouraging their son’s interest, but of keeping things quiet around the house.
“I started very young doing martial arts and my parents liked it because it was judo and it was very technical and very cool for them and I wasted a lot of energy in training, so I was quiet at home,” he recalled with a laugh, knowing how rambunctious a kung fu loving kid could be.
From there, the young Sobotta was hooked, eventually moving over to Tae Kwon Do. But when mixed martial arts came into the picture, suddenly the Sobottas had their reservations.
“When I started training MMA, my parents said you can train it, but we don’t want you to compete in the cage.”
One year later, the teenage Sobotta made his fighting debut.
“I had my first fight at the age of 16,” he said. They (his parents) had a problem with the fighting, but just because they didn’t know what it was all about. They saw that I was very happy with it and was training all the time. And I was good and I was winning almost every fight, so they saw what it takes to be a professional fighter. They saw I was happy with it and now they’re my biggest fans and they love the sport. They even watch the fights when I’m not at home – they’re two big UFC fans now.”
That’s a good thing because now Sobotta is earning a living as a UFC fighter. And as he awaits his third Octagon bout this Saturday against Amir Sadollah, he’s also doing it as a full-time professional, something that wasn’t always the case, as he first juggled school and then mandatory social work with a budding fight career that has seen him win eight of 11 bouts.
“I finished school last year and then I had to do the military service,” he explains. “In Germany, when you finish school, you have to go for nine months of military service or social work. I decided to do the social work because I could train better then, and I finished in April of this year. You can say that since April I am a professional fighter and I’m doing nothing else.”
While Sobotta dealt with his responsibilities in and out of the Octagon, he calls it “the hardest time in my life”, but he battled through it, knowing that once he was free and clear to pursue fighting full-time, all the sacrifices would be worth it.
“Sometimes it was very hard, and I was very tired because I trained before work and after work and during work sometimes, but it was my dream and I knew what I was working for, so I had a goal, I still have the goal, and if you’re doing what you love, it’s no problem,” said Sobotta.
But after losing his UFC debut to Paul Taylor in June of 2009 and then dropping another competitive decision, this one to James Wilks in June of this year, Sobotta finds himself in a must win situation against Sadollah, a fighter the native of Zabrze, Poland is well acquainted with.
“I saw The Ultimate Fighter season seven when he fought at middleweight and he did very good against tough guys,” said Sobotta of Sadollah. “He submitted CB Dollaway and Matt Brown, guys who are now competing very well. He has very good Muay Thai, good technique, and he’s also good on the ground. I think he’s not a very good wrestler, and another weakness from him is that he’s not the most powerful striker. He’s tough, he’s got good technique, but he’s not a one punch knockout guy. It will be a very good fight; I think our styles match up pretty good and I also like to fight both standing and on the ground. It will be tough, but it will be very entertaining.”
It will also be on home soil, as Sobotta looks to thrill German fans who have watched him develop into one of Europe’s top prospects over the years. And while you could look at fighting a pivotal bout in front of scores of family and friends a daunting, pressure-filled task, he opts to look at the positives of the situation as he will derive energy from the ones cheering for him.
“My first (UFC) fight was in Germany and there was a lot of pressure,” said Sobotta. “But it was my first time. I was just 22 years old and everything was new for me and the pressure was very, very high. My second fight, I felt much better. It was very cool and easy before the fight and I think it will be great this time. It’s a little bit more pressure because everyone who knows me will be there, but I like it. I want to do it and I’m happy that the crowd will scream for me. It will be cool.”
Plus, without the rush of going from his government service directly into training camp for the Wilks fight, he’s had the luxury of easing into his camp with complete focus, and after two months in San Diego training with Victory MMA and his countryman Pascal Krauss, he’s on point for what may be the biggest fight of his six year career.
“This is my second professional camp and I feel much better than last time,” he said. “I felt good last time and it was a very close fight, but you can’t compare it to last time. I came here (to San Diego), I knew everything, so I had no problems. I could just start training and it was all perfect. Now for me, it’s do or die. I lost twice in a row and it’s not my last chance in my life, but for me it is do or die. I want to stay in the UFC, I want to compete on the highest level, I want to train and I will give one hundred percent. I’m one hundred percent prepared, I’m not injured, I’m healthy, so I can give everything, and if God wants, I will win the fight.”
And who knows, if he continues on the path he’s on, there may be a kid in Balingen who doesn’t want to grow up to be Jackie Chan, but who wants to be Peter Sobotta.
“I have my own small school in Germany, and I have a lot of students and some kids who want to become big fighters, so they’re training very hard,” he said. “The sport is slowly coming to Germany and it’s getting bigger and there are more fans and more people training. I think three or four more years and it will be very big.”
Peter Sobotta - "For Me, It's Do or Die"
"It will be a very good fight; I think our styles match up pretty good and I also like to fight both standing and on the ground. It will be tough, but it will be very entertaining.”