After more than 13 years of fighting professionally, 32-fight veteran Bobby Voelker is as far as you can get from being the “new guy” in the Octagon. But on Saturday, that’s just what he’ll be when he makes his UFC debut against Patrick Cote, something he’s not too bothered with.
“It’s been 13 years of fighting, ups and downs, back and forth, and I just know that if you keep on trucking along, eventually you’re gonna get your shot, and this is my big shot that I’ve been waiting for for 13 years.”
It’s something few would have kept chasing after. When Voelker turned pro in February of 2006, Hall of Famers Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture had just finished their trilogy, Frank Mir was considered done after losing his first bout after a serious motorcycle accident to Marcio Cruz, and Jon Jones was more than two years removed from his pro debut. In other words, he’s been at this a while, pounding it out on the local circuit in the Midwest as he waited for his shot.
“It’s hard to explain,” said the 33-year-old of the continued appeal of the sport to him. “It’s just the passion and the love for it. It’s like telling me to give up breathing. You just can’t do it, and when it comes to fighting, it’s just hard to give it up.”
Finally, in 2009, some light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a call to Strikeforce, where he stopped Erik Apple in two rounds in his debut for the promotion. Six months later he fought the first of three bouts with Roger Bowling, losing via technical decision before stopping Bowling in their next two meetings. In between, he decisioned Cory Devela and seemed to be on the fast track to a welterweight title shot before everything stopped.
“It started off with the sale of Strikeforce to the UFC, which kinda put all of us fighters on hold for a little bit, and that was real frustrating,” he said. “Then all of a sudden I get a fight (with Nah-Shon Burrell) and I’m pumped up and hyped for it and training hard for it and then this fluke injury happens, and I’m like ‘oh man, not again; what’s going on?’ Then you have to have surgery and go through rehab and all that stuff.”
The knee injury and subsequent surgery have kept Voelker sidelined since his finish of Bowling in July of 2011. Being out so long, coupled with the shutting of Strikeforce’s doors, left the Kansas City native in a peculiar sort of limbo because while he had a three fight Strikeforce winning streak under his belt, he had also been out for over a year. So he wasn’t particularly confident about getting an immediate call to the UFC.
“I’ve been absent for so long I thought I was gonna have to start back fresh from the beginning and get some local fights and try to get a few good wins in a row before I got looked at again, but my manager (Jesse Finney) really helped me out and got me noticed by the UFC, and they decided to take me on and give me a good first fight.”
It could turn into a great first fight, as Voelker and Cote are both very fond of the standup game, “Vicious” Bobby in particular, as 19 of his 24 wins have come courtesy of his heavy hands. Add in the fact that Cote is fighting at 170 pounds for the first time, and Voelker feels confident that he will be the one leaving Montreal’s Bell Centre with his hand raised.
“He’s not too knowledgeable of the 170-pound weight class,” said Voelker when asked what Cote has to dread about moving to welterweight. “I think he might underestimate the 170-pounders and not think we’re as quick or strong as the guys at 185, but we are, and we’re just as good, if not better.”
And this 170-pounder has more to fight for than just the reputation of his division; he’s got 13 years of hard work to unleash on Cote in order to prove that he belongs.
“I’ve trained hard, I’m ready for anybody, and I believe I’m of that caliber,” he said. “I fought for a long time, I’m at that level, that’s where I’m at, that’s where I belong, and I’m gonna prove it on Saturday night.”
Bobby Voelker: The Most Experienced 'New Guy' in the Octagon
"I just know that if you keep on trucking along, eventually you’re gonna get your shot, and this is my big shot that I’ve been waiting for for 13 years." - Bobby Voelker