He’s one of the hardest hitters in all of Big Ten football and he’s the son of Polish parents. Meet Jacub Panasiuk, the biggest UFC fan at Michigan State University.
Although Panasiuk was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, his family holds tightly to their Polish ancestry. Actresses, actors and musicians from Poland stood out to the family, but when Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Jan Blachowicz made their title runs, the family had multiple sources of pride that nobody else in the world could claim.
You want the crown of the baddest 205-pound male or 115-pound female alive? You have to go through the Polish to get it.
“I love the UFC, in general,” Panasiuk said. “I always watched with my dad and I started looking into the lower level fighters from Poland and that’s really how it started.”
At the beginning of his UFC career, Blachowicz put up an unimpressive 2-4 record before going on a 7-1 record over a three-year span that would win over fans worldwide and bond the Spartans and the Panasiuk family even tighter.
“Me and my brothers, that’s our go-to thing when we’re all back together at the house,” Panasiuk said. “We always go out and watch the fights. It’s pretty big on the team, too. We normally get together on Saturday nights whenever it’s going, and we’ll watch it, or we’ll go out and watch it. It’s pretty big. We got a new teammate, Ben, who just transferred in, and a couple coaches were like, ‘Yeah, you should talk to Ben. He just transferred in and he’s a really big UFC fan.’ We just sat and talked about it for like 20 minutes and I didn’t even realize he was that big of a fan.”
While the U.S. audience may see Blachowicz as simply, “the light heavyweight champion now that Jon Jones is gone,” Panasiuk explains that back in Poland he, as well as Joanna Violence, are certified mega stars.
“My parents are always watching Polish television when we’re back home and they’re always on commercials,” Panasiuk explains. “They just represent the country in a different way. They bring back a lot of meaning when they come back and visit the homeland. I know it means a lot, whether they’re on commercials or doing charity work. It means a lot to the country.”
The inconvenience of playing a sport that’s exclusively on fight nights has gotten in the way over the years, but the Panasiuk attachment to MMA has held firm and will continue to strengthen after the redshirt senior graduates.
With Panasiuk’s extra time on his hands, there’s a chance he may get into some training of his own one day.
“That’s something that after football I’m looking to get into,” Panasiuk said. “I would love to try it. I know it’s not for everyone and it takes a different energy and mindset to do it but I hope I could do it.”
It’s far from the craziest thing ever to imagine a 6’4”, 255-pound defensive end making a transition to MMA one day. It’s not the craziest thing ever to assume he may one day hold the throne of Poland’s pride the way that 38-year-old Jan Blachowicz does today.
Until then, however, there’s plenty of Blachowicz to go around and plenty for him to still prove to the world of MMA. Just because MMA Twitter may not see the undisputed status of his championship reign, Panasiuk and the country of Poland sure do.
“I think people aren’t giving Jan as much credit,” Panasiuk said following Blachowicz’ decision win over middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. “Adesanya came in light to the fight so they knew that Jan would try and grapple a lot, which was really successful for him in the fight. In my opinion, it should have been, because I don’t know what his walking weight is but it seems like he outweighed him by quite a bit. I still think it’s overlooked. Adesanya is one of the all-time greatest fighters in all of fighting and he has an amazing track record, so I think a lot of people look past it because of the size difference that’s potentially there.”
One way to get some respect put on the Blachowicz name is by winning “The People’s Title Fight” over the light heavyweight division’s other surging elder statesman, Glover Teixiera.
As easy as it sounds for a UFC champion to beat a 41-year-old challenger, Blachowicz and Panasiuk both know it will be no easy task.
Relive all of Jan Blachowicz and Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s UFC careers by signing up for UFC FIGHT PASS TODAY, and don’t miss UFC 267, featuring Blachowicz’s second title defense!
Don’t miss the ESPN+ special presentation of UFC 267: Blachowicz vs Teixeira on Saturday October 30th, 2021. Please note special broadcast times — prelims begin at 10:30am ET/7:30am PT, with the two-title fight main card starting at 2pm ET/11am PT.
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