Tim Boetsch is an honest man. Ask him a question and he’ll give you a straight answer. So when asked if the power in Dan Henderson’s right hand is as potent as everyone says it is, he quickly reveals that “I think he hits harder than what everyone says he does. I was definitely surprised, to say the least. He’s still got it.”
Boetsch’s June bout with the former two-division PRIDE champion was his big shot, a chance to headline against a legend of the sport and possibly send him off into the sunset after a storied career. But once Hendo’s “H-Bomb” landed, all bets were off, and 28 seconds into the fight, the California veteran’s hand was raised.
“I went in there thinking I had the chin to withstand at least one of those, and obviously he proved me wrong,” Boetsch said.
The confidence of “The Barbarian” was well placed. He had been fighting the best of the best for years in the Octagon, and rarely was his chin dented. This time was the exception, and it didn’t sit well with the ultra-competitive Maine native.
“They all really suck,” Boetsch said of losing. “That one was really bad because I was so confident going in. I felt so ready and felt like everything was in place, and then I go in and that happens. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but that’s part of the fight game. You’ve got to swallow it and move on to the next thing. You’re only as good as your last fight, and I don’t want to end on that note. I want to get back in there and prove why I’m here and why I’ve been here so long.”
Boetsch will never lose that mindset, and it’s why fans will follow him wherever he goes. A week from Sunday, he will go to Boston’s TD Garden to face Ed Herman in a bout that pits two seasoned competitors against each other in a fight that promises action. It’s the perfect platform for Boetsch to perform as he seeks a return to the win column for the first time since August of 2014, and having the fight at 205 pounds is even better for the longtime middleweight contender.
"You’re only as good as your last fight, and I don’t want to end on that note. I want to get back in there and prove why I’m here and why I’ve been here so long.” -- Tim Boetsch
“I called to ask (manager) Monte (Cox) if there was a spot on the Boston card,” he said. “Then I found out that Ed wanted to fight at 205 and I was like ‘this is perfect.’ (Laughs) It’s the holidays, I won’t have to diet quite so hard and Ed’s a guy that’s gonna walk right to the center of the ring and want to throw down. Everybody wants to see that fight, and I want to be a part of it. So it’s going to be entertaining to say the least.”
Ever since his memorable finish of David Heath in his UFC debut in 2008, Boetsch has always had a good grasp on what was necessary to stay in MMA’s premier promotion. 17 Octagon fights in, the former Division I wrestler has realized that while there will be wins and losses, if you always show up to fight, it’s the greatest form of job security.
“I got into the UFC very fast in my career,” Boetsch said. “I was only fighting for 16 months and then I was in the big show. So I didn’t have even an opportunity to really build my record in the local shows. And once you’re in the UFC, you’re in the mix and there are really no easy fights, especially as you climb towards the top of the division. This is the nature of the sport and I came to realize that it’s not gonna be an easy thing very early in my career. I came in with high hopes – everybody does – of being undefeated, but the way this sport works, that is a very difficult thing to try to maintain.”
What is easier to maintain is a work ethic that began on the wrestling mat when he was in second grade, and Boetsch has always had that. Of course, with four-ounce gloves and so many ways to lose, if you’re fighting elite opposition every night, there will be those times when you have to deal with not just losses, but the residual damage from those defeats.
“It definitely wears on you,” he said. “Just the training getting ready for those tough fights, you’ve got to bring tough guys into the gym, and there’s really no easy part about what we’re doing in mixed martial arts. You need to bring in top sparring partners, you’ve got to have guys that can push you in every position, and then on fight night, you’ve got a fight on your hands and you know you have to win. This sport is very unforgiving for a guy who loses, whether you’re just starting out your career or you’re one of the champions.
“Look at some of the recent champs that have lost, and how quick the tide turns on them,” Boetsch continues. “The fans that supported champions wholeheartedly, how quickly they turn, and all of that stuff wears on the back of your mind. You have to go in there and perform. And you can’t just get wins; you’ve got to be exciting and have big wins, or people will write you off. As a participant in the sport, it’s hard to really accept that. You have guys that go in and win and lay it on the line, but it’s not as exciting as the fans and some of the other people had hoped, and they still talk bad about you. There’s an unbelievable amount of pressure on mixed martial arts fighters.”
But Boetsch, 34, still does it. He still goes through grueling training sessions with former UFC contender Marcus Davis, sacrifices time with his family and friends, all for 15 minutes or less in the Octagon to compete with an opponent trained to defeat him. It’s a tough way to make a living, but Boetsch wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The reason I do it is because I’m going in there and I know what I’m capable of doing,” he said. “I do it for my close group of supporters and my coach, and they understand the sacrifice that goes on. And no one understands the sacrifice more than the fighter in there. They know what they have to go through day in and day out. They know we’ve missed out on holidays with the family and all the special times in order to commit to training. You go in there, and it’s just you and the guy standing across from you. There’s no better feeling in the world than going in there and just knowing that you’re the better fighter and you’re gonna prove it to everybody.”