Whether they admit it or not, fighters have a bond like no other. It’s the product of engaging in combat and knowing the struggle to make it in the world’s toughest business. Sure, there can be bad blood before a fight, but in most cases, 15 or 25 minutes in an Octagon can solve any dispute.
There was no such bad blood when Tim Boetsch fought Josh Samman in July. But there was no lack of intensity between the two middleweights, either. Samman was attempting to bounce back from his first UFC loss seven months earlier, while Boetsch was on a three-fight skid that put his spot on the roster in jeopardy.
Those were high stakes, and on the night in South Dakota, it was Boetsch who emerged victorious, stopping Samman in the second round. Boetsch had given a positive jolt to his career. Less than three months later, Samman had passed away at 28.
“It’s a sad situation,” Boetsch said of Samman’s death. “I was actually a little upset after the fight, before any of that happened. It was the first time I was in a fight that I felt bad that I actually hurt somebody that didn’t deserve to be hurt. It was strange, but even in the cage, I sensed that he realized what kind of trouble he was in, but by the same token, I can’t cut him any slack in there. If I drop four in a row, guess what, I’m cutting grass full-time for Boetsch’s Lawn Care. That’s just the nature of the sport.”
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On July 13, it was just another fight. The winner moves on, the loser regroups and returns. By October 5, it took on a whole different meaning. Tim Boetsch will always be a part of the Josh Samman story, and he knows it.
“He was such a talent, and it was not only in the cage that he had talent and ability and was a physical specimen,” Boetsch said. “But through his writing you could see that he was an intelligent person and it’s just unfortunate that the stress of his life can take that kind of toll on somebody. I really wish that he had reached out a little bit harder or somebody had taken notice. It eats at me a little bit and I still think about it. That’s something I’m going to live with. I was the last guy in the cage with him and it’s really unfortunate that it went the way it did.”
Boetsch has always been all class, and his reaction to the passing of a fellow brother in arms is no surprise. But at the same time, there is the necessity to move on, and on November 12, he will be back in the Octagon to face Rafael Natal on the UFC 205 card at Madison Square Garden. It’s a high-profile bout for “The Barbarian,” and it’s almost as if the win over Samman was so impressive that it erased the memory of his three-fight losing streak.
“I’m not gonna lie,” he said. “It did. That fight, I went in there with the pure intention of just throwing him down and smashing him. And my track record shows that that is the most efficient tactic that I can use in any fight. And it was a reminder that, hey, it’s good to go learn all this new stuff and hone these skills. But at the end of the day, if you need to just throw someone down and smash them, do that, because that works.”
It was a return to form for Boetsch, a fighter who always delivered his best UFC performances when he simply showed up and got into a fistfight. And that not only allowed him to succeed and keep a steady roster spot for over six years, but it garnered him a faithful fan base of diehard and casual followers.
“A lot of people can connect to that, even people without knowledge of fighting,” Boetsch said. “They can look at me in there and they’re like, ‘Yeah, he’s just smashing on that guy. That’s cool.’ (Laughs) And let’s be honest, a lot of people just want to see that. You can appreciate MMA fans that understand all the technicality of the sport, but there’s a huge number of people out there that want to show up and see somebody get smashed. And I’m willing to provide that.”
At 35, Boetsch is still that guy. Hard-nosed, old school and ready to do whatever it takes to get the win, but his greatest attribute might be his grit. It was likely what got him through a fight with Samman that many expected him to lose. But the oddsmakers never won anyone a fight.
“The odds were incredibly in his favor,” he said. “I think it was like 4 to 1 or something like that. But I’m not upset about that. I’ve been counted out in a lot of fights that have gone the other way for me. There were even people talking about that being my last fight. But I’m not ready to be done.”
You can’t teach that attitude.
“I believe that you either have it or you don’t,” Boetsch said. “Before I was involved in school sports or even elementary wrestling, me and my friends would go in the yard and tussle really hard, and there would be four of them against me and I’d come out victorious every time. It’s just something that God put inside of me – I like being in a fight and I like knowing that I can win, and I’m gonna do whatever it takes to win. That’s why I was a successful wrestler, it’s why I’m a successful fighter. As long as I’m in the fight, I believe I have a chance to win.”
On November 12, he gets to do it in “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”
“It’s not just a fight,” he said. “We’re making history that night, it’s gonna be crazy, and I’m really excited to be a part of it. I have very high expectations for myself and I know I’m not on the main card, so it might be a difficult thing to do, but I think it would be pretty cool to double bonus. I’m fighting a guy who can take a beating, and I certainly know I can give one, so it would be nice to get Fight of the Night and Knockout of the Night at the Garden.”