"I can hang with these guys; I just have to fight smart, fight to my strengths, and get the victories." - Chris Indich
See, the reason why he was heading home in the first place was because of an email he received, telling him that he didn’t make the final cut for the Ultimate Fighter Nations competition, but would instead be the competition’s first alternate.
“I assumed that I was going to get into the house, just from a gut feeling, not from reputation or anything like that,” said the Perth native. “So I went to Las Vegas to prepare, but I got the email that unfortunately I was an alternate.”
Disappointed but not deterred, Indich went to the airport, figuring that an injury to one of the Team Australia members could get him on the show, but he didn’t expect a second email while he was waiting for his rescheduled flight.
“It was from the production crew in Australia, and she said she needed to speak to me urgently,” recalled Indich. “We spoke, and she’s like ‘hey we’ve had some issues with one of the guys, and since you’re the first alternate, congratulations, you’re in.’”
Just like that, a journey to the UFC that culminates in a Wednesday fight against TUF Nations teammate Richard Walsh began. And while this first leg is approaching its conclusion, it’s one that came up a lot faster than the 26-year-old Indich believed it would.
“I thought I was still a few years away from making the UFC, but with the TUF opportunity, I thought that would definitely help speed up the process,” he said. “The exposure and the PR and media stuff that you get from TUF, I couldn’t have done that by myself. Everything that TUF gives you, it’s almost like a fast forward in your career and it pushes you ahead by leaps and bounds.”
Take that in for a second. Not a few months, not a few fights, but a few years. That takes dedication, but if there’s something Indich has plenty of, it’s dedication.
“For me, I got to a point where I had invested so much time and effort into it and made so many sacrifices that I thought ‘I’ve come this far, turning around now would be like throwing away all the work, the time, and the money that I had used and spent,’” he said. “It would be an injustice to take that time and effort and walk away.”
It would be, but sticking with the sport through the rocky times is a trait of Australian mixed martial artists that eventually make it to the big show, and it’s necessary in an area where the sport is popular but still evolving.
“The sport’s still growing in Australia, and sometimes it’s tough,” agrees Indich. “Some of the promoters complain that they don’t have fighters, but there are such irregular shows, how can fighters make it? In Australia, you can’t even make a career out of it unless you make the UFC because the fights and the fight cards are too irregular. It makes it hard to keep yourself in the light, and you need to do things like go to America and just keep active because keeping active keeps you in the spotlight. And in Australia we don’t have the time where we can stay active all the time.”
5-1 as a pro, Indich made his debut back in 2008, and it wasn’t until 2012 that he had the opportunity to stay busy, though after three fights in three months that year, he didn’t get back in action until a year later in 2013. But then TUF came along, and while he put on a stellar effort in a decision loss to eventual finalist Chad Laprise, his lack of experience did play a role in the defeat.
“I learned a lot about the mental part of the game, and I think that was the biggest thing,” he said of his time on TUF. “I think what cost me in my fight was the big fight experience. And it’s an odd thing to do because you fight in a spot where you train every day, and there’s no walkout music and you’re the only fighter of the day, and it’s getting used to those kinds of things that are going to help later on.”
Yet as good as his fight with Laprise was, Indich wasn’t sure whether he would get a call back to the UFC for the finale card.
“I had a gut feeling and I hoped, but I was very skeptical,” he said. “What I figured was, I didn’t win, so I’ve got to wait out the show, enjoy my down time, but train and stay in shape, and as soon as the show finishes, look to try and build on where I’m going next. I basically thought that I wouldn’t get the call, but then I looked back at the fight, and I think that I had one of the better fights of the season.”
The UFC apparently agreed, calling him back for a bout against Walsh that he sees not simply as a fight, but as a job interview.
“I see this first fight as if I’m fighting for my job, and that’s the mentality that I’m taking into it – the winner stays, the loser goes,” he said. “That’s just how I feel and how I’ve prepared myself for this fight.”
And if he wins, he believes he will be ready for the welterweight division, even with less than ten pro fights.
“I’ve trained with a lot of guys that are in the UFC and sometimes you’re beating these guys up or you do good against them and you think ‘you know what, he’s not as strong or as tall as he looks on TV,’” said Indich. “I think it’s removing that barrier and telling yourself and knowing that you belong. If you don’t believe you belong, then you’ll probably perform like you don’t belong. But for me, I feel like this is where I should be. I can hang with these guys; I just have to fight smart, fight to my strengths, and get the victories.”