Joe Solecki is an honest fighter and an honest man. So, he will readily admit that the first loss of his UFC career against Jared Gordon last October stung a bit. Okay, more than a bit. But as he returned home to North Carolina after the split decision defeat, he realized that there were more important things for him to tend to.
“We got back Sunday, and on Monday, I was like, ‘Well, I'm gonna take my daughter to the aquarium and then I'll make it back to the gym that night,’” Solecki laughs. “I didn't get the luxury of sulking, but I think that's good. And that's what I've always done. This will be the third time I've had to pick myself up off the canvas and get right back to work, and that's what I've always done.”
Nora’s trip to the aquarium sorted, dad got back to work, with his return arriving this Saturday against Alex da Silva. In between, the 28-year-old lightweight prospect found something he thought he lost somewhere over the last year.
“It brought back the martial artist,” said Solecki. “I saw different comments like, ‘Boring fighter,’ ‘We don't think his ceiling's as high,’ and stuff I never cared about was starting to play in and I saw myself becoming that guy again.”
“That guy” is the type of fighter who is all-fighting, all the time, 24/7. He’s the guy wearing out his UFC FIGHT PASS account watching Shooto at 4am on a Sunday morning. To be honest, there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you’re a husband, father and instructor, balance is key, something he was reminded of by the example set by teammates John Salter and Bryan Barberena.
“You can be that at 23-24,” Solecki said. “That's not my role. I'm a martial artist, I'm an instructor at our gym. I had to be present at the gym and then re-learn how to shut that off when I go home. It's been such a good experience since then. I've been having so much fun again.”
As an honest man, Solecki does admit to sometimes pulling his phone out after his wife and daughter go to sleep to watch fights but, for the most part, he’s been good. And with the balance right, his only mission after the Gordon fight was to compete again. It didn’t even need to be in the Octagon, as he competed in the Abu Dhabi trials and even defeated Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in a grappling match.
But when the call came to fight again, it was back to three-and-a-half hour drives each way from Wilmington to Belmont to train with Jeff Jimmo and the Gym-O gang.
“It's some kind of weird addiction, right?” he laughs.
“It's close enough where I could never forgive myself if I didn't go train with him to get ready for fights and have him as our head coach, but it's far enough to where it's definitely an inconvenience.”
That isn’t stopping Solecki, though, and with a new outlook on the fight game and an eagerness to improve on his 3-1 UFC slate this weekend, he may want to thank the two judges who didn’t think he won the Gordon fight.
“Losing sucks,” Solecki said. “It sucks financially, and I think based on that performance, it's not like my job's gonna be on the line, but I always treat it like it is. You can be on the chopping block any time you lose. So that sucks, but the positive is, I get the word 'loss' on my record, and it sends me into a whole revamping of every aspect of my life. Whereas if that other judge sees it my way, then maybe I'm doing the same thing. Maybe I'm complacent, going ‘Hey, got another one, 4-0.’ So I think there are so many positives to it. It still sucks, it's always gonna suck. I'm a lifelong competitor and it's always sucked, but I think there's a lot of positives to take away and that's the biggest thing, that it sends you back to the drawing board.”
The verdict on the revamping? Joe Solecki is going to be a handful for anyone at 155 pounds, especially an opponent coming off a layoff of nearly two years.
“I gotta let him know that we both have a couple fights in the UFC, but I've been here, and I've been winning, and I've been putting out that high output and he's gonna be matched everywhere he goes and that's gonna be the important thing,” he said. “I'm not going away.”
UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs Rozenstruik, took place on Saturday, June 4, 2022, live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!