"I am an offensive fighter who likes to come forward, and I use all my weapons to try and take out my opponent." - Piotr Hallmann
On an average, Piotr Hallmann puts in 65 work hours per week as a Lieutenant in the Polish Navy. And that’s before he hits the gym to begin training for his other vocation as a professional mixed martial artist. It’s a rough balancing act to say the least, but the 26-year-old is apparently managing it pretty well, considering that he will make his UFC debut Wednesday in Brazil against Francisco Trinaldo.
So how does he do it?
“It is not easy as I have a full-time job in the Navy that occupies me for 65 hours per week if you include stand-by duty,” said Hallmann through manager / translator Tim Leidecker. “I am blessed to be able to do some of my strength and conditioning training while on duty, but at the same time the Navy also sends me to complete advanced training courses and, of course, on naval maneuvers, which compromises my training. It is really difficult to do both in such a way that you don’t neglect the other.”
Thirteen wins in 14 pro MMA bouts speak for themselves though, showing Hallmann’s determination and skill, while also making you wonder how much better he could get if able to train and fight full-time. It is a topic he’s thought about before, though when you ask if he sees that day coming, that’s an answer he doesn’t have at the moment.
“On one hand the UFC now provides me with an opportunity to turn my hobby – fighting – into a job and get paid well to do that,” he said. “On the other hand, there is no insurance against failure: the lightweight division is perhaps the most competitive in the whole UFC. You’ve got absolute beasts like Edson Barboza, Evan Dunham and Khabib Nurmagomedov and these guys are not even in the Top 10. What I’m trying to say is that it only takes two losses in the UFC where you don’t look good and you’re back to rung one and have to start all over again, while the Navy will provide for me and my family for the next couple of years. At the same time, I have also made the promise to defend my country and help guarantee peace for my people, so that’s why it would not be easy for me to walk away from that.”
If Hallmann sounds like a young man who’s got it all together at the age of 26, that’s a pretty accurate assessment. And when it comes to fighting, don’t think that that his military career has made him any less dedicated to putting on the gloves and competing. It’s been part of his life since he took up karate at the age of six, and he hasn’t been out of the gym since, eventually migrating to mixed martial arts in 2008.
“I always enjoyed the physical part of training as well as the competition aspect,” he said. “I like to see how my techniques work against opponents from different styles, other martial arts. And the sport helps me balance the rest of my life. After the first two years competing, I figured I may just as well give it a try and see how far I can take it.”
A pro since 2009, Hallmann won his first four fights before a fourth round TKO loss to Christian Eckerlin in October of 2010. It was a defeat that lived up to the adage that you learn more from a loss than a win.
“First and foremost, I learned that it’s not a smart thing to do to take a five-round fight on short notice when you are not optimally prepared and when you’re not fully healthy,” he said. “It also prompted me to move down to lightweight. 155 pounds is a weight that’s much better suited for my frame and I have yet to lose a fight at that weight.”
Unbeaten in his last nine bouts, all at lightweight, Hallmann turned the corner in a big way in the last couple years, but he admits that it wasn’t until a year ago that he felt he had what it took to compete on the international stage in the UFC.
“I had just retired the very tough Finnish veteran Jarkko Latomäki at his home show,” recalled Hallmann of the September 2012 bout. “This was a guy who had three times the experience of me and who had dominated the European circuit for years when I was only rising up through the ranks. Seeing that I had the ability to stop him decisively in the first round gave me the confidence that I have what it takes to succeed at the top level.”
The Deep End
The Gdynia native has won three times since the Latomaki bout, and if he wants to test his skills at the top level, he will get his chance against Brazil’s “Massaranduba,” a veteran of four UFC bouts in which he was finished all three of his victories. Hallmann knows what he’s in for in Belo Horizonte.
“Trinaldo is an aggressive fighter that is looking for the kill from the opening bell,” he said. “If he sees a weakness, he will pounce on you and look to finish. He also has a good top game and a variety of choke submissions that I have to watch out for. My job will be to weather the early storm, take him into deep waters and drown him there.”
And if anyone knows about surviving in deep waters, it’s Navy Lieutenant Piotr Hallmann.
“I am an offensive fighter who likes to come forward, and I use all my weapons to try and take out my opponent,” he said. “I like to dictate where the fight takes place and I like to be in dominant positions. I’m a straightforward guy that’s willing to work hard for success.”