Sherdog Prospect Watch: Jan Blachowicz

By Tomasz Marciniak Sep 17, 2010
“I’m not going to be modest,” Jan Blachowicz says. “I feel I could fight on UFC events.”

Blachowicz has the chance to put himself on the global map in a much larger way when he meets Bellator Fighting Championships veteran Daniel Tabera at KSW 14 on Saturday in Lodz, Poland. There, the two men will collide in the promotion’s light heavyweight tournament final.

The winner of the Blachowicz-Tabera showdown may well earn his way off the European circuit and onto bigger fights stateside. It would not be Blachowicz’s first time there, though, as a calamitous trip to San Diego helped guide the 27-year-old prospect to the position he now occupies.

The light heavyweight hopeful enjoyed a banner year in 2008. That May, Blachowicz ran the table in a one-night, eight-man tournament promoted by cornerstone Polish organization KSW. With growing buzz over his prodigious grappling skills, he consolidated the hype with two big back-to-back wins. After tapping out well-regarded Frenchman Christian M’Pumbu, he closed out the year by putting the first loss on the record of Maro Perak. The touted Croat, who was unbeaten through 13 bouts, was no match for Blachowicz on the floor and succumbed to a rear-naked choke in the second round.

Riding high, Blachowicz looked to expand his horizons. His close friend, Tomasz Drwal, the UFC’s lone Polish talent, invited him to train alongside him at the Throwdown Gym in San Diego for a few months. Hoping to improve the caliber of his training and get some fights under his belt stateside, the Silesian jumped at the opportunity. This seemingly pragmatic choice would throw Blachowicz’s promising career into disarray.

“I did fly over there blind,” Blachowicz says. “I couldn’t get fights; the money started to run out. To keep staying there, I would have to work the door or be a bum guarding a parking lot. I have a higher standard of living back here.”

Relying on the gym’s management to secure his fights -- he was no more than a visitor at the facility -- proved fruitless. He was close to landing a bout with heavyweight journeyman Lloyd Marshbanks under the War Gods banner last summer, but the promotion and venue could not come to terms, and the event was canceled.

Just when the situation looked like it might turn for the better, disaster struck for Blachowicz. Late that July, after finally agreeing to a fight “somewhere in Mexico,” he injured his knee in sparring. He kicked high, his training partner kicked low and his knee crumbled. Despite the pain, Blachowicz was back in the gym the next day.

“Three weeks later, I was sparring with Tomasz Drwal,” he says. “He went in for a takedown, and pop went the knee.”

The anterior-cruciate ligament in his right knee was destroyed. The injury was excruciating, so much so that Blachowicz shrieked and nearly vomited from the pain. His knee swelled like a balloon, and, just like that, his time stateside was over. After having his knee reconstructed back in Poland, Blachowicz faced decisions. His experience in San Diego was eye-opening, revealing the true limits and lack of resources within the Polish MMA scene.

Blachowicz decided to move from his home in Cieszyn -- a Southern town straddling the Polish-Czech Republic border -- and his team at Octagon Rybnik. He moved 200 miles north to the capital, Warsaw, seeking out the best training and sparring partners available. His current home, Nastula Club, is operated by 1996 Olympic gold medalist and Pride Fighting Championships veteran Pawel Nastula. He trains under the watchful gaze of judo founder Jigoro Kano, whose large portrait hangs above the central mat.

It may not be Xtreme Couture or American Top Team, but it stands as a far cry from his start in the sport, boxing with his friends in a basement. Now hyped as one of the “next big things” in Europe, Blachowicz still recalls his first fight against Marcin Krzysztofiak in a nightclub in Poznan. There, he had to warm up in a lounge box, right next to a middle-aged patron who was smoking and drinking. Blachowicz, who went years without protecting his hands while training, serves as a symbol of the competitive differences that still exist between North America and Europe.

“I still don’t like wrapping my hands. I feel they swell up a ton,” he says. “Ultimately, though, these hands need to last a lifetime, not a couple of years, so I thought I’d protect them.”

In spite of the frustrations he experienced in San Diego, Blachowicz enjoyed the trip. He may never move permanently to the United States, but he understands that having training camps stateside remains a necessity if he wants to compete at the highest levels in MMA. However, like many other fighters, Blachowicz must teach his own classes in order to earn enough money to support a career.

Therein lies the reason he took a low-level tune-up fight in June in the Russian heartland. During fight week, the promotion arbitrarily moved the event two days ahead. Worse, this was not a low-rent Russian upstart; World Absolute Fighting Championship has proven to be one of Russia’s most stable and consistent MMA promotions. Though Blachowicz had little trouble choking out veteran Nikolai Onikienko, the experience only served to reinforce the problems present in the European MMA scene.

Blachowicz will enter his KSW 14 appearance as a favorite against Tabera, owing largely to their respective May performances in the tournament’s opening rounds.

In his first fights back after a 17-month layoff, the Silesian looked phenomenal in dispatching Julio Brutus and Wojciech Orlowski in Katowice, Poland. The Brutus knockout, a left head kick followed by a smashing right hook, was particularly stirring. Meanwhile, Tabera won a dreadful-to-watch majority decision over Grigor Aschugbabjan in a fight with little action in the quarter-finals. Then, the Spaniard showed virtually no offense until late in the first round of his semi-final bout with Attila Vegh, whom he ultimately submitted with a kneebar.

“He fights most of his fights in reverse gear,” Blachowicz says. “I think he tries to lull his opponent and then surprise him with something. I think the ground is his strongest suit. I’m not afraid of it, but I’d prefer to avoid going there. I’ve said this a couple times already, but I plan to keep it standing. I’m bigger. I’m rangier. I’ll look to use that to my advantage.”

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