Lightweight is considered by many to be the UFC’s deepest and most dangerous division. If all goes as planned, former professional boxer Pawel Wolak will eventually be swimming with the sharks.
Wolak officially announced his intentions to transition to MMA on Wednesday night at the annual Boxing Writers Association of America dinner in New York, where he received “Fight of the Year” honors for his July 15, 2011 154-pound bout with Delvin Rodriguez -- a contest that ended in a draw after 10 back-and-forth rounds.
The Debica, Poland native lost a decision to Rodriguez in a rematch on Dec. 3 and announced his retirement from boxing four days later. Wolak, who will be managed by Monte Cox, began his MMA education shortly thereafter. Although his ultimate goal is to fight for the UFC, Wolak is prepared to take the necessary steps to reach the sport’s largest organization.
“My background was as a successful New Jersey state wrester and kickboxer, so I am going back to my roots,” Wolak told Sherdog.com. “Monte, [longtime advisor] Howard Horowitz and I will lay out the strategy. I will get to the UFC when I am ready to make a statement in the lightweight division. I am not going to jump in right away, but only when I know I can become champion. I have been training since December. Nobody will want to stand up with me, so I am working really hard on the ground game. I will visit camps with Monte and Howard as we get closer to making a run at this thing.”
In the meantime, Cox says Wolak has been honing his skills with various fighters near his New Jersey home, including current UFC veterans Jim Miller and Constantinos Philippou as well as former Strikeforce and Bellator competitor Igor Gracie.
“It isn’t often a guy comes along with the fighting credentials of Pawel Wolak. I’m thrilled to have the chance to help take him to the level in MMA that he reached in boxing. Without a doubt, he can be a UFC champion,” said Cox, who has managed seven former UFC title holders.
"Pawel is unique in that he is in the prime of his career,” Cox continued. “He can stay in boxing and make a great living, but he has always had a love for MMA and he wants to see how well he can do while he is at his best. It’s nothing like some of the other boxers switching over when their best days are behind them.”
The 30-year-old Wolak went 29-2-1 over the course of a professional career that began in 2004. He finished 19 of his opponents by knockout and was generally recognized as one of the Top 10 fighters in the world at his weight class. Known for an aggressive, pressuring style, Wolak’s signature victory came in March 2011, when he scored a sixth-round TKO victory over former junior middleweight champion Yuri Foreman at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
At the moment, the man known as “Raging Bull” seems to be at peace with the decision to change his place of business from the ring to a cage.
“Most people think that I am coming back to boxing. I have always said that if a champion wanted to fight me that door would always be open,” Wolak said. “But those champions wouldn’t fight me before, so why would they now? I fell into boxing many years ago while training for MMA and never had the opportunity to go into it because boxing just took off for me.”