Prospect Chris Gruetzemacher Talks UFC “Dream”, Training With “Brother” and “Friend” Ben Henderson
By Kelsey Mowatt
While some mixed-martial-arts fans became familiar with The MMA Lab in 2011, due to the accomplishments of UFC lightweight contender Ben Henderson, teammate Chris Gruetzemacher has been doing his part to promote the Glendale, Arizona, gym as well. While the featherweight prospect has yet to do so on the international stage like the former WEC champion, by putting a record together of 8-1 since 2008, Gruetzemacher is hoping to become the gym’s next Octagon vet.
“From what I’ve heard from my manager, it’s not a matter of whether I’m ready, it’s a matter of the UFC having availability,” said Gruetzemacher, whose seven fight win streak includes a stoppage win over veteran Ryan Diaz at a Strikeforce Challengers event in August. “I guess there’s a lot of 45’ers.”
Despite the UFC’s busy schedule, as the sport continues to grow, the talent pool from which the promotion can draw on has likely never been larger, particularly in the smaller weight divisions.
“That’s something that I’m learning about the business, and I don’t think casual fans understand that,” Gruetzemacher told FCF. “They have to locate the fighters, but they have to them fight, the fighters need the money, so they can only have so many guys under contract…So that’s really what it seems like; they have a lot of guys so they need to have some fights to determine who they want to keep.”
Due to Gruetzemacher’s record and growing reputation, he could look elsewhere to secure some high profile bouts, but the 25 year-old competitor seems set on signing with the UFC.
“I don’t want to sign anything long term because the UFC is my overall goal,” said Gruetzemacher. “That’s the dream. As far as competing for the best organization, the best money, the best fights, long term, the UFC is it. The thing is that I can’t sit for half a year and not do something. I can’t just sit; there’s just no way.”
Gruetzemacher will complete his third year of professional fighting having gone 2-0 in the past twelve months, with victories coming over Gabe Rivas and Jeff Fletcher under the Rage in the Cage banner. It’s been an interesting run for the former high school wrestler, who several years ago, wasn’t even thinking about making a career out of fighting.
“The whole thing about becoming a fighter wasn’t something I had thought about doing,” Gruetzemacher noted, who made his pro debut in October, 2008. “I just wanted to get back in shape. I wrestled in high school, I was getting overweight, getting yoked up and didn’t like the way I was living, didn’t like the way I was looking.”
“I had watched the UFC and had thought that I would like to do jiu-jitsu,” Gruetzemacher added. “I had thought about doing wrestling again but there was nowhere to do it. So I went looking for a gym and went from there.”
It wasn’t long before Gruetzemacher had found The MMA Lab, home of several pro fighters including the aforementioned Henderson, Efrain Escudero, Charlie Brown and Victor Meza, among others.
“I’m home grown from The Lab,” said Gruetzemacher. “If I get into the UFC, I will be the first product from The Lab, where the only place that I’ve learned anything, other than wrestling in high school, has all been at The Lab.”
Now that Henderson has won three straight fights in the UFC to entrench a title fight in February with champion Frankie Edgar, the spotlight on Gruetzemacher’s gym has likely never been brighter.
“It has,” Gruetzemacher acknowledged. “It’s funny, because you look at other fighters, if you’re a fan, you think they’re famous. But here, with Ben, it’s liking watching your younger or older brother. The thing is, at our gym, we look at him as a friend. He’s talking to everybody all the time, rolls and trains with the regular people. He trains with the fighters here, but he also takes classes with everyone else.”
Up next, Gruetzemacher is hoping to return to action in early 2012, and resume his pursuit of a UFC contract.
“Win man, just flat out win, that’s my overall goal,” said Gruetzemacher while discussing his aspirations for next year. “No matter what the scenario is…I just need to be ready to go and I’d like to have at least two fights before June, whether it’s in the UFC or not.”
Photo courtesy The MMA Lab