Fighting out of Tucson, AZ comes with a legacy. A wrestling pedigree that is Arizona combat sports. Maximum Fighting Championship’s (MFC) Bantamweight champion is kicking ass and finishing opponents left and right on his way to the top. 11-1 and only getting better, Anthony Birchak is on the fast track to making a name for himself in the sport of mixed martial arts.
Tucson, AZ born and raised and now fighting out of Chris Cariaso’s Rise Combat Sports, can you tell the fans a little about your journey from being a standout wrestler in both high school and college to crossing over to mixed martial arts? You think Arizona… you think wrestling. With guys like Jamie Varner and Aaron Simpson, current UFC guys like Ryan Bader. What made you want to make the jump and who were some of your inspirations?
Birchak: Absolutely! Once my wrestling career became stagnant and kind of boring I was looking for a new way to be competitive. I can remember thinking to myself about being a competitive BMX rider or motocross rider since I did a lot of that as a kid, but then I got the opportunity to film, edit, and produce Efrain Escudero’s TUF 8 intro video. We watched the entire season and supported his career big time since he had been a good friend and teammate of mine in college. Once I saw the type of training and how he competed and put on a show it all kind of just clicked and that’s when I started my path as a mixed martial artist.
How much have you been able to learn and absorb being around a guy like Chris Cariaso who not only has fought with the UFC, but done so for a couple of years now? Plus his experience with Elite XC, WEC and more. Has his experience helped you prepare for the journey a little better and prepare you for the steps involved?
Birchak: Yes tremendously! I look back on sparring sessions with guys like Ed West, George Roop, Chris Cariaso, and Zach Makovsky and I watch how raw I was and still having some success but now I look at how I’ve taken bits and pieces of each fighter and added that to my wrestling and the success I’m having now is night and day! I’d kick my Anthony Birchak of olds ass for sure. Chris has definetly expanded my techniques as a striker and of course I’ve added my “funk” to it so it’s a bit unorthodox but effective and in doing so I’ve been able to out strike some deadly strikers in my last 4 fights.
You’ve also trained at APEX MMA with Joey Rivera and Xtreme Couture where you credit Tim Lane with a lot of your growth as a striker in MMA. Was getting out of your comfort zone and travelling to Las Vegas to train with Xtreme Couture as well as different gyms like APEX important to you and how have you grown by those experiences as a fighter?
Birchak: Well, I actually started my career at APEX and due to unfortunate relationship circumstances had to make a move to further grow. But to answer the question, yes travel training opened my eyes in the sense that my cup is far from full but at the same time I’m on the same level as the best fighters in the world and in realizing that I started to see that attaining absolute greatness is not unattainable, it’s in reaching distance as long as I’m willing to bust my ass and work hard for that greatness! Tim Lane added some serious tools in my kickboxing game and then the last piece of the puzzle fell together with Chris expanding on that with his 50+ fights and Muay Thai knowledge and setting me up to work with 2x Lumpinee Champion Nuengsiam Samphusri who has gotten me ready for both my MFC bouts against some great strikers.
The Maximum Fighting Championship Bantamweight (135 lbs) Champion… How does that make you feel when you hear that? What was the preparation for the fight with Tito Jones like and when you finished him via rear-naked choke, what was the emotion that went through you as you realized you were the new champion?
Birchak: The prep was do what I do best and pressure pressure pressure! I’ve watched a lot of his fights and he’s a sting and run fighter. So my style of constantly coming forward and superior wrestling was just something we needed to expand on. I knew if I got Tito to the ground it was going to be my fight shortly after. As soon as I started dropping elbows I knew I was going to finish him. I could’ve kept punching and finished by TKO but I knew he wanted an exit so I looked for that RNC and once he tapped… I just sat back and said to myself that I did it! He told me not to stop, don’t stop your momentum and then tapped me on my forehead. He’s a pretty cool cat I was honored to fight Tito.
You’ve said you take pride in finishing fights… That’s an exciting style of fighter to watch. Does it give you an extra sense of hype when you can get the crowd into your fights and put on a show?
Birchak: I never see the crowd till it’s all said and done. Even in my only loss in Brazil in front of 10k people It was just me and my opponent but knowing the crowd has my back psychologically subconsciously I’m sure it plays a big part. I always go into the fight to outpace and outwork my opponents I never look for the finish unless it’s staring me right in the face and that’s when I usually lock it on. If you outwork and outpace an opponent they’re not gonna want to be in there much longer with you. They give you the finish it’s all about patience.
Your only loss… Jorge Clay a couple of years ago at a slightly higher weight class 145lbs, getting caught in a rear-naked choke. What did you take away from that loss that made you better and how much more comfortable are you fighting at 135lbs now versus 145lbs?
Birchak: I just realized 6-0 is cool but I was a dumbass and thought I was some untouchable kid. I just worked harder and In hind sight I should’ve never dealt with Apex Sports Agency and Jason Chambers. It was a dumb idea and I’ll advised fight to take. 135 is where I belong and going to be staying.
As a fighter, what was your most memorable fight and as a fan what is the one fight that either made you love this sport or really stands out as your favorite of all time. If you had your pick, anyone throughout the history of MMA, who would be your dream opponent?
Birchak: The 2 fights that stand out are obviously the Fight of the Year candidate of Benoit and I at MFC37 was a huge exciting fight. But my KO of Jackson’s MMA 135er Matt Leyva in his home town in the lions den surrounded by guys like Andrei Arlovsky, John Dodson, Diego Sanchez, Keith Jardine, Travis Browne and many others was pretty freakin dope!
Anthony, thanks for taking the time. Anyone you’d like to thank (Sponsors)? And where can fans find more info on you or stay up to date with you?
Birchak: Yes please follow me on twitter @abirchakmma or my Facebook fanpage Facebook.com/AnthonyBirchak. I’m always super interactive with all my fans and love to talk to everyone! Also www.AnthonyBirchak.com is up and running so go check out the website. I want to thank: