Other than not getting his hand raised, it’s hard to see how Kyle Bochniak’s latest fight could have gone any better.
The 31-year-old featherweight had a star turn at UFC 223 in Brooklyn this past Saturday, battling Zabit Magomedsharipov for three rounds in a bout that would earn them the evening’s Fight of the Night award. While it’s clear that Magomedsharipov shined en route to taking a unanimous decision, Bochniak made a strong impression of his own with a relentless approach that had the crowd at the Barclays Center roaring.
Leading up to the show, it looked like Bochniak and Magomedsharipov were in danger of being buried on a stacked card. They were scheduled to be the opening bout on the Fight Pass preliminaries, which would not only limit the amount of fans who could watch them, but it meant the fight would also take place when the audience was still filling into the arena.
Instead, after a series of unfortunate events that reduced the card from 12 bouts to 9, the up-and-coming featherweights were moved to the second slot on the main card where they made the most of their opportunity. Magomedsharipov lived up to the hype that has him pegged as a future champion, and Bochniak proved to be the perfect dance partner, just as the Boston native predicted.
Days after the fight, Bochniak shared his thoughts on the bout with MMA Fighting.
“I’ve watched bits and pieces of it. It’s all over social media,” said Bochniak. “I think my performance overall was good. I think what I set out to do for this fight, I accomplished. The game plan was just to make it a gritty, ugly fight and just keep coming forward and put the pressure on him. And I think I did that. It was a blast. I haven’t had so much fun in a fight before and I think I showcased to everyone that I’m a true contender and belong in the UFC.”
Prior to his win over Brandon Davis at UFC 220 this past January, Bochniak struggled with putting together a complete performance. However, paired up with a versatile standup fighter like Magomedsharipov, he knew they could produce fireworks.
Now he believes his star is rising, even after a loss that dropped his UFC record to 2-3.
“I think I needed that type of style matchup and type of fire to push me to my limit and bring out the best in me,” said Bochniak. “I didn’t get the W, which doesn’t taste very good, but at the end of the day my stock still went up and my fanbase still swelled, which is unbelievable.
“And I think I’m in good standing with the promotion now, with the UFC. Even though I lost, I still think they appreciate and respect me and definitely want to keep me in the promotion and give me more fights. Overall, I did what I had to do for my career and for my fanbase and I’m excited to see what’s next.”
Following the performance, there was tons of positive feedback for Bochniak, with two supporters in particular standing out.
UFC president Dana White texted Bochniak’s coach Peter Welch to tell him that ‘Kyle’s a beast. What a stud,’ and he also received glowing praise from former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin.
It wasn’t just that Bochniak went the distance against his favored opponent. It was the manic style that he employed in doing so. Bochniak chased Magomedsharipov around the cage, occasionally dropping his defenses to try and lure the Russian into a brawl.
Forget the compliments that came after. Bochniak was feeling the love in the moment.
“I could hear the crowd. I heard them screaming and cheering. I was cheering with them, it was f**king crazy,” said Bochniak. “It was just a good fight, I had a blast in there, just sticking my tongue out, just having fun, being myself and there was not one moment in that fight that I was scared, or I was hurt, or I was tired, it was just like I was kind of possessed.
“Keep coming forward, keep coming forward, make this kid quit, make this kid doubt himself, there’s nothing he can throw at me that’s gonna hurt me. And that was my intention. The more I did that, the more I hear the crowd, the more it just fueled me. It was all around an awesome time, an awesome experience.”
Bochniak admitted that his style can drive his coaches crazy and while he enjoys trying “to head butt people’s punches” to prove they can’t hurt him, he knows it’s not a good strategy for long term success.
“[My coach] told me, in one of my sparring sessions, ‘You can’t do that in the fight. Keep your hands up.’ I’m like, ‘Alright, I won’t do it,’” said Bochniak. “And sure enough, it just came out and it just happened, and at the end of the fight he was dying laughing, ‘You’re my hero, you’re f**king awesome.’”
It was Bochniak who pushed the pace in the closing moments of the fight, with Magomedsharipov glaring up at the clock, counting down the seconds to his eventual win on the scorecards. In the end, Bochniak would have to settle for the admiration of his opponent, his fans, and his peers.
Well, all that and a $50,000 bonus check.
With that extra cash, Bochniak says it helped to pay off some bills and will allow him to enjoy his upcoming vacation in Spain with his wife Brittini a little more. He’s also planning some lifestyle upgrades, but nothing too extravagant.
“I might get a new car,” said Bochniak. “I’m driving a 2009 Toyota Camry right now. Nothing crazy, not like a Benz or a Beemer, maybe just upgrade a little bit. I don’t want to be that guy who gets some money and gets a Benz, so I’ve still gotta be smart and I still want to stick away some nice, little savings for a rainy day.”
For more from Bochniak, check out his recent appearance on The MMA Hour, where he mentions possibly wanting to fight Michael Johnson next.