BY TONY REID
The Barbarian was born on a battlefield in the far north. He quickly matured and became known and respected as a true warrior after his many victories in battle. His brow is low and broad, he has piercing blue eyes and although he has brawn to spare he uses his brain equally well. He stands about 6 feet tall and weighs in around 200 pounds and when the Anvil of Crom theme music hits you know someone is about to get hurt. The more I describe this person the more blurry the line gets to determine if I’m referring to the fictional Conan the Barbarian or the real life Barbarian, Tim Boetsch.
Boetsch burst on the mainstream MMA scene with a savage performance in his Octagon debut at UFC 81 against David Heath. He took the fight on extremely short notice and proceeded to instantly become a part of the permanent UFC highlight reel with a signature throw and flurry of punches to finish a bewildered Heath. Tim chose that at his personal favorite fight. “UFC 81 versus David Heath, where I throw him on his head and finish him. That is the fight that really blew up my career. That’s the fight everybody talks about. It was a very exciting fight, with a first round finish. So that fight exemplifies how I like to fight.”
Boetsch was a four time state wrestling champion from Camden-Rockport High School in Maine and a Division 1 wrestler at Lock Haven University, also earning a degree in Criminal Justice. He states “Fighting has come very naturally. I wrestled my whole life so the transition into fighting was fairly easy for me and it happened very quickly, as far as getting to the UFC level, that happened very fast for me because of the level of dedication and the way that I train.” Tim went 6-1 prior to getting the call to the big leagues. His lone loss came as he took a fight against Vladimir Matyushenko on three days notice in the IFL and fought the future champion to a decision.
The Barbarian garnered a lot of attention after that performance against Heath and the term “Redneck Judo” was coined somewhere on some forum, blog or chat room. Tim saw changes in his life immediately after that victory. “I definitely started getting more attention from the media and whatnot. There was a lot of talk of being the next big thing at 205. You know how fights work, you do something impressive and then all of a sudden there is a lot of hype surrounding you. That was definitely something different I wasn’t used to. That was a short notice fight and I had done that in the past so people were really impressed that I was able to take that fight on short notice and finish it the way I did. Just a little more attention that I was used to, being in the UFC, the biggest fight league there is and winning my first fight. It was quite an experience.”
This impressive showing led to another level of attention coming in the from of yet another late replacement opportunity after Stephan Bonnar got injured shortly before a scheduled fight against Matt Hamill in a co-main event fight on the UFN 13 card that was televised live on SPIKE. Boetsch, again stepped right in but unfortunately like Conan had done in the past, beat himself on this occasion by stunning himself after hitting the mat head first. Hamill capitalized and finished the fight with ground and pound. The Barbarian impressed even in the loss with an exciting fight that made Hamill’s lip look like it got sliced by one of Conan’s axes. Boetsch looks back on loses like this one with a strong desire to redeem himself. “I would choose to fight someone that beat me in the past, just to redeem myself. There wasn’t a fight I lost where I felt I was outclassed and I have the personality where I don’t like to lose in checkers, so if you beat me up on TV in front of a million people I’m not too happy about that, so if I could fight anybody it would be one of those guys for obvious reasons, to get revenge.”
Boetsch got a level of redemption next time out against Michael Patt at UFC 88 in Atlanta, GA. Boetsch kept the fight standing and delivered a vicious punch that send Patt to the mat and The Barbarian followed to put the finishing touches on a TKO victory.
When I asked Tim about his development as a striker and at what point he considered himself primarily a striker he stated “I think it was my lack of striking that made me overemphasize that part of the training. My first professional fight I literally couldn’t throw a jab. If you watch my first pro fight, I fought at heavyweight, and it was awful. It’s hard for me to watch. I laugh the whole time I watch it. There are opportunities where I should be punching the guy and I’m just barreling into him. It’s embarrassing. It’s because of that, I said, again that is my competitiveness; I said I have to become a better striker. I went hard learning how to strike and what worked for me. Now I prefer to stay on my feet and feel comfortable standing against the best people in the world. I consider myself one of the best strikers. Especially after dropping to middleweight, I don’t think there is anybody that wants to stand in front of me and take a punch. I’m excited to get in there and show what I can do.”
His next fight was against an unheralded and underrated Jason Brilz at UFC 96 in Columbus, OH. The Barbarian was handed his second loss inside the Octagon after losing a unanimous decision and put his UFC record at 2-2. He was subsequently cut from the organization after this loss. All this time he had been spending the majority of his time training in his father in law Wade’s basement and his own garage. He reflects on this crazy time “I think some of the craziest training that ever happened took place in Wade’s basement.”
“It was a 10×10 room so when you would spar, literally, you stood in front of each other and beat on each other until someone went down. There was no place that was out of the pocket. There was a night where I knocked out three guys in three consecutive rounds. That type of training forced you to fight there was no circling, we were beating the crap out of each other. There was a low ceiling there, too and I remember one time someone hit a big throw and hit an air conditioning duct that was hanging down there. It was a unique training experience.” He’s not exaggerating; I spent some time in both places over the years and both training areas look like they were ripped right out of one of the early Rocky Movies. They are no frills, lets’ get down to business, type of places with a number of tough guys in the room and a ton of character within the structures themselves.
The Barbarian went 3-0 after being released from the UFC, picking up stoppage victories over Aaron Stark by submission, Rudy Lindsey by submission and Reese Shaner by TKO. He was resigned by the UFC and has since gone 1-1 with a decision victory over Todd Brown and a submission loss to Phil Davis.
Tim has made time to travel around the country from time to time to train with some of the most elite camps in existence including MFS with Pat Miletich, Sityodtong with Marc Delagrotte and a number of gyms in Vegas, just to mention a few. Boetsch remembers those trips fondly “I was very fortunate with the places I have been able to train Delagrotte, some of the better gyms in Las Vegas, I’m now training at AMC with Matt Hume. I call that my home training camp now because the fit was great. Having the ability to travel around and work with some of the top guys in the world, for my IFL fight I fought for Renzo Gracie. How many fighters can say that? I have worked with several legends in the sport. I feel like each time I worked with them I took a little bit, I found something that fit. I think that is an important part of your training.”
“Every opportunity you have to find something that fits your style make sure you write it down, burn it into your brain and take it with you. I was able to pick up some really great stuff from those guys. But now I’m training full time with Matt Hume. As soon as I went to his camp in Kirkland, WA. it was a perfect fit. He (Hume) is a legend; he was doing it before it was even a sport, before it was considered MMA. He is a really intelligent person, just an awesome coach. He is a hardcore fighter, every once in a while he will strap on the gloves and just run shop on anybody in the gym, its fun to watch. This 170lb guy that will just own anyone in the gym at any time. It will be after a 12 hour flight from Japan and he will be completely jet lagged and still beat the crap out of everybody. He definitely has some ninja secrets I’m trying to figure out.”
When asked about his nickname and the negative connotation to that word within our sport “The Barbarian” says “That’s how I try to fight. I try to be barbaric. To me that’s an exciting word. I don’t look at that as a negative word. I go in there and beat up on another human being until he quits. That seems like it might be pretty barbaric.”
Boetsch is by nature, a very laid back, almost quiet person. He is a family man and a very religious person. I asked him about flipping the switch from being Tim to turning in to “The Barbarian”. He said “I find it’s easier with the weight cut (laughs). I find a certain amount of attitude coming with it. It makes it easier to flip the switch. I was just talking to my wife about that, it’s like a split personality almost. I am a laid back, friendly person, not aggressive at all out here in the real world but when we get in the cage I can become that barbaric, violent, ridiculous person that has do whatever to win a fight. It’s an interesting thing, some people might think its crazy, I understand it and am able to do it. I’m not sure exactly how it happens but it happens pretty easily. Growing up I was never in a fights. You will here about some fighters that are like “I fought my whole life and now in MMA I can get paid to fight.” that’s not my story at all. I wrestled and had nowhere else to go and my buddy said “Hey why don’t you try fighting?” and it worked out for me.
Tim and his wife Jade have been cutting weight together. Jade gave birth to their second child, Finley Ann on January 11th. Finley joins Tim, Jade and three year old son Christian to round out Team Barbarian. Jade has a unique perspective on the fight game and having someone so close to her in the cage. “People ask me all the time if it bothers me that he fights or if I get worked up or nervous, I don’t worry about him getting hurt because I know he will be fine. I’m more worried about if he wins or loses, only because he is away so long training to get the win that if he loses when he comes home I don’t get my Tim back right away. He’s a little down, frustrated and upset with himself over the loss. If he loses he’s still a great dad and husband just not quite the same for a couple of weeks. On the other hand if he wins, we get a happy, excited, proud Tim back and all his time away training was worth while. So I get nervous watching the fight just for the outcome. Win or lose I’m fine watching a fight.”
Jade adds “The other thing people ask a lot is how I deal with him being away. It’s hard but this is his dream that tons of people have but he gets to live it. It’s a short period of time that you are physically able to fight. Its not just Tim’s dream, it’s my dream for him to be the best. I know he has it in him and if my sacrifice is taking care of the kids while he is away training then that is my contribution to our dream. Do I want to pull my hair out some days? Yes, but who doesn’t! He is actually really sweet and hides cards for me around the house when he’s gone. I’m sure you won’t use that. That is not very barbaric!”
The new “Conan the Barbarian” Movie is set to be released later this summer and the similarities continue as now the real life “Barbarian” will return to the bright lights in the fight capital of the word, Las Vegas, on May 28th as he drops to middleweight to take on and conquer Kendall Grove at UFC 130. It is obvious but yet cannot go without mentioning that his UFC career will have some full circle and “The Barbarian” will have the opportunity to redeem himself in the same city where he got his break in the UFC and plans on destroying anyone in his path toward the top of the middleweight division.