Icons of Maine: Boetsch pumped for fireworks at UFC 117
Sunbury, Penn. — This is the 14th story in the Icons of Maine series. People are welcome to e-mail suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Tim Boetsch told people he wanted to be a cage fighter, they thought it was a joke. “They looked at me like I was crazy,” Boetsch said in a phone interview. “A lot of people say they never would have guessed it because I'm so laid-back.”
It didn't take long for Boetsch to prove any doubters wrong. Nicknamed “The Barbarian,” the light-heavyweight Lincolnville native will battle Thiago Silva at UFC 117 on Saturday, Aug. 7, in Oakland, Calif.
The bout will be broadcast via pay-per-view. “I think it's going to be an awesome fight. It's going to be fireworks from start to finish. I know he wants to take me out. It'll be exciting for everybody,” said the 5-foot-11-inch, 205-pound Boetsch.
At 29 years old, Boetsch is no stranger to pay-per-view events. In 2008, he made his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut in Las Vegas at UFC 81 when he fought David Heath, a veteran mixed martial artist. Boetsch was called in as a last-minute replacement and had 10 days to prepare for the fight.
“My manager called and asked if I was ready to step up to the big stage. It only took me 15 seconds to decide,” Boetsch said. “I wasn't sure what to expect. It was amazing. Everyone talks about first-time jitters in the UFC.”
Those jitters didn't stop Boetsch from dominating the fight with powerful strikes and a devastating throw that shocked fans and famous fight announcer Joe Rogan alike. Boetsch demolished his opponent in the first round, gaining an easy and, for some, unexpected victory.
Winning a UFC fight in front of tens of thousands of fans was no small accomplishment for a Mainer who grew up hunting white-tailed deer with his father. “My dad was a logger. I thought I was a young, tough guy, but I remember going to help him out a few times and he could run circles around me. He didn't want me to get into logging because he thought it was too dangerous. I wonder what he thinks of what I do now,” the mixed martial artist said with a laugh.
Boetsch competed in wrestling during elementary school and by his senior year at Camden-Rockport High School had earned four state championships. He attended Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania on a wrestling scholarship, and while there met his wife, Jade.
“I happened to bump into her at a formal. She was a rugby player, and her dad was a wrestling coach. We had a lot in common,” Boetsch said. The two married in 2004 and have a 3-year-old son, Christian.
Boetsch earned a degree in criminal justice and became a social worker. “I worked for two years in a residential facility for kids going through rehabilitation. They were 12-18 years old. Our major effort was to provide a positive environment for kids who had a less than desirable upbringing,” he explained.
He might have been content with that career if not for the prodding of his college roommate Mike Ciesnolevicz. “Mike and I talked on the phone quite a bit. He had always wanted to be a mixed martial arts fighter. He kept saying I'd be really good at it ... I went for a couple amateur fights and won them both in the first round. I surprised myself. A light bulb went off in my head,” Boetsch said.
Boetsch soon had his first professional fight lined up in the International Fight League, when he was picked to face Vladimir Matyushenko. “Basically no one wanted to fight him. I took that fight on a three-day notice and went the distance with him. Even though I lost that fight, it put me on the map," Boetsch said. "People were asking, 'Who's this guy training in his garage, taking a fight on three days notice and gives Vladimir Matyushenko all he has?'”
These days, Boetsch has time to prepare for battle. He's spending seven weeks at a camp with Matt Hume, a fight trainer called “The Wizard” for his expansive knowledge of mixed martial arts.
Together they work on conditioning, sparring and mastering new techniques. “At home there are distractions, but here, this is business. Fighting is a 24/7 job. Even at the grocery store, I have to think about buying the right thing," Boetsch said. "When I'm not training, I'm thinking about the fight and going over notes. When you're stepping up to fight the No. 8 guy in the world, you want to do everything you can."
The Barbarian has become so popular with fans that he's featured as a playable character in “UFC 2009 Undisputed,” a video game for both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms.
“They took body scans to create my video game image, but I get frustrated because I'm not a good video game player. I get mad when I see myself beaten in the game — that's how competitive I am,” Boetsch joked.
Boetsch believes his fighting spirit and strong work ethic are rooted in his Maine background. “I couldn't have asked for anything more in Lincolnville — growing up on a big chunk of land, building forts, playing paintball with my buddies. I really attribute that environment to my values today. It's that small-town pride,” he said.
Boetsch is eager to match his skills and strength Aug. 7, and he knows fans in the Pine Tree State will be watching. “I know that Mainers are supportive of the hometown guy. There are only a few mixed martial artists from Maine: Marcus Davis and Tim Sylvia. The list is pretty short, but fighters from Maine have been successful,” Boetsch said. “I want to thank everyone for their support and help show that Mainers are among the best athletes in the world.”
With a MMA record of 11-3 loses, Boetsch is on his way to proving just that.
For more information on Boetsch, visit TimBoetsch.com
Dan Harrington is a freelance writer who lives in Augusta.