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Not too many people get to corner Luke Zachrich for more than a few minutes – or at least without taking several punches.

So, (614) decided to take advantage of a safe opportunity with the 6’2”, 185-pound middleweight MMA fighter, who gained national recognition from the television show, The Ultimate Fighter. Zachrich has suffered only two defeats in his young career – but with all of his 11 wins coming by KO or submission.

We went toe-to-toe with him at his gym, Grandview’s Ronin Training Center, chatting about reality TV, the Olympics, and what historical figure he’d like to take a poke at.

With Mixed Martial Arts, you have people coming in from a lot of disciplines – striking sports like boxing and kickboxing, wrestling, martial arts, and even more traditional sports like football. What propelled you into the sport?
I was always competitive. I played a lot of sports growing up. Football. I was recruited to play Division 1 football. Got hurt. Then I took up boxing – just to stay in shape. I always liked working out, being in the gym. With MMA, training is really important. The amount of training you have to do and time you have to spend in the gym is what really drew me in. I love that stuff.

You were on Season 7 of The Ultimate Fighter. Most people thrust into the public light via reality TV have no experience in front of a crowd. Being a fighter, you’ve been in front of crowds, both live and on TV. Did that help you transition into being on reality television at all?
There’s really nothing like [The Ultimate Fighter]. I don’t think there’s even another reality show like it. When they tell you there’s no contact with the outside world, there’s none. We didn’t watch TV, we didn’t know who won the Super Bowl, and we didn’t listen to music the whole time we were there. I don’t care what you’ve done or what experiences you’ve had; nothing is going to prepare you for that. There were guys in the house that had been to jail and would say, ‘Man, being in jail is better than being on The Ultimate Fighter’ – at least for a short time.

I’ve been a fight fan for a while. When I was younger, I watched a lot of boxing. When I got older, and UFC became more popular, I started watching more MMA. Now, I watch both. I just like to say, ‘I’m a combat sports fan, and I want to watch the best fighters fight, regardless of format.’
Absolutely. You like fighting. It doesn’t matter whether it’s MMA or boxing. You want to see a good fight.

Exactly. Now you said you did some boxing, at least for fitness purposes, when you were younger. As a fighter, did MMA’s growing popularity steer you towards MMA over other combat sports when you were starting out? Maybe as a fighter you thought, ‘this is popular, this is where the best fighters are going, I want to fight the best, I want to beat the best?’
I would love to box. The thing with me – I didn’t grow up with 100 amateur fights on my record like a lot of these guys did. If I could have grown up boxing and had the skills I do now…maybe. I wish I could have spent more time with it. There’s a lot of boxers that make a lot of money. But it’s not about the money as much as the competition, the training, the brotherhood in the gym, and things like that. MMA is a lot more a team sport than you’ll see with boxing.

I think one of the great things about the sport is that it’s so international. You have big hubs in Brazil, Asia, the UK, the U.S. Do you think, even just considering that, that MMA should be in the Olympics sometime in the future? When you look at some of the sports they put into the Olympics, sure. There are some sports that aren’t included [in the Olympics] that deserve to be and there’s some sports that are included that have no business being there – I wouldn’t even call them a sport. One problem is that the UFC is a company. It’s not an organization or a sanctioning body. MMA doesn’t have something like FILA (International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles) which wrestling has. Simple answer: Yes. I would love to see it. But will they have to jump through flaming hoops to make it happen? Absolutely.

Your next fight is February 8th in Columbus. Is it easier to fight “at home?” Do you get a home-field advantage akin to other sports?
It has its positives and negatives. It’s cool that your family and friends can make a short drive and come and see you. But it’s also taxing mentally. You have the pressure of your friends and family out in the crowd watching you. Also, everyone feels like they can call you and ask you for tickets. I think, last fight I had in Columbus, I ended up selling around 250 tickets to family and friends. I’ll have people calling me on the day of the fight asking for tickets – while I’m on the way to the venue (laughs). I’m like, ‘It’s the night of the fight and you haven’t gotten your tickets yet?’

To hack from Fight Club, if you could fight any historical figure, living or dead, who would you fight?
[Laughs] I don’t know. That’s a tough question. I always like to go for the biggest, baddest guy out there. So, I guess someone who did some bad stuff. I’d pick whoever I thought was the most notorious figure in history. The baddest guy out there.

You can see Luke Zachrich take on Luigi Fioravanti as part of UVC 27: You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet, on February 8th at the Aladdin Shrine Center, 3850 Stelzer Rd. For more, visit www.facebook.com/UVCMMA.

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