Not every fighter makes it to the top. It’s just the nature of the beast.
But when given a second chance, fighters will scratch and claw to make it to the sport’s pinnacle.
The newest edition to Ultimate Fighting Championship’s reality television series “The Ultimate Fighter” aired its first episode Wednesday, and a Kauai native is one of the show’s contenders.
“At first glance, you can look at the roster. Someone who doesn’t compete professionally can think that they may not be as talented as they are. There’s guys with a boat-load of experience,” said Seth Baczynski in a phone interview Wednesday from Tokyo. “They’ve pretty much been through the ringer. From journeymen, they’ve gone up and down.”
This year’s installment of the series, “The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption,” has former competitors from past seasons hoping to get a second chance at a UFC career and a big payday.
Baczynski (20-14, 5-6 UFC), who was born in Lihue has since moved to Arizona, was a participant in the 11th season of the series.
In that season, headlined by coaches Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, Baczynski advanced to the quarterfinals but was disqualified in his fight against Brad Tavares for an illegal soccer kick to the head. He immediately apologized.
“Yeah. My favorite guy in the house, too,” Baczynski said. “I love Brad.”
This time around, Baczynski — known as the Polish Pistola — simply wants a few more rounds in the octagon.
“I would say my redemption story is just an opportunity to continue doing what I love and kind of rewrite my story. It’s just an opportunity to rewrite a story that’s already been told. You get to kind of carry it on and put some more chapters in there,” he said. “At the end of my career, I don’t want say if I could’ve or would’ve. I want to be able to say with every inch of my heart that I did it as hard as I could.”
Baczynski last fought in the UFC in April 2015 — a first round technical knockout loss to Leon Edwards.
Regardless of wins and losses, he said he aims to end fights. Baczynski has twice been awarded Fight of the Night honors in his UFC career — both were losses in 2014.
“I’m a finisher. I’m an extremely exciting fighter to watch. I got 20 professional wins and 18 finishes. I go out there, get on my shield and ride it,” he said. “I’m constantly just trying to put them away. My career has been riddled with win and losses, and ups and downs. But one thing that’s always been consistent is that I’m going to go out there and try to put him away.”
Another redemption story for him stems from family tragedy: Baczynski’s sister, Isha, was murdered about five years ago.
“She was struggling for a long time with addiction,” he said. “She was living a life where, when you’re growing up, you’re parents used to say, ‘You hang around trash long enough, you start to smell like it.’ She was hanging out with the wrong group of people for that time. She got caught in a situation where she ended up getting shot and killed.
“That was Nov. 19, and she had a rehab facility she’d been trying to get into for a long time,” he continued. “She was supposed to check in Dec. 12. So, she was trying. She just was struggling, and she was in a situation she put herself in. She ended up paying for it with her life.”
In the aftermath, he adopted Isha’s daughter, Ryley, who is now 11.
“That’s life. That’s the way it goes. But we’re blessed, man. Every day, my niece turns and says something in a way or does a mannerism; it’s like she’s still there. It’s the best of a really bad situation,” he said.
He and Ryley, along with his wife and four children, are well in their home in Arizona.
“We’re doing great. I got a little acre-and-a-quarter farm — nothing special — in Chandler, Arizona. We’re just living life; living life as best as we can,” Baczynski said.
“She’s our best kid. I tell my wife that all the time. Like, ‘I think we should send the other kids away. The ones we raised our terrible,’” he continued with a laugh. “She listens and does everything we ask. I don’t know if it’s the parents maybe, because we raised them. But she’s our best kid, and we’re lucky to have her.”
As for why people should tune in to the show, for which he couldn’t give much details as far as results because of contractual obligations, the name of the show says it all — redemption.
“The reason people should watch this season is they’re given a bunch of good athletes that have had ups and downs in their careers, and an opportunity to where they feel they all belong,” he said. “Anyone in that show could beat anyone in the UFC. And, you know, everybody loves a comeback.”