When Nick “Slick” Osipczak steps into the cage at the inaugural Macto Championships event next Saturday, it will be his first foray into professional mixed martial arts competition for exactly 1687 days.
The 30-year old welterweight walked away from the sport following a three-fight losing streak in the UFC that culminated in his release from the promotion. I sat down with Nick to discuss why he has decided to end his hiatus from the sport, Wendle Lewis’ dubious withdrawal from their planned bout and what he thinks is the missing piece in the MMA puzzle.
First things first Nick, for those that haven’t been following you during your five year lay off, what have you been doing?
When I was still competing I set up the New Wave Academy gym, so I spent time running that. Then I just felt the calling to go travelling, so passed it on to my new students and left. Along the way, I was learning Tai-Chi from various masters and just studying, studying, studying. I was reading a lot, meditating a lot and a whole new world opened up to me that’s not really being taught in MMA currently but is a part of martial arts. I think that half the picture’s there, and half the picture’s missing. So for me now, it’s about bringing it all together. The sum is greater than the total of all the parts. I’ve been back sparring for a few months, putting the foundations of all of the stuff that I’ve been building over the years together. It’s like getting back on a bike, you never really lose it. You’re just a little bit rusty. But now I’ve got my timing back, I’m starting to get more creative with my new skills and playing with my new movement abilities. It’s enjoyable.
Did you always have intentions of coming back to MMA, or is it a flame that has only recently been reignited?
When I stopped fighting, I had lost interest in it and I didn’t give much thought to fighting again. I didn’t rule it out completely and I’d never officially retired, but at the time there was no itch to fight again. I didn’t miss it at all. I really just removed myself from the whole scene, went a couple of years without even watching any fights and stopped following the UFC. I was just focused on healing my body, my brain and just balancing everything out. MMA training is so hard on the body, you pick up injuries, you become inflexible, you take a lot of punches in to the head. That was my priority at the time, I was just doing a lot of Tai-Chi, a lot of Yoga and Chi-Gong. I was just really learning about my body, each day I was learning more and more and I’m still learning more. I’m tweaking and making adjustments to make my body perform the way it’s capable of and get it more efficient, and now I’m ready to use that body in the cage.
Prior to your hiatus you were training on a regular basis with Team Rough House. Whereabouts are you conducting your training at the moment?
At the moment I do my sparring at NFM Windsor which is Dean Amasinger’s gym and I also train my Jiu-Jitsu twice a week with Eddie Kone who’s my Jiu Jitsu coach.
Dean and the NFM team have been getting heaps of praise recently. What’s in the water down there in Windsor?
It’s just a great atmosphere to train in and it’s attracting like minded people who just want to really bring the best of out each other, look out for each other and share their knowledge. Obviously Dean is carrying a lot of experience from the UFC, he’s been around for years and he’s just putting together a really nice environment for everyone to thrive. We’re all motivated, we’re all hungry and we’re just trying to make each other better and go as far as we can on our journeys and help ourselves on the way too.
It sounds like a family environment!
That’s it. You know, you go to some gyms and it’s a bit dog-eat-dog, everyone’s looking out for themselves and trying to beat everybody else up to make them feel good about themselves. But here we really just understand that we’re in different weight divisions, we’re on different shows. The sport’s big enough. We’re not trying to compete against each other. Although we push each other in that way, we know that the sport’s big enough for us all to thrive and us all to flourish. Dean’s been to many gyms in America and he knows as soon as you step on the mat, you know that you’ve got ten high level guys of your weight to spar with on any given day. In the UK it’s not really like that, the top quality fighters are sparsely spread. He sees it as instead of the UK gyms competing against each other, let’s bring the best of the UK together, have an open door policy and let’s take on the rest of the world.
That’s very refreshing to hear. So moving on, you’ve signed with Macto and will be headlining their inaugural event. What in particular made you select Macto as the promotion to host your comeback?
It just ticks all the boxes for me. They’re a new show, I like their ethos and their vision. They’re going to be very professionally run and having me as the main event means I get more exposure which is gonna be great for my career. Also, it’s only an hour away from where I live so really it just ticks all the boxes. I wanted to be comfortable for my first fight back.
Originally you were slated to take on Wendle Lewis. I’m curious, what’s your take on his withdrawal?
Well, I think everyone knows what happened there. All I would say is that for someone who’s been in the sport fighting professionally for as long as Wendell has, I kind of expected him to reach out to me personally to explain what was going on. I thought that’s the least he could’ve done. But for me, it’s in the past. It doesn’t matter, I’m just focusing on my next opponent. I don’t want to dwell on it too much or put any negativity out there towards him. All I will do is reiterate that everybody knows what happened there.
Now you are scheduled to face Kyle Redfearn. What were your thoughts when that fight was presented to you?
I’m just happy to fight anyone. Macto were finding a lot of difficulty finding someone that would accept the fight, so I’m just really grateful to him for stepping up. I think it’s going to be a really exciting fight. I’ve seen his style, he likes to bang. So the crowd is guaranteed a great fight and I appreciate that there are fighters out there with his attitude. He’s willing to step up and fight anyone, he fights in different weight divisions, so I think it’s all worked out perfectly.
You’ve recently been doing some commentary for BAMMA and Fusion Fighting Championships. Is that something you’re looking at doing when you plan on revisiting when you retire?
Yeah I enjoy commentating and feel myself getting better at it each time I do it. So that’s something I’d like to keep going. New shows are popping up all the time, so yeah. I enjoy it. It gives me more experience ringside, watching the fighters come out. See what I think about their mindset, their approach, what strategic mistakes they’re making, visualising myself coming out. The more angles I can see the sport from, the more i can see what it’s all about and what I need to be doing when I compete. you still keeping up-to-date with goings-on in the UK MMA landscape?
Have you spent much time following the UK MMA scene?
To tell you the truth, I haven’t been following it. My goal is to win the UFC belt, so that’s what my focus is on. For me it’d be a waste of time studying the UK scene. Obviously I train with a few guys and have a few students that I’ve kept an eye on over the years, but other than that it’d be a waste of time following the UK scene. One thing I would comment on, which is something I also would’ve said five years ago is that you get a lot of guys around the sport with no real ambition and they’re not professional enough, so they’re just gonna be a “come today, gone tomorrow” and aren’t in it for the same reasons that I’m in it. And that’s obviously gonna show on fight day.
From what you have seen though, is there anyone you admire or just generally impresses you?
Two UK guys who stand out for me are Ed Arthur and Daniel Crawford. Ed Arthur for his mindset and his approach, and Daniel because he’s hungry, he’s well rounded. I just like the way they’re both approaching it and they way they believe in themselves. On the world scene the only guys that impress me are Conor McGregor, because he he understands the importance of the study of movement and his self belief, he sets his goals high and brings them into reality. Also Jon Jones because of his creativity and self belief.
Although you haven’t been following it too closely, from what your experiences as a commentator and a coach, would you agree that the standard has increased?
For sure the standard has increased. It’s always going to be like that, that’s why for me it’s so important as one of the more experienced fighters to know that the mistake I could make would be to try and keep up with the youngsters and train the way they’re training and use the same techniques. I’ve got to draw on my experience and my wisdom and seek out the techniques and training methods that the youngsters are currently not using, it’s more about being wily.
Are you willing to elaborate a little on the techniques?
Well, it’s pretty obvious with me representing Tai-Chi. I believe that Tai-Chi as an internal martial art represents half of the missing puzzle that is lacking in both UK MMA and the UFC. Training the spirit and the mind more rather than just the body is where the sport is heading I think. I think I’ll be the first person to bring in the internal martial arts.
So before we let you go Nick, what’s the plan of action to getting back into the UFC?
I’m having three fights this year and then by 2016 I expect to be back in the UFC and by 2018, I’d have like to have won the belt.
Nick’s comeback fight versus Kyle Redfearn will headline Macto Championships debut event on Saturday the 27th of June from the MK Arena in Milton Keynes. Tickets are on sale now.
This scrambley Verne Troyer look-alike spends his days down in South London working in the cloud. At night you can usually find this critter on the mats, doing his best to emulate Masakazu Imanari.