At times over the past 16 months, the waiting came to become difficult for Mike Stumpf.
Losses never sit well with fighters like Stumpf, who lost his Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight debut in a first-round submission to TJ Waldburger in 2011 after taking the fight on five days’ notice.
Since then, the 2005 Crystal Lake South graduate has fought to get back, battling injuries and making sure his next fight would yield different results.
Stumpf will fight on the undercard of Saturday’s UFC on Fox 6 event at the United Center, facing Pascal Krauss. Krauss (10-1 overall, 1-1 UFC) is coming off his first loss in five years while Stumpf – who said he has no guarantees of maintaining his UFC contract after Saturday – knows how important a victory against Krauss could be.
“It’s a huge fight,” said Stumpf, who has coached wrestling at Jacobs and Prairie Ridge before turning his focus to his own competitive career. “[UFC] can cut you at any time, and so you have to be at your best at all times, and I look at this like I need a win for sure.
“It’s the life of a fighter – you have to win to keep fighting.”
For much of his professional fighting career, which started in 2006, Stumpf hasn’t been accustomed to losing. Before signing with UFC in 2011, he had won five of his previous six fights, compiling an 11-3 record.
But making the jump to UFC has required some adjustments. Stumpf discovered the competition level was much higher, forcing him to really hone in on how he prepared. He became much more in tune with his diet and nutrition and has used the past 16 months to sharpen his fighting skills, training with Jeff Curran of Crystal Lake.
The biggest issue was dealing with chronic back issues that have plagued him throughout his career along with regaining timing and rhythm. After a strong training camp that followed a long road of rehabilitation to training at full strength, Curran believes Stumpf is now ready.
Especially with so much on the line.
“He seems kind of hungry; he seems kind of anxious to get out there and see what he can do,” Curran said Thursday. “Like every other UFC fighter in the world who’s not a marquee name, he has to prove himself – they will cut him.
“So now, Mike has to come out and perform.”
Making his UFC return in Chicago is an opportunity Stumpf relishes. And yet while he embraces the idea of fighting in front of a hometown crowd, he won’t get wrapped up with anything but fighting to keep his chances of remaining with the promotion alive.
“As far as nerves and pressure go, that’s long gone,” Stumpf said. “I’ve got plenty of fights under me to know how to respond and whatever happens, happens. You just have to make sure you put 100 percent into your training and fight to the best of your abilities.
“Everything else is kind of out of your hands.”