(Drwal celebrates his victory over Drew McFedries)
Tomasz Drwal was a force on the European light-heavyweight scene, debuting in his native Poland back in 2004. Although he was successful in his first outing, he came unstuck in his second bout when he was submitted by Ulf Fritzmann in Germany. It was six months until the Pole got back to action, the loss seemingly starting a fire underneath him and he went on a thirteen fight tear, taking names and seemingly knocking foes out for fun in Germany, Finland, Poland, Romania and Latvia. The notoriously tough Europeans, particularly of the Eastern variety, weren’t quite stern enough as Drwal registered seven knockouts and four submissions.
It was after this success that he was invited into the UFC, acting as a relatively local draw when the promotion went to London for UFC 75. His Octagon debut wasn’t a friendly one though, as he was stopped by top contender Thiago Silva towards the end of the second stanza. Since then, however, Drwal has committed himself to becoming the best fighter possible – even relocating to San Diego – and has added three wins to his resume in the promotion.
The latter of his victories, a slick submission over the heavy-handed Drew McFedries, signalled his first drop to 185lbs and now he is aiming for the top of the division. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specialist Rousimar Palhares is the next man in his way, and Tomasz is preparing for battle at the Throwdown Training Centre.
“Training is going great,” he revealed. “I have a great team, great coaches, and a lot of world class training partners. My camp is being run by Sarg and Jocko – two 20 year Navy SEALs, Dean Lister as my Jiu Jitsu coach and Tony Pallafox, my striking coach. This is a world class facility with the best coaches that I could find, and it’s in San Diego so I couldn’t ask for much more.”
Clearly happy with his new base, his growth has been evident as he compiled the three-fight win streak, stopping Ivan Serati and Mike Ciesnolevicz with strikes before the submission win over McFedries. Drwal admitted that the move was pivotal for his career to advance:
“I would have moved sooner, but I needed to finish my studies. It is always hard to make a change like this but I needed to make this move. I needed it so I could go to the next level with my fighting.”
The victory over McFedries showed that his grappling has become an extra asset in combination with his fearsome striking, noting that he “always goes into the fight planning for the obvious” which, in McFedries’ case, was his powerful striking. “I am there to fight and that is my only job, standing or the ground. I am always developing and improving all aspects of my game. It is my goal to be the best all around fighter in the UFC,” he added.
He will need to draw upon his skill in all ranges as he faces a much different test on the 27th of March. The stocky Palhares is nicknamed ‘Toquinho’ or ‘Tree Stump’, for his sturdy frame and he brings one of the best submission games in mixed martial arts to the fore. Drwal intends to use all of the assets available to him en route to victory, including his range and well-rounded ability.
“I see it as a great matchup,” he divulged, before referencing ‘Toquinho’s’ leg lock acumen and all-round game. “Of course we are training for the obvious, we are spending a lot of time on the ground. I respect Palhares’s submission skills, he is one of the top submission guys out there. I am training daily with the best grapplers in the world and can tell you that it’s going to be an exciting fight.
“Getting used to an opponent’s size and understanding his potential attacks and limitations help in our game plan. I am prepared for the best and worst case scenarios and I am planning to capitalize on the reach and hit him hard. Real hard…”
Drwal is clearly confident and the matchup is certainly intriguing. The weight won’t be an issue as he noted “the last cut felt great, and this one will be better,” and his training is at a level that usurps any that has preceded it. Rather than a “striker vs. grappler” clash of styles, Tomasz asserted that he is ready to push Palhares in all ranges. We will only find out how the bout will play out when UFC 111 hits New Jersey but you can expect an amazing contest as Drwal fights with his Polish pride, proud to be flying the European flag on the world’s biggest fighting platform.
“It feels great representing European MMA,” Tomasz stated. “I really enjoy all the fans, both here in the USA and in Europe. The fans are the reason we can do what we do. I like to think I can help the sport grow in Poland, and in Europe.”
The fire and competitive nature of the European nations is something that Drwal is sure of and, as a figurehead amongst the community, he believes that within the next few years many European fighters will be held in the same regards as those from North America, Japan and Brazil. With the UFC’s international expansion and “European athletes getting the opportunities to compete at these high levels,” he believes it is only a matter of time.
Until that time comes, Tomasz Drwal will be representing his motherland and will do so with an unrelenting passion. Rousimar Palhares isn’t an easy puzzle to solve, but Drwal will be ready.