(Tuchscherer puts Alexey Oleinik right where he wants him during the semi-finals of YAMMA Pit Fighting last April. Photo courtesy of Sherdog.)
With a record of 17-1 and wins over UFC vets like Krzysztof Soszynski, Travis Fulton, and Branden Lee Hinkle, Chris Tuchscherer has been paying his dues for over five years. And yet, the 33-year-old North Dakota native and former two-time NCAA Division II All-American wrestler was told "no dice" when he tried out for TUF 10 earlier this year. Luckily, the UFC came to their senses and decided to give the Crowbar a shot against Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 102 this Saturday, in a match that could be pivotal for both of their careers. After months of training with long-lost-twin Brock Lesnar, Tuchscherer is ready to test his might in the Octagon. And his first opponent had better watch the hell out…
CAGEPOTATO: You tried out for the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter, and ended up with a contract to fight Gabriel Gonzaga. How exactly did that come about?
CHRIS TUCHSCHERER: I thought I was going to get on the show — I tried out, everything was looking good, I got a second interview — then I got home and I got a call saying I wasn’t going to make the show. Later on that week, I got an e-mail from Joe Silva with a contract offer, so it worked out for the best. But I honestly couldn’t tell you why it went down like that. I was never told, like, “your record is this good, so we just want you to have a contract.”
If you did end up as a castmember on this season of TUF, how do you think you’d do?
I think I would have done very well. I would have seen myself as one of the guys to make it to the finals.
At UFC 102 you’ll be facing Gabriel Gonzaga, who’s very dangerous but has been somewhat inconsistent during his time in the UFC. Do you view this fight as a big step up in competition?
Well, I’ve faced some pretty good guys in the past. Gonzaga’s made his resume as a dangerous opponent in every aspect of the game, so I guess it’ll be a step up in competition considering where he’s been so far, but I don’t look at him as being any better of a man than me, or intimidating to me, because we’re all the same. He got his shot in the UFC in a different way, he made a name for himself right when he got in there, and he is who is now.
I’ve seen a few of your fights online, and your general strategy seems to be to take your opponent down and finish the fight with strikes from the top. Is that pretty much how it’s going to go down against Gonzaga?
Yeah, that’s how I’ve always finished my opponents. I’m the type of guy who comes and comes and comes and comes, so Gonzaga’s going to have to deal with that. I’m not gonna let up. I’m always gonna be in his face. So he’ll have some problems to deal with, I can guarantee you that.
What have you been focusing on during this training camp?
I’ve basically been trying to get better at everything. I’ve been focusing on my hands more, because that’s one of my weaker spots. My wrestling’s always been there, so I’ve been keeping that crisp. And I’ve been doing a lot of submission defense stuff, because Gonzaga’s a world-class grappler, so I’m gonna be ready for him there. Thursday was basically my last tough, really good, getting-after-it workout. I had a good workout with Brock [Lesnar] last Monday, then I went to Minneapolis where I’ve been training for the last few weeks, down at Minnesota Martial Arts Academy — that’s where my coach is, and where my other workout partners are from — and I got back home Thursday night.
When did you first meet Brock Lesnar?
I met Brock two and half years ago at Minnesota Martial Arts Academy, when I was working out down there, and shortly after that he signed a UFC contract and called me up to be one of his workout partners. I live in Fargo, North Dakota, which is only 90 miles from where he lives, so I basically travel down there for the week when he’s preparing for a fight and come home on the weekends.
So what’s it like being a human punching bag for the UFC’s heavyweight champ?
[laughs] A human punching bag? No, I don’t feel like that at all. I feel like ever since I’ve started out with Brock, I’ve helped him with his game, and he’s helped me with mine.
Lately we’ve heard a lot about fighters in the same training camps saying they’d never fight each other. If you start kicking everybody’s ass in the UFC and Brock still has the belt, would you ever fight him, or would friendship get in the way?
That’s a good question. I’ve never thought about it. I’m just happy to be where I’m at right now. I’m in the moment, and I’m ready to fight and see where it goes. I’m just thinking about what’s coming up next and that’s next Saturday.
Last year, you made it to the finals of the bizarre eight-man heavyweight tournament organized by YAMMA. What was it like fighting in the YAMMA pit?
It was weird fighting in that thing. When you got on that ramp part, it was a disadvantage for everybody — it didn’t matter if you were a good wrestler or what you are. I got taken down twice on the edges. I can’t say that my loss [to Travis Wiuff] came because I was fighting on that, but I think it could have been a different story if we weren’t. The ramp changed the way that a lot of fight went on. I didn’t like it at all, and I would never do something like that again.
Would you want to have a rematch with Travis on a normal surface?
You know, I get along with Travis Wiuff just great. Travis has actually helped me train for this fight. He lives in Rochester, which is an hour and a half from Minneapolis, and he was coming up a couple times a week to help me train, so me and Travis get along fine. As far as a rematch, I think I’ve moved on from that, and I actually saw that fight against him as a major learning experience. Up until then I was able to take my opponents down and not have to worry about standing up and trading punches with them, but the fight with him was my first fight where I couldn’t take my opponent down. He’s another good wrestler, and we were forced to stand, and I was never really trained with standup. So I kind of look at that fight as a good loss that helped me learn that the more weapons you have, the better off you are.
Is fighting your full time job now, or do you do something else on the side to pay the bills?
I quit my job as a plumber about a year ago, in order to do this full-time. You have to put everything into it if you’re gonna get far and succeed with this sport; you gotta focus everything into it. And having a full-time job and being at this level of fighting, it’s hard to work all day and have the ambition to go train at night.
When you’re not training, what else do you like to do for a good time?
I just took on some land and I’m starting to do some farming on my off-time. I have a three-year-old daughter, and I enjoy spending time with her. She’s at that stage where she’s learning a lot and growing up really fast. I’m usually gone during the week, so when I’m home on the weekends I try to spend my time with my family and hang out with them.
We caught a glimpse of you in the commercial that Brock Lesnar did for Fusion Ammo. Were you compensated in any way for that ad, or is pretending to be murdered by Brock just part of the job?
No, I was compensated for that. [laughs] It’s not just part of the job. That was done in Alexandria, and it took me five minutes to do those parts. And Fusion is one of my sponsors now too, so it all worked out well.
Do you have any specific predictions for UFC 102?
I think Randy Couture’s gonna win his fight against Nogueira. Couture’s always been a guy I’ve looked up to, so he’s about the only the only fight that I’m looking forward to watching.
Is there anybody you’d like to thank or shout out before we sign off?
Yeah, I’d like to thank my sponsors — Liquid Ice, JT Cigarro’s, L2 Contracting, Fusion, Spencers, Deathclutch — and I’d like to thank all the guys who helped me train for this fight, and my coaches too. I appreciate all the hard work they had to go through.