However, featherweight Chris Gruetzemacher (11-1) is still waiting for the call, though that does not mean he is discouraged or frustrated.
“I think I can fit in any one of [the major promotions], and, hopefully, they’ll be knocking on my door sometime soon,” said Gruetzemacher, who trains at the MMA Lab in Arizona. “It’s hard for me to believe I haven’t gotten that call yet. I train with a lot of notable names, and they’ve done things like win ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and win the WEC championship. I’ve got too much support and positive things going on for me to be negative. I’m right there. The big promotions aren’t knocking down my door, but it should be happening soon.”
The 26-year-old Gruetzemacher’s background is one that is fairly common in MMA: a high school wrestler who broadened his horizons after his prep days.
“I wrestled in high school, but I didn’t do anything for about a year and half after I graduated,” said Gruetzemacher. “My senior year, I was a runner-up in the state tournament in Arizona. I wrestled year-round when I was in high school, but I wasn’t super competitive. It wasn’t until my senior year [that] I got super competitive about things. I really went out and tried then.
“After I got done with high school, I walked into a jiu-jitsu school that had muay Thai and conditioning classes, as well,” he added. “I did that for a year before I started training with that gym’s fight team. I trained with the fight team for a year, and then I started my MMA career.”
Gruetzemacher’s first professional MMA fight came in October 2008, when he submitted Shawn Scott with a third-round armbar. In his next fight, he suffered his only loss -- a 25-second guillotine choke submission at the hands of Joe Cronin at a a href="http://m.sherdog.com/organizations/Rage-in-the-Cage-18">Rage in the Cage event in February 2009. Since the setback, he has recorded 10 consecutive wins, the last seven of them finishes. In his most recent outing, Gruetzemacher picked up his most impressive victory, knocking out UFC veteran Roli Delgado with elbows in the third round of their fight at ShoFight 20 in June.
“I can fight everywhere,” said Gruetzemacher, a two-stripe purple belt in jiu-jitsu under Royce Gracie protégé John Crouch. “I can wrestle, I can stand up and I can do jiu-jitsu, too. I’ve wrestled with [UFC lightweight champion] Benson Henderson and [former WEC lightweight champion] Jamie Varner. I’m a legit wrestler, and I’ve been boxing and [doing] standup for five years now. I feel like I’m skilled. I feel like I’m comfortable anywhere -- or at least competitive. No matter where the fight goes, I’m not without answers.”
Despite having solid all-around skills, Gruetzemacher knows he is still a work in progress, especially in regards to the small things that come with being a full-time professional fighter.
“If there’s something I could really afford to work on, it’s my approach to the athlete side of being a fighter,” he said. “I feel like I’m smart in my game, but as far as being an athlete, I still have things to learn. I can’t get enough of the working out in terms of sparring and rolling on the mats, but things like lifting weights, plyometrics, icing after I work out are the things I need to get better at. However long you break down your body, you have to spend just as much time building it back up. There’s a whole education behind that, and I just need to be a better athlete.”
Having fought twice already in 2012, Gruetzemacher is taking some time before hopefully stepping back into the cage later this year. Another victory would make him 12-1 with 11 straight wins and perhaps bring him one step closer to a contract with a major promotion.
“I took two fights this year and had pretty much no time off between those fights,” said Gruetzemacher. “My coaches just want me to take some time off to rest and get better. I was injury-free for those two fights and had two great fights against two solid opponents. I need some downtime to just train and live. I’m not sure anybody else feels this way, but I have a relationship with MMA, and when I’m having to grind, it doesn’t help that relationship. I’m not looking to fight again until the end of the year. I just want to keep working on getting better at things.
“As for signing with UFC or Strikeforce, I don’t know what else to do,” he added. “I don’t have any power or any arms to twist. I can only control what I can control and that’s doing my training, being a part of this community and continuing to grow as a man and a fighter. This lifestyle isn’t glamorous, but I love it. Until I get an invitation and the chance to show people what I can do, I just have to keep working.”