CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Some athletes from the area have reached top leagues like the NFL, but one who trains in the city is now in the largest organization for a different sport: Mixed martial arts.
Joe Solecki has been fighting for almost 20 years.
“By the time I was 6, I started kindergarten and Brazilian jiu-jitsu in the same week,” he said. “I wanted to mimic the Power Rangers.”
Solecki, who’s 25, morphed into a versatile fighter over the years, many spent training and working at Fitness Edge MMA, even after moving to Wilmington, North Carolina.
“I had the resources to really start training for an MMA fight,” he said. “My first one was here in Myrtle Beach as an amateur.”
In three years, Solecki fought several more amateur bouts and even one professionally, but his biggest so far was in Las Vegas last week. With a first-round submission, Solecki defeated his lightweight division opponent in “Dana White’s Contender Series” on ESPN+.
White, who’s the president of UFC, says he was practically speechless after Solecki’s win.
“I could run through the list of how incredible this kid is,” White said after the match. “I’ve got nothing else to say. Welcome to the UFC!”
Solecki won a contract to fight in UFC, which is considered the top organization in MMA.
“They sell it as the world’s most intense job interview and it definitely lived up to that hype,” Solecki said. “I’m assuming I just got to show that I’m a complete fighter, that I have a good head on my shoulders. I think I represented myself and my team well on the cameras and the interviews.”
Solecki says that deal with the $4 billion company is only the beginning.
“It’s going to be a dream,” he said. “Everybody wants to do what you do with the biggest audience, with the most exposure. The more exposure I get, the more I can help people, the more I can motivate people, inspire people, so being on a big UFC card is never going to hurt that. It’s only going to help.”
Solecki says he hopes to get picked for his pay-per-view debut at UFC 244 in November. That event will be held at Madison Square Garden in New York City, near where Solecki grew up in New Jersey.
Watch the Carolina Sports Wrap on WBTW at 7:30 p.m. Saturday to hear Solecki talk about how he won that fight in Vegas, as well as what his fighting strategy will be in the UFC.