T.J. Waldburger has already used his jiu-jitsu to finish three fights in the UFC, but he has bigger hopes for the martial art.
“The UFC was founded on jiu-jitsu,” he told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “That’s what made it what it is today. I think there’s a lot more wrestling going on, a lot more striking going on. We don’t really see as much jiu-jitsu as you did in the beginning, and I want to bring that back.”
Waldburger put Nick Catone to sleep with a triangle choke 1:04 into the second round of their matchup at “The Ultimate Fighter 16” finale. The finish marked his fourth win in six UFC fights and also earned him a $40,000 “Submission of the Night” bonus.
“I want [fans] to have that knowledge of jiu-jitsu and be excited to see the fight on the ground the whole time if it ends up being that way,” Waldburger said. “A lot of fans diss on the jiu-jitsu, but they really don’t know all the technique that’s with it, all the movements and everything. Everyone wants to see an awesome knockout, which is totally cool, but there’s not enough credit with the jiu-jitsu and I want to bring that back.”
The 24-year-old Waldburger has been training jiu-jitsu for nearly eight years.
“I kind of just stumbled into a gym,” he said. “My dad wanted to take me there to get my butt whooped because I thought I knew something. He told me about this place, and I just fell in love with it.”
Four or five months later, he was fighting and now several years later he’s in the UFC, where it’s anything but easy to win by submission. Fighters are much better and have broader skill sets than the days when jiu-jitsu dominated, and of course most bouts also have 15-minute time limits. For Waldburger, though, that’s enough time to get the finish.
“I think you have enough time to submit the person in 15 minutes,” he said. “Especially with there being strikes and stuff, it’s different because there doesn’t have to be a slower setup or more of a bait where there would be in just jiu-jitsu. Because there’s punches, it opens up more opportunities. It can be done faster. The only thing I would say with the 15 minutes of time is you’ve only got five minutes at a time. It’s not like a real fight. Sometimes it might take time. Every situation’s different. In a real fight, it wouldn’t just end in five minutes and they give you a minute rest. A real fight’s going to go until someone taps or someone is knocked out. But that’s part of the sport. … The five minutes is also going to have guys hustle and go after it. You get more exciting fights that way too. I can see good and bad. I think, though, overall you do have enough time to submit the person.”