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Budnik debuts as featherweight

Story by Anthony Springer Jr

When pushing your body to its limits via the Xtreme Games gets old, what do you do?

If your name is Mike Budnik (8-1), the answer is mixed martial arts.

After twelve years as a successful inline skater, the New Yorker put his skates in the closet and looked for life’s next challenge. After a humbling experience with a jiu-jitsu instructor, Budnik—who says he hates to lose—was off on his second career of sorts.

“This tiny 130 pound kid beat me up for two hours,” Budnik recalled of his first experience with MMA’s premier discipline. “I was hooked.”

When Budnik’s jiu-jitsu improved, he began helping his friends train for fights. After giving his more experienced peers fits in the gym, they convinced him to take the plunge into the often unforgiving fight game. Budnik won his first eight professional fights and just recently tasted defeat at the hands of Shane Roller at WEC 37 in December.

Despite an impressive record, Budnik is still a relative newcomer to the sport with less than two years of professional experience. And at 34, Budnik doesn’t mind being one of the old(er) guys in a sport many consider to be a young man’s game.

“I was always one of older guys skating,” he said. I was in my mid 20s; most of kids were between 16 and 18.”

The constant wear and tear on his body, coupled with the birth of his first child proved to be the catalyst for a lifestyle change.

“I was sick and tired. It’s every day of your life. It’s the equivalent of getting in a car accident.”

While it may seem odd that Budnik would trade one sport known for injuries with another known for bumps and bruises, he finds MMA to be easier on his body.

“Every day I was soaking in a tub of ice, I couldn’t walk, I was busted up. It was miserable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 34-years-old. I still get really sore, but it’s mainly just muscle fatigue. I’m not falling. I was falling 35 feet [skating].

“The injuries you get fighting are more severe, but they’re far between. I got hurt skating every day. This is a watered down version than the training I did for skating.”

At 34, Budnik knows that his time is limited, which he credits for keeping him motivated. Urgency aside, Budnik is able to shed the pressures that many younger fighters have because he works full time. There’s no pressure to win to keep a roof over his family’s heads or food on the table. Because of this, Budnik is able to relax and not stress over the results of a bout.

“I got into it as a hobby,” he says of his beginnings. “I have a full time job; any money I make from fighting I put aside for my kids.

Budnik will get another opportunity to stash away some money tomorrow, when he makes his featherweight debut against the undefeated John Franchi. The drop in weight class will bring some relief, as the 5’9 Budnik will find himself several inches taller than most of his featherweight opponents—including Franchi.

“When I look at the stars in the featherweight division, they’re all 5’5 or 5’6. It’ll be a nice welcome change to fight somebody that’s not towering over me height wise.”

With power in his hands and an evolving submission game, look for Budnik to send a message to the 145 pound division.

“My punching power is good enough to hang with anybody.  I won’t walk through this division but I think I’ll make an impact.”






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