Kyle Bochniak still isn’t quite used to all the attention he’s been getting, but that’s okay.
Days away from his return to the cage at UFC 231, “Crash” is fully embracing his newly minted role as a fan-favorite fighter.
In April, at UFC 223, Bochniak jumped into the spotlight headfirst, taking on Russian sensation Zabit Magomedsharipov on the pay-per-view main card.
The two combatants didn’t hold back, putting on a “Fight of the Year” candidate to the delight of the fans across the globe.
Reflecting on the experience, Bochniak sees it as nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. This sentiment is magnified by the fact Bochniak was on the verge of being cut prior to accepting the fight in New York.
“I had no idea it was going to go down that way. I was on the cusp—2-2 [in the UFC], coming off of a win,” Bochniak said in an interview with FloCombat. “I was still green in the UFC and didn’t know if the UFC was going to sign me again because I had no finishes. Would I get a new contract?
"They called me and said, ‘Hey you’re 2-2 and we’re not looking for 2-2 guys right now, but we’ve got a beast that no one wants to fight.’ I was like ‘Who? I’ll fight him. Zabit? Hell yeah, let’s take that fight.’”
Most books closed him as a 4-1 underdog—and Bochniak could feel the doubt in the air.
“We went in there and everyone said I was going to lose,” Bochniak said. “I was going to get killed and get carried out in a body bag.
“All I [wanted] to do was just prove that I can compete with these guys and I’m not afraid of [any]one. Whether I got knocked out or I knocked him out, I didn’t really care. I went in there to [fight] hard. And I think organically people just took a liking to that. All of these people started to follow me and became fans. They’re looking forward to my next one.”
Thousands of social media followers later, Bochniak will finally return to the UFC Octagon in Toronto Saturday night. The 31-year-old fighter will square off with surging Canadian prospect Hakeem Dawodu on the main card portion of the evening’s festivities.
In order to continue to craft his game, Bochniak spent much of his camp in the Great White North, at the renowned Tristar gym in Montreal.
“The experience has been phenomenal,” Bochniak said. “It’s a great fit. I get along with all the guys. Everyone is high level up there. I’ll definitely be making that my second home, going up there and spending a little bit more time.”
A diehard Boston sports fan, Bochniak made it clear he wouldn’t be repping a Montreal Canadiens jersey any time soon. Sports teams aside, Bochniak has nothing but love for his newly sought out home away from home.
“No, they won’t covert me up there, man, I’m going to be a Boston fan for life,” Bochniak laughed. “It’s not too different from Boston, although everyone speaks French. The fighting DNA is up here as well.”
If fans liked his last fight, Bochniak hopes they’ll be even more pleased with his upcoming one. When the dust settles, the Gloucester, Massachusetts native believes he’ll have edged his Canadian foe in his own backyard.
“I still think [Dawodu]’s really green,” Bochniak said. “He’s got a lot of kickboxing experience, but not a whole lot of MMA experience. He’s controlled the pace of every fight. He’s never had anyone who hasn’t backed down.
"I definitely see this bout being fireworks and it being a finish—whether it be me or him. I’m coming in there to make him quit.”