HOUSTON, Texas — The days and weeks immediately after his loss to Mark Munoz in early July were not without some professional uncertainty for Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch.
That marked the second straight defeat for the Lincolnville native, who before that slump had won his first four bouts in the middleweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship to emerge among the upper-echelon contenders for a world title shot in mixed martial arts’ top promotion.
But two straight losses often leaves a contender struggling to remain relevant within the UFC, or worse.
“This is the first time I’ve lost two fights in a row,” said the 32-year Boetsch, the former four-time wrestling state champion from Camden-Rockport High School during the late 1990s. “To be honest, after I lost to Munoz, I wasn’t sure what the next call would be about, whether it would be for another fight or if my time with the UFC would be over.”
When that phone call finally came, Boetsch was able to a sigh of relief — he would get the chance to fight in the UFC again.
Boetsch, currently ninth in the UFC middleweight rankings, will take on C.B. “The Doberman” Dollaway at the Toyota Center on Saturday night as the main event of the undercard for UFC 166. Boetsch’s fight is slated to be televised live on Fox Sports 1, which will air that undercard between 8 and 10 p.m.
Boetsch (16-6) originally was scheduled to face former Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold, but a knee injury has sidelined Rockhold. Dollaway (14-5) was named as a replacement.
Dollaway, ironically, has rebounded from a two-fight losing streak of his own to win his last two bouts.
“I found out about the switch three weeks ago, so that gave me time to study film and formulate a different game plan,” said Boetsch.
The fight with Dollaway won’t have quite the same stakes for Boetsch as the originally scheduled fight with Rockhold — unless he loses.
“If I had fought Luke Rockhold, a win would have put me right back in the mix,” said Boetsch. “A win over Dollaway doesn’t hold the same weight, but for me it’s all about building momentum again, and it starts with this fight.”
Boetsch knows all about the ups and downs surrounding life in the UFC. Barely 13 months after making his debut with the promotion in February 2008, he was released after a loss to Jason Brilz at UFC 96.
“The first time I took a fight on short notice and was fighting at light heavyweight,” said Boetsch. “I got a win right away in an impressive way, but I went on to have mixed results the first time around, and I had a lot to learn.
“At that point I was still training in my garage and in my father-in-law’s basement,” he said.
Boetsch knew all aspects of his training regimen needed an upgrade if he was to make a career out of mixed martial arts, so while he resumed his career in various regional organizations he also joined AMC Pankration, a kickboxing and MMA training center operated in Kirkland, Wash., by highly regarded fighter-turned-trainer Matt Hume.
“Once I made the changes, my career shifted into another gear,” said Boetsch.
Boetsch won three straight fights to earn a call back from the UFC, then won five of his next six bouts. That surge featured four straight wins after dropping from the light heavyweight (205-pound) to middleweight (185-pound) division in 2011, including high-profile victories over fellow contender Yushin Okami and highly touted newcomer Hector Lombard.
But the back-to-back losses to Costas Philippou at UFC 155 last December and to Munoz at UFC 162 in Las Vegas this July has left Boetsch believing he needs to regroup quickly in order to remain on his sport’s biggest stage.
“My understanding is that it’s three times and you’re out, so there’s definitely a sense of urgency going into this fight,” he said. “I know my time is not done, I’ve got a lot of fights left, but it really all starts Saturday night. I’ve got to get in the cage, perform and put on a good show at the same time. … I’ve definitely got to get back into the winners’ circle.”