How a pursuit of mastery turned Osipczak away from the UFC
It’s June 20th, 2009. ‘Slick’ Nick Osipczak forces Frank Lester to tap-out in the first ever UK v US Ultimate Fighter series in the United States. His unique submission move sees his name echo around the MMA community and reach the ears of the UFC.
Despite not making it past semi-finals of the competition, more performances in a similar vein to the one against Lester earn Osipczak a UFC contract.
Fast-forward a few months; Osipczak wins his first UFC fight and goes on to compete in four more after that until November 2010. That was his last fight in the UFC – a split decision loss to Duane Ludwig.
But why exactly did the British welterweight of Polish descent, who showed such promise, just vanish? After all, his combined MMA and UFC record was a positive 6-3 (as per Sherdog).
Nick recounts his first ever UFC win: “I just found myself in that situation [winning a UFC fight], it wasn’t a lifetime goal or anything like that.
“In fact, I would more likely have been thinking to myself around that time, ‘how did I come to be here, doing this?!’. One thing for sure is I knew I wouldn’t be like the majority of fighters who would compete continuously for as long as they could until their bodies gave up on them and had taken too many head shots.”But the question remains – why did he just disappear with such a promising career beckoning? He makes a revealing comment.
“As UFC is first and foremost an entertainment business, it’s difficult to train optimally when you have to answer to their beck and call,” said Osipczak.
The key word in that sentence is “optimally”, as it helps explain what happened next.
Upon leaving UFC, Osipczak embarked on a journey to learn and master the internal arts – or more specifically, Tai-Chi Ch’uan.
This spiritual martial art that focuses heavily on mind, body and soul is one of the most demanding arts in the world and demands pure dedication from its students.
What began as a hobby has now consumed Osipczak’s life as a fighter – not only is he still a student, but he also teaches.
“We [students] are drawn to the feeling of ‘oneness’ that is experienced during complete presence of the moment.” says Osipczak. “For me, the Internals are a more direct route towards understanding the essence of the inter-connected workings of the mind, body and spirit.”
His devotion to learning the craft and its inner-workings is rare to see in someone previously involved in an activity which, by his own admission, was part of the entertainment business but with real blood.
“Cutting weight, fighting when and where they say, and doing the promotion side of things – it’s difficult to balance,” he said.
“For me, mastery is a life-time pursuit, whereas you only get a few shorts years to compete in the Octagon. I cannot say anyone has or will stop me from achieving mastery of the Martial Arts – the choice is mine.”
Osipczak is seen as one of the first fighters to develop the art of Tai-Chi within professional MMA, which has been showcased in his most recent fights outside the UFC.
Although Nick has been fighting professionally on and off since 2015, he isn’t tied to one specific competition or industry.Carrying an entire art in a professional environment is an achievement that brings with it a lot of pressure for someone still trying to master the craft.
“Of course it [using Tai-Chi professionally] means there is a great responsibility on my shoulders, should I chose to contemplate that side of things too much,” Osipczak says, laughing.
But behind the laughter is someone with a deep respect for Tai-Chi and a hunger to absorb every part of its wisdom.
Tai-Chi Chu’an is said to have been created in 12th century China by Zhang Sanfeng and has since become one of the nation’s five most important martial arts, along with the likes of Kung-Fu.
The modern day version is practiced both as a means of self-defence but also for personal health, as it is viewed as a way of loosening muscular and bone-related pains, and burning fat.
There is a misconception that Tai-Chi is a martial art that is trained leisurely – something that pensioners incorporate as part of their daily stretching routine – but the execution of the art as self-defence can be brutal.
The focus is on eliminating the distinction between offence and defence, with each movement being powerful and all the while remaining rooted and balanced.
Essentially, that can make a fighter far more efficient inside the octagon – giving them an advantage over their opponent.
“I do not believe any one style or system holds a monopoly on knowledge. However, compared to my training before embarking on my Tai-Chi journey, more emphasis was given to the ‘softer’ side of training, with balance always at the forefront of the mind, and longevity as one of the primary goals,” said Osipczak.
When speaking, Osipczak gives off a vibe of gentleness and intelligence rare in sporting figures. He speaks like a master of the arts; a quote-machine in his own right.
While the 31-year-old values personal development over a career with the UFC, it was interesting to hear how he rates his previous career.
“Iron sharpens iron, as they say. I was only 3-0 as a professional fighter when I entered the UFC, and had only been training in MMA for four years. Being thrown in with the sharks is a good way to learn how to swim,” he says.
“I have started to see my career more in terms of how many people can I have a positive effect on during my lifetime”
“In terms of professional fighting, competing for the UFC is widely acknowledged to be the pinnacle. However, how well I did battling other men will carry little weight as I approach my death bed, and so I have started to see my career more in terms of how many people can I have a positive effect on during my lifetime.”
But, the million-dollar question remains: will the fighter formerly known as ‘Slick’ Nick ever return to the octagon?
“I don’t know. I feel I am still a few years away from reaching my peak. I am happy with the rate I am currently improving, and am putting a lot of my time and energy into raising my family and teaching workshops.
“If I do return to competition, it will be to represent the Internal Arts, and demonstrate their superior efficiency,” he asserted.
Tai-Chi Ch’uan’s health benefits mean it is growing in popularity in the UK. But Osipczak is not one for forcing it on people.
“I try not to see things in terms of what people should or shouldn’t do – simply, when the student is ready, the teacher appears,” he says.
“But I’m sure Tai Chi will explode in popularity over the next few years, not too dissimilar to the way yoga has done before.”
Osipczak also admits that teaching still the best way of learning, which is why both are so important to him.
“Much of my enjoyment and fulfilment comes from furthering my competence of Tai-Chi Ch’uan, so for me it is a bonus that I can share the benefits of it with so many others,” said Osipczak.
In his first career, the 31-year-old was known as Slick Nick. But now, he is looking to develop a new persona and nickname for his on-going journey representing the Internal Arts.
“When I returned to competition after a five-year break, I knew I was a completely different fighter to the one that had competed before so ‘Slick’, no longer seemed appropriate.
“I knew a new one would pop up organically, and the day before my fight, I saw the photo hanging in my hotel room, labelled ‘Supernova’ – I knew a fit had been found.”
Much like a supernova, Osipczak will be hope his career continues to shine with unparalleled brightness.
You can find Nick’s classes here [http://raisedspirit.com/index.html]. He will also be hosting workshops in Goa (February) and Oxfordshire (June).