Some mixed martial artists have big dreams of one day fighting in the UFC and becoming the most well-known fighters in the world.  But Mike Stumpf isn’t one of those guys. Stumpf fights for the betterment of himself and for the love of competition. That’s where his heart is. He believes that any success that will come to him will be a benefit of the results of keeping his head down and working hard.

The Illinois native has been an athletic competitor most of his life. He was a wrestler in high school and went on to compete in boxing, where he was a runner-up in the 2006 Chicago Golden Gloves tournament. Out of high school, Stumpf joined Team Curran, established in 1997 by accomplished jiu-jitsu practitioner and veteran MMA fighter Jeff Curran, cousin of Bellator featherweight champion Pat Curran. From there, it seems his evolution as an MMA fighter has occurred naturally. He describes his work with Team Curran as having a “big impact” on where he has gotten in the sport today.

Stumpf (right) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

“I’ve been training there eight years under Jeff Curran. He’s been in the fighting game a long time,” Stumpf explained in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “And we have fighters like Bart Palaszewski and Pat Curran, so training is great. Training partners are awesome. They’re tough. It’s eight years of training, [exhales] it’s been great. It’s really developed my game as a fighter overall. Their gym is an up-and-coming gym and I’d love to put it on the map.”

The majority of Stumpf’s fights and victories have come under the Illinois-based Xtreme Fighting Organization promotional banner alongside many other well-known MMA talents. When T.J. Waldburger’s original opponent, Daniel Roberts, was forced out of their scheduled bout for UFC Fight Night 25, Stumpf got the call to join the world’s largest MMA organization.

“[I] took a fight [on] short notice at September of 2011 and had the first fight down in New Orleans for the UFC. Five days’ notice. And that’s how I got into the UFC,” Stumpf said.

Only having five days to prepare for a fight isn’t a time frame any fighter would be excited about. But when it comes in the form of an opportunity to join the UFC, it is something few regional fighters would decline.

“I cut 30 pounds in five days. That much is a lot for me—it’s a lot for anybody. Usually I like to cut around 15,” Stumpf said with a laugh.

Stumpf wouldn’t accept the short preparation time and weight drop as an excuse for losing the fight, but it certainly didn’t go his way against Waldburger. For the majority of the fight, Stumpf was dominated by Waldburger’s wrestling, before eventually succumbing to a triangle choke in the first round. It’s not the best introduction a fighter could have hoped to have in the UFC, but it’s understandable considering the circumstances.

“I don’t want to take anything away from T.J. Waldburger—he’s a tough guy,” said Stumpf. “I could have had a full training camp behind me and it could have gone the same way. But definitely taking this fight short notice and cutting the weight [and] not having a training camp, I wasn’t fully prepared and at my best. I mean, even with a full training camp, it could have gone the same way. I decided that’s what I would accept when I fought him but, you know, that’s just how it works.”

This Saturday at UFC on Fox 6, Stumpf will be competing in the UFC for the second time. His fight will be broadcast on the FX network as part of the preliminary portion of the card, and that kind of exposure is exciting to the 26-year-old.

“Oh, it feels great,” Stumpf admitted. “I’m excited. Makes me want to fight even harder and show what I can do. So I’m stoked.”

With a full training camp behind him for this fight, fans should expect to see a more competitive fight from Stumpf. But can he hang with the UFC’s competition?

“Well, yeah. I’ve been training hard for a long time,” Stumpf responded. “I feel good about my abilities fighting in the UFC, and I can fight competitively. I’d love to show up this Saturday against Pascal Krauss.”

His upcoming opponent, Krauss, will definitely offer a stern match and has a similar training background to Stumpf’s. Krauss is a German-born fighter that competed in amateur boxing with 18 victories and only one defeat. Before joining the UFC, he was featured in Sherdog’s 2010 “Prospect Watch” column. His game is also rounded out with a background in wrestling, judo and jiu-jitsu.

“[Krauss is a] tough, tough guy,” Stumpf said. “He’s overall real well-rounded, has a good base and everything, and can be dangerous at times. [He] always finds a way to get out of tough situations and submissions. I think [he’s] someone that shouldn’t be taken lightly. I think it’s going to be a good fight.”

Stumpf (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Fans might not be overly familiar with these two fighters, but to the UFC’s credit, this is a balanced pairing of two up-and-coming fighters which highlights a hungry competitiveness contrasted with the too often seen diva behavior from the UFC’s stars.

With both fighters having a background in boxing and wrestling, it will be intriguing to see which fighter will be able to impose his will in the heat of the battle. Regardless, Stumpf has a game plan that he sees as a path to victory.

“Well, I think wrestling is going to come into play, and then keep the pressure on him and don’t give him anytime to think,” Stumpf said. “Whatever he throws at me, I’m going to counter. Counter and score. Counter and advance position. Keep busy and keep the pressure on him.”

As for how he sees the fight ending?

“No, I don’t predict outcomes,” Stumpf said. “I can’t tell the future. If I had it my way, it would be a first-round knockout, but who knows, we’ll see. We’ll find out.”

Mike is managed by SuckerPunch Entertainment. He would like to thank Team Curran and his friends and family. Follow him on Twitter: @StumpfMMA

Top Photo: Mike Stumpf (top) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

David Massey studied Humanities and Art History at the University of Central Oklahoma. He first found interest in MMA from the first TUF show and has been hooked ever since. He began posting on mmajunkie then submitting Sunday Junkie entries and that began his interest in writing about MMA. Through twitter David found other MMA enthusiasts and began contributing articles to marqueemma.com. He looks forward to growing as a writer and being a part of the sport he loves.