Anthony ‘El Toro’ Birchak is looking to make another run in one of the world’s largest mixed martial arts promotions. Birchak has fought for every prominent MMA league on the planet from the UFC, Bellator, Rizin, LFA, and Combate Americas.
The 34-year old Tucson, Arizona, native is on a three-fight win streak, none of which went past the ninety-second mark. With the recent “retirement” of Henry Cejudo, the current 135-pound king in the UFC, Birchak sees an opportunity to challenge his fellow bantamweights for title contention.
Birchak was previously scheduled to fight multiple time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion Ary Farias in the co-main event at LFA 84 on March 20th. However, like every other major sporting event, it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Birchak last fought in the UFC at UFC Fight Night: Dos Anjos vs. Alvarez on July 7th, 2016. He defeated Dileno Lopes via split-decision. He was not offered a new contract and subsequently released from the promotion.
He went on to sign with Rizin Fighting Federation in Japan. His first fight under their banner was against Japanese legend and former UFC fighter Tatsuya Kawajiri in a featherweight matchup. I asked Birchak if traveling to Japan negatively impacted his preparation and weight cut for his three fights with Rizin?
“No, people can’t believe how much weight I cut in the amount of time that I do it and how healthy and energetic I am when I do it ”
Birchak went on to describe an issue specific to Japan when it comes to tattoos:
” I found this super cool place that let tattooed Americans come in and use the sauna. You cannot have tattoos and enter public saunas or public gyms, you have to be covered up. “
He explained how hard it was initially to find a place to let him in without requiring a shirt in the sauna. Birchak prefers to be bare skin anyway — not wearing plastics when he cuts. This may not seem like a big deal for most, but when you are a creature of habit, little things can add up. He felt he was finally finding his groove, dealing with the intricacies of a foreign land, just as his three-fight contract came to an end.
His experiences in Japan pale in comparison to what he went through in Brazil when he fought Thomas Almeida at UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs Henderson 3 in São Paulo:
” So when we would go to the restaurant every time they would bring… they serve the water bottles in glass bottles like the Mexican sodas, and they’d popped the bottles at your table… tableside. So, one day they brought the bottles to us and they are already open. And I was like, well that’s weird, we’ve been here since Sunday and it’s now Wednesday, and my food was tasting different.”
To his shock, the waitstaff informed him: ” We put a little something in your food to make you a little slow,” that sent Birchak into a panic, he immediately went upstairs to tell his manager. She spoke to the UFC, and they promptly informed her this was typical psychological warfare on the part of the Brazilians, that he was not the first fighter to report this over the years.
Did he feel like he was actually poisoned?
“I can tell you what I felt, and right around three minutes into that fight it felt like I was walking in waist-high water, and my dynamic movement had left me. I didn’t take any devastating shots that would’ve swayed my equilibrium.”
Birchak is looking to ride the momentum of his three-fight win streak — all finishes, a knockout and two rear-naked chokes — back into the UFC. Why not give him a chance to run it back against a USADA tested Almeida, in the United States, where having tattoos, and the possibility of being poisoned is not a factor on fight night.