UFC

Voelker humble despite UFC debut

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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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Bobby Voelker is a veteran of more than 40 fights counting his amateur days, although the welterweight told FOXSports.com he finds himself buried by something besides expectations as he inches toward his UFC debut.

“There’s a lot of paperwork,” Voelker joked. “There’s been a lot of emailing and faxing stuff all over the place. I’ve just tried to stay focused on my camp and not let all of that get in the way. It’s something I’m not used to.”

Voelker is the latest Strikeforce alum to make his way into the UFC. His debut comes against Patrick Cote in a welterweight match as part of the UFC 158 undercard that can be seen live on FX from Montreal, March 16 (8 p.m. ET).

It’s an opportunity Voelker, 33, has sought for more than a decade, although he’s not about to quit his day job working construction in Kansas City.

“I have a full-time job,” Voelker said. “I don’t make enough fighting yet to throw away my job installing sliding glass door and windows. I’ve been doing this 14 years now. I train early in the morning, work construction all day and then train at night.”

The blue-collar mindset could be why Voelker said he isn’t concerned much about facing Cote in his native Quebec in front of thousands of supporters at the Bell Centre.

“It’s great to be in the UFC, don’t get me wrong,” Voelker said. “I am going to stay focused whether five people are watching or 5 million. I know the task at hand.”

Voelker had a lengthy amateur career, one that spanned nine fights. (That's the official number of amateur fights recognized by UFC. The actual number could be as high as 15.) He points out that his amateur fight count wasn’t about his lack of readiness for the pro game; it was more about geography.

“Pro MMA wasn’t legal in Kansas or Missouri at the time,” Voelker said. “It just wasn’t sanctioned.”

One of his buddies found a fight for Voelker in Iowa, a bout that ended in a second-round TKO. Voelker won all nine of his amateur fights, seven by knockouts.

Voelker is the only welterweight Strikeforce alum in action at UFC 158 not to hold the belt in the organization bought and then absorbed by UFC.

Nick Diaz, the first Strikeforce champ in the weight class, takes on Georges St-Pierre for the UFC welterweight title. Nate Marquardt, the second fighter to wear the Strikeforce welterweight belt, faces Jake Ellenberger. The card almost had the final fighter to claim the Strikeforce 155-pound title (Tarec Saffiedine), but he passed on the opportunity to replace an injured Rory MacDonald against Carlos Condit; Johny Hendricks took the fight instead.

“It was a huge jump,” Voelker said about signing with Strikeforce. “I knew I wanted to get to UFC. Strikeforce was a good stop to get in there and build a name for myself. It allowed me to reach my overall goal.”

Voelker went 3-0 in Strikeforce, the last a second-round TKO of Roger Bowling in July 2011. A knee injury he suffered in training last April prevented him from fighting since.

Voelker could be a couple of victories away from reaching contender status, although he doesn’t seem to be too much in a hurry to quit his job in construction and move to Albuquerque, San Jose or Miami — the sites of many of the top MMA gyms in the country.

“I don’t know,” Voelker said. “I like it here in Kansas City. I know it so well. I’m staying as long as I continue to get better.”

KC is where he got his start as amateur — if you could call unsanctioned fights on the playground amateur fights. Those would be his paperless fighting days, not counting any paperwork given to him by the principal’s office.

“I just knew I loved fighting and my family wanted me to do it in the ring so I wouldn’t get into any trouble,” said Voelker, whose path in the sport began in boxing. “They know it’s a passion of mine.”

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