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    Sunday, September 24, 2023

    Is Fitch grad Goff the next UFC champion?

    Mike Tyson, whose oratories rarely hearken Churchill, has become a bit of a sage nonetheless, especially for the day he famously observed, “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

    Indeed. You’ll note, however, that the operative verb was “punched.” Not elbowed, kicked or walloped by some other appendage.

    Now you know something about Billy Goff.

    His plan must change by the second, now that he’s adopted this relatively new way to pass the time: Mixed Martial Arts.

    Goff, who wrestled at Fitch and lives in New London, left for Las Vegas on Saturday for what he freely admits is “the biggest fight of his life.” His bout Tuesday at the UFC Apex will determine whether he gets a professional contract with UFC in the Dana White Contender Series.

    “A lot of things are about to change,” Goff said one day last week, preparing for the trip to the Neon Desert, where he’ll face fellow welterweight Shimon Smotritsky, Russian born, with the rather explicit name “Assassin.”

    Goff graduated from Fitch in 2016, admitting he “made poor decisions” for a while, leaving him in need of fulfillment. So much for stamp collecting or gardening. Soon, he found himself at a gym, the aptly named “Roughhouse” on Buddington Rd. in Groton, occupying his time by graduating from wrestling to MMA.

    “The transition from wrestling to fighting is very similar,” Goff said. “The training is hard, just like in wrestling. I tried MMA and Jujitsu and did some boxing here and there. But I knew I’d go crazy if I didn’t find something to do. So I started training for MMA and got a fight. I felt like I was supposed to do this.

    “Growing up, I didn’t picture myself being a UFC champion one day. All that mattered was wrestling. But I like my life revolving around a sport. It keeps you in good head space.”

    Provided that the head in question stays tethered to the rest of the body. Which again invites the question most novices to MMA keep asking – and perhaps adds a mystical quality to the already romantic tough-guy image: What’s it like to get hit?

    “It depends on what you get hit with,” Goff said. “A punch and a knee, elbow or kick is different. You don’t feel it really all that much. You register that it happened. But you don’t feel it because you have so much adrenaline. But you feel everything afterwards.”

    Again: You couldn’t take up, you know, cooking? Golf?

    “You have to be a little different,” Goff said. “Be OK with getting hit. Most people don’t like that. When I said my life revolves around fighting, it really does. I’ve turned down jobs (Goff works at Electric Boat currently). Good paying jobs, but second shift, so I couldn’t do it because of practice. I’ve missed family and friends gatherings because of practice. Holidays. If I fight at the beginning of the year, I can eat very little Christmas dinner.”

    Goff’s training regimen might make makes Boot Camp feel like snorkeling in Cancun. He arrives at 6:30 weeknights to the gym, where he’ll begin with wrestling. The formal workout begins at 7:30 and goes till 10:30. There’s also lifting and cardio outside the gym three times a week and some occasional Yoga.

    Goff, 7-2 as a professional, has fought in the Bellator Series at Mohegan Sun. But this is The Biggie. And Goff merely can’t defeat Smotritsky. He’ll have to do so with what the football coach at his alma mater, Mike Ellis, would surely call “pizazz.”

    “I have to win and make it exciting, not just win,” Goff said. “If they like it, they’ll give me a contract. If I win a boring fight, they’re not going to sign me.”

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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