Speaking with WLMMA’s Welterweight Champion, one might forget he’s on a four-fight win streak, all of them coming by finish. He is reflective, nonchalant, and thoroughly self-deprecating. After his debut at WLMMA in 2016, his rise has been consistent and borne from his deep passion for the martial arts and his future looks bright.
How were you introduced to the martial arts? What other sports did you play?
At the Age of 17, Felix Früh, a friend from our partner school introduced Muay Thai to me. I’m from a small village in Swabia called Gohren, between Lindau and Friedrichshafen. It is a scenic area, but I did not have the training possibilities that are available in a bigger city. Back then I was wandering through the landscape of different sports to finally find the one I could fall in love with on a competitive level. I was into swimming, track and field, triathlons, unicycle riding; almost everything, but nothing felt really rewarding.
With Muay Thai and Boxing that was different; I felt like all of it combined was improving my skills and my character as well. What I did not know back then was my personal training needs. Since it was a rather rural area, we had low competition expectations. Most of the training there was fitness training and movement drills. I never really started to peak out from the group and kind of expected to just not be a “born” fighter.
How did you transition to MMA?
It took me a few hundred kilometers and an internet friend who wanted to introduce me to MMA. He told me he knows more about fighting than me and challenged me to a match. He got a takedown on me and fought me on the ground. I did not know what was happening and why he wasn’t just standing back up to “fight“. It took me a while to understand how hilarious it is to take a striker down and force him to grapple with you.
So when I moved to Mainz in order to study I had the intention to go to a grappling team, Suum Cuique, for a few months in order to learn basic ground defence and then be able to keep an MMA fight standing, or if not at least defend on the ground.
First, I learned that the training at Suum Cuique really fulfilled my training needs. They did not waste time with fitness or too much movement training. I still wonder sometimes why on Earth I ever thought doing a few hundred push-ups would make me you a better fighter. Secondly, I learned that they really wanted me to compete, and after just two months my coach put me in my first tournament, in which I had three fights.
Seems you had a strong run as an amateur overall and pro debut (7-0, all finishes) before your second pro fight against a rather experienced opponent. What was that like?
My second fight was against the rather improbable challenge named Stephan Janßen. After I surprisingly got him to the ground, I just put my chin right in front of his feet. And for whatever reason even after he landed two up kicks I still did not move away. This was surprisingly not the best choice.
What did you change in your preparation that made you successful?
It turns out more experience, improved technique, and decreased want to get my chin kicked away by upkicks makes quite a difference in fighting. The preparation was quite simple and similar. Having teammates with amazing abilities and that smash you in training pretty much does the trick.
(In the rematch, Zeitner avenged his loss in dominant fashion, finishing Janssen in the first round)
What do you think of as your advantages?
Even though I do not by far not have the strength of a Daniel Huchler, or the trickiness of a Stephan Janßen, I can be quite annoying. And if everything else fails I am willing to do the Homer Simpson. Who needs brain cells when you’re old?
Who do you look up to?
I look up to all my coaches. They were building up a sport at a different time. Nobody was knowing too much about fighting back then, so they were in the same situation that I was in at the beginning of my journey. But in comparison to me, they were a little smarter and actually built up a lot of amazing skills.
If I would have to name some famous fighters, I would first say GSP. He has an amazing training mentality and stayed humble until the end. Also, I would say Ben Askren. I just love his style; he just grinds and annoys his opponents to absolute exhaustion.
Who would you like to fight next?
Well, the obvious answer for me is Tomasz Sobcak. My coach called him the toughest fight in We Love MMA for a long while. Another really interesting matchup is “Mr. Iron Will“ Aleksander Stojicic. Both would be a real honour for me. And last but not least, in Düsseldorf someone is going to get a welterweight title…
Outside of fighting, what else do you do? Are you coaching also?
In “real life“ I’m studying Sport Science and do rehabilitation training with older or injured people. I also love to do commentating and interviews for fight24. I recently started to work as an MMA referee (and hope to do so in K-1 and Muay Thai). I’d love to make fighting a career. I will see what will happen. I also love to coach. I do maybe three times a week. I surely will do it a lot more one day.
Sounds busy, what’s your training schedule like? Has your study of Sports Science changed how you train?
Right now I do not really have a rest day. I know that I will not work forever, but since I am quite young and do not care too much about the rest of my life. It’s stupid, yet I succeed with it. On occasion, I train with Dustin Stoltzfus since we are still quite far away from each other. I practice wrestling with Onder Tuncer, who will fight for the Bild+ Belt in Düsseldorf. Of course, my study changed things a little, but overall I trust my coaches more than my professors.
What is your philosophy in regards to martial arts?
I love to improve. I usually act like I do not care about the results of my fights, but in private I will cry my eyes out when I lose. I try to have a philosophy of improvement as much as possible. With my coaches and team behind me, I feel I am doing that.
© Rama Reddy