You have heard of the Jedi Masters such as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, and Yoda are some of the most well-known figures in pop culture, but have you heard of a Jedi Knight who goes by the name Semi?
Matthew Semelsberger, or more commonly known as “Semi the Jedi,” made his UFC debut during the preliminaries of UFC Fight Night on August 27, 2020. Semelsberger fought in a three-round match against Carlton Minus, where he channeled the force of his fists to land over fifty percent of his strikes and secured one knockdown and two takedowns. The fight ended in a unanimous decision where Semelsberger earned his first career UFC win.
Scott Rumsey, the Marist Football Team’s Defensive Coordinator and former coach of Semelsberger, talked about his rise to the UFC and his time at Marist as a football player.
“He was a kid that you kind of knew that fighting was in his blood,” Rumsey said. “During water breaks, he’d be the guy shadow boxing the popups or roundhouse kicking the popups.”
Long before Semelsberger arrived at Marist, he started playing football at the young age of six, which is when he earned the nickname Semi. In his high school years at Urbana High School in Ijamsville, Maryland, he played lacrosse, wrestling, and football. On the football team, he was able to win two Maryland 4A state championships, be selected for the Maryland Crab Bowl and the Baltimore Touchdown Club super 22, and earn All-State and All-County honors.
Semelsberger’s high school career earned him a position on the Marist football team as a safety and a member of the special teams unit. In his four years at Marist from 2011 to 2014, Semelsberger played in forty games while starting in fifteen of them, logging 43 solo tackles, 98 total tackles, and 8.5 tackles for a loss across his career.
“He played all four years that he was here,” said Rumsey, “He played a little bit on defense but also a lot on special teams. His role continued to grow during his entire career at Marist.”
Rumsey also recalled one of his fondest memories of Semelsberger’s time at Marist, laughing and saying, “He was a longboard skateboarder here. He scared the heck out of me coming down the hill at the north field. I swear he passed me going 40 miles per hour. He was kind of an adventure seeker and adrenaline junkie.”
Similar to how Luke Skywalker left what he knew to find his calling on Dagobah, Semelsberger dropped out of Marist College in his senior year to pursue his calling to become a UFC fighter, giving up on his dreams to be on an NFL roster.
In an interview with FOX Baltimore reporter Morgan Adsit, Semelsberger commented on his decision to leave Marist and his transition to the mixed martial arts life.
“I realized the chances of me getting to the NFL wasn’t very good. But long before that, I had started training in fighting and that started to grow on me,” Semelsberger said. “So, I thought, ‘what if we try this fighting thing?’ I was at the registrar’s office and I was standing in front of it for I don’t know how long, just doing double takes. Looking at the door. Looking at the exit. Just thinking, ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ But my mind was already made up.”
Five years later, Semelsberger’s decision to pursue mixed martial arts clearly paid off, as he recently signed a multi-fight contract with the UFC.
“To listen to his interviews and know how he was here, to see that maturation process in him as a man, is probably one of the rewarding parts for us,” said Rumsey, “Just to see him up there and to know that was he always wanted to do, to see someone realize their dream is really all any of us can ask for.”
To be in the UFC, though, you have to have more than just a contract. You also have to have a good nickname. So, Semelsberger decided to put a sci-fi twist on his former nickname to better represent his geeky side, now calling himself “Semi the Jedi.”
Semelsberger now stands with a record of 7-2-0 (win-lose-draw). Currently, his next fight is not yet scheduled, but hopefully the Jedi Knight and former Red Fox finds a way to keep his current four match win streak alive.
Edited by Nick Stanziale & David Connelly