Sometimes a fighter must face an opponent outside a ring or cage. Adverse and unexpected situations can have harder impact than a blow to the face, coming without warning and throwing plans into disarray.
This is what happened to UFC featherweight contender Ricardo "The Bully" Lamas. He was headed for a meeting with ‘Korean Zombie’ Chan Sung Jung at UFC 162 in July when suddenly the fight was cancelled and Jung was promoter to a title shot against Jose Aldo at UFC 163.
Lamas, a Cuban-Mexican, subsequently had to be pulled from the UFC 162 card because there was no opponent for him to face and no replacement could be found on such short notice. He was frustrated.
"I felt very strange," Lamas said in an interview. "I was angry, sad and envious of the fighters who would fight that night and I still wanted to compete myself. When I was watching the fights I felt like a caged animal."
It is an understandable reaction. Fighters must fight. Not only is it their way of life, it is their passion, a way to express themselves. In short, it is a lifestyle. Latino warriors have the fight code engraved on their heart from birth, it is not something which can be acquired in the gym. Lamas has followed that code to the present day.
Since joining the UFC in June 2011, Ricardo has fought four times, scoring four victories, three of which have come inside the distance (two knockouts and one submission). These are credentials of a title contender in the world’s leading MMA organization. However, he is still waiting for what will be the fight of his life.
"I want to fight the winner of [this weekend’s] Aldo/Zombie match. And I want to fight the winner in Mexico or very close to Mexico for my people to see it live when I win the title," he says.
That is some optimism from Lamas but the pieces are possibly coming together for him. Mexico is a target for the UFC to stage a major event. This year we also saw a major upset as Chris Weidman took the middleweight belt from Anderson Silva, ranked as the best fighter on the planet.
Other examples include GSP having Johny Hendricks as a powerful challenger against him in September and many are expecting a surprise in the welterweight division when they meet. This year, Jon Jones will be threatened for his crown by the Swedish giant Alexander Gustafsson, who could present the biggest challenge of his career thus far.
Ricardo likes the idea of having new rulers in each division and says that 2013 “will be the year of bad luck for the UFC champions. And if the UFC gives me the opportunity to fight for the title, I will prove that this theory is in fact the truth.
"It's a long wait to fight for the title, its been a year! Since I won my fight with Hatsu Hioki showed that I was the number one contender and when I beat Erik Koch proved once again that I am the number one contender.”
His fans have supported him through social networks, creating a campaign on Twitter called #LamasNext, which requests that the Latino fighter is the next to challenge for the UFC featherweight title.
Regardless of the outcome this Saturday, Lamas feels a whole crowd behind him and has a message for Aldo and Jung: “I have great respect for you both... but get ready, because ‘The Bully’ and the strength of the whole Latin world is on its way. I will not stop until I win my belt.”