Canadian light-heavyweight Krzysztof Soszynski waited a long time to get into the UFC so every time he gets a chance to climb into the cage, he puts his hand up.
That has made for four fights in eight months, with the latest set for Saturday against Brandon (The Truth) Vera at UFC 102 in Portland, Ore. (available on pay-per-view). It's the second time in as many bouts that Soszynski (19-9-1) has agreed to fight on short notice.
Last time out, he stepped in for Houston Alexander against Andre Gusmao at UFC 98 on less than three weeks' notice - and only five weeks or so after disposing of Brian Stann at UFC 97. This time he had a little more prep time, filling in for Matt Hamill against Vera. But he still had to recalibrate. He got the Vera call one day after being told he was to fight Jason Brilz at UFC 103.
"Another huge fight for me, first fight on the pay-per-view," Soszynski said of Vera. "A huge opportunity and I get to fight someone - who if everything else works out in this fight and I win - moves me up the ladder quite a bit. So (I was) very exited about the opportunity and we said yes right away and started training right that day."
Soszynski has won all three of his UFC fights, disposing of Stann and Gusmao in a total of seven minutes 10 seconds while collecting US$70,000 for submission of the night for his kimura on Stann at UFC 97. He opened his UFC account with a second-round submission of Shane Primm last December in the finale card to Season 8 of "The Ultimate Fighter."
The 32-year-old Canadian is savouring his success after a long journey to the UFC, pointing to a newly minted mental game for making the recent ride a lot easier.
"After seven years of hard work, things are finally paying off," he explained. "There's a period in my life where the fighting thing was just not going well for me. Just mental blocks. Physically I was always ready but mentally just that MMA thing was just really hard for me to pick up and understand. And finally over the course of the last two years, being out here at Team Quest and training with Bas Rutten and Shawn Tompkins in the past, they've all really helped me get my mental game down to where it needs to be . . . I've completely turned my mental game around where I actually have fun in there now. You've seen me walking out, I have a big smile on my face and I just really enjoy the fight.
"All the hard work I put in the training is paying off and that's where I need to focus on is that 'Hey, the hard work is outside the ring, the ring is just where you have some fun and enjoy."'
The Winnipegger, who now makes his home in Temecula, Calif., is also winning fans as well as fights.
An enthusiastic prankster, he got lots of face time during his stint on "The Ultimate Fighter." A member of Dan Henderson's inner circle, he was also featured on the "Countdown to UFC 100" TV show, using his dry sense of humour to good use - especially after the Bisping camp predicted a knockout.
"That's hilarious," Soszynski, a big grin on his face, said by way of response on the show. "Let me see. Wanderlei Silva couldn't knock out Dan Henderson, Quinton (Rampage) Jackson couldn't knock out Dan Henderson. Oh my God, and Michael Bisping says he's going to knock out Dan Henderson? I'm just going to laugh."
Henderson knocked an outmatched Bisping out cold in the second round.
"I spoke the truth," Soszynski said. "It was very positive and I got a lot of comments back, saying that people had a good laugh about me laughing at Michael Bisping and stuff. And what I said was true and it actually worked out in Dan's favour. It was perfect."
Actions speak louder than words, however, and Soszynski knows Vera (10-3) represents a huge step up in class.
The former heavyweight has fought nine times in the UFC with a 2-1 record after moving down to 205 pounds. The lone loss was a narrow decision to Keith (The Dean of Mean) Jardine at UFC 89.
Vera (10-3) has excellent Muay Thai skills and savage kicks, which he used to chop down Michael Patt last time out at UFC 96.
"Krzysztof's a good guy, nice guy, tough," Vera told www.ufc.com. "He's a grinder, he's always in shape. It's going to be a good fight, man, he likes to grind, that's how he puts his opponents away, he likes to grind them out. And I know for sure nobody's grinding me out any time sure. So I'm good to go."
Soszynski expects "a war" this time around.
"I think we're going to go in there and bang for a good two, three rounds for sure. It's not going to be an easy fight by any stretch or means, but I'm definitely ready, prepared, my body's 100 per cent. No aches, no pains, no little injuries or nothing. It's been a perfect training camp so far and I think I'm going to shock a lot of people in this fight.
"And after I'm definitely taking a little bit of a vacation for sure."