For the first time since December 16th, 2000, the Ultimate Fighting Championship will return to the birthplace of mixed martial arts for UFC 144.
In one of seven main card bouts, Tim Boetsch (14-4) will meet Japan's own Yushin Okami (26-6) for a middleweight showdown.
In a recent interview, Boetsch told Bleacher Report of his plans to ruin Okami's coming home party, as he'll look to win his third consecutive bout in the 185-pound division.
While "The Barbarian" was certainly expecting to move up the middleweight ladder, he had no idea just how quickly it would take place.
"My initial reaction was really surprised to be completely honest. It was a huge step into competition," said Boetsch. "I was pretty surprised that they were giving me the chance to fight the top of the ladder so soon."
"I was like, 'holy cow.' I didn't think I would move up that quickly, but at the same time I was excited because that's where I want to be," stated Boetsch. "I've always wanted to fight the best guys in the world."
As Boetsch was notified of his upcoming bout, he was also made aware of the location in which the fight would take place at—Saitama, Japan.
Therefore, in order to leave foreign grounds victorious, Boetsch will not only need to defeat Okami but overcome his hometown crowd.
"It's an interesting opportunity because of all the heritage MMA has in Japan. But for all the places in the world to fight, I would want to fight right here in the U.S. You don't have to deal with travel, jet lag and things like that," said Boetsch. "So a lot of things are stacked against you when you travel there to fight.
"Certainly he'll be the hometown favorite, but that's always been one of the aspects I like. I always enjoy going into someone's house and beating them in front of their crowd," stated Boetsch. "He's tough to fight anywhere, yet alone his own country where there won't be any quit in him."
Despite recent success at the middleweight division, Boetsch has yet to meet an opponent with the complete skill set of Okami.
Even still, Boetsch believes there are few areas where Okami will hold the advantage when their main card bout begins on February 25th.
"To be truthful, I believe I have the upper hand everywhere. I'm not really concerned where the fight goes, I just hope he doesn't run too much. We just got added to the main card and it's the first time we're going to Japan in a while," said Boetsch. "So I want to make it an exciting fight for the fans of Japan."
But Boetsch may need to dominate in impressive fashion if he hopes to leave the MMA stomping grounds with his third consecutive victory.
"The Barbarian" is well aware of the disadvantage he may have entering an opponent's home country, as the judges' scorecards tend to favor the native more times than not.
Michael Bisping's victory over Matt Hamill rings a bell when "The Count" was able to escape with a close split-decision victory at UFC 75 despite the controversy of the decision.
"I think he very much wants to go to the judges' scorecards. But I very much don't want to go to the judges. I want to actively pursue him and finish him," stated Boetsch. "That's what I'm going to do."
A win over Okami would certainly be the most meaningful in Boetsch's career to date, as he'll have proved he belongs in the upper echelon of the 185-pound weight division.
But it could also mean something else.
Something even greater.
"Honestly, I could see myself fighting for the No.1 contender's spot after this fight. I won't get a title shot, but I see myself fighting for that spot very soon," said Boetsch.
"But, before that can happen, everyone will get to see me smash Okami."
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