Canadian bantamweight Nick Denis makes his return to the Octagon at UFC on Fox 3: Diaz vs. Miller this Saturday. In his last appearance he won the Knockout of the Night award with his impressive win over Joseph Sandoval.
Denis hasn't fought to a decision once yet in his 11-2-0 (1-0-0, UFC) career and he is looking to improve as a mixed martial artist every time he sets foot in the cage.
"Just keep improving all-around everywhere and hopefully just keep posting wins," Denis told Bleacher Report in reference to what he wants next. "In general just improving my wrestling and specific things for each fight and opponent."
Johnny Bedford, Denis' original opponent for Saturday night's fight, had to pull out and was replaced by fellow Canadian and Ultimate Fighter alum Roland Delorme. Late opponent changes are never a welcome thing, but for Denis, he doesn't see the switch from Bedford to Delorme as being too much of a game changer.
"I don't have to adjust it [camp] much, you know, basically neither guy is for the striking. Bedford likes to strike more, Delorme doesn't really have too many striking battles, he's a Judo black belt, they're both brown belts in BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu)," Denis said. "They obviously would both be looking to take the fight to the ground, so it's not so much of a different style of opponent; they are both similar."
Denis is preparing for Delorme at Tristar gym in Montreal and this is his second stint in the city known for its "joie de vie" and quite different in a sense from his hometown of Ottawa.
For those who have had Shawarma, is it the garlic sauce that makes it great?
"I'm much more well adjusted this time around. Things are a lot better here training and outside of the gym, but yeah, I am really enjoying it here in Montreal now," Denis said.
One thing he's missing is a little something called Ottawa Shawarma. You can get the full scoop on that in Denis' blog over at Top MMA News. Basically, Shawarma is like fast food, Middle East style, and in Ottawa you see more Shawarma places than McDonald's or Burger King. Montreal has great cusine, but they just don't compete in terms of Shawarma.
"I've had Amir's a couple of times and it doesn't even compare, it's not even close to Ottawa Shawarma so sadly, I have to live without it," he said.
Denis didn't go to Montreal to eat Shawarma though, he went to train with the best in the business. Tristar gym is known for Georges St-Pierre, but it's a camp that acts as a training ground for rising stars and champions alike.
Denis worked with fellow bantamweight Miguel Torres prior to his showdown against Michael McDonald at UFC 145. Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned for Torres, but that seems to be the case for most of McDonald's opponents. Denis gave his overall opinion on the young fighter who might also be a possible opponent down the road.
"Obviously, he's pretty good; he has good knockout power," Denis said. "He's got good finishing instincts, he goes after it and he's pretty impressive."
In addition to Torres, another Tristar member, Rory MacDonald continued his assault on the UFC welterweight division with a second-round TKO of Che Mills at UFC 145.
"He was great," Denis said. "I was super happy for him, definitely a good performance."
Denis wants to pick up right where MacDonald left off for UFC on Fox 3: Diaz vs. Miller this Saturday night.
Despite fighting on the undercard for a Fox event, Denis doesn't really feel different about it. There is more hype and media surrounding the event, but Denis doesn't care too much.
"My friends and family seem to get more excited," Denis said. "It doesn't really matter, I mean I guess I'm not watching myself, so it doesn't really matter. It's just like another fight, like any other event, I don't get too excited about it."
"For my first UFC fight, I was excited obviously for my first fight. I really noticed when I was there, specifically in the fight, in the cage and all the events leading up to it and after, it really just felt like any other fight. When you are in there, you don't notice any of the lights or cameras."
The fights feel the same, which is good considering things have worked out for Denis so far, but he is already starting to feel the media pressures and added hype that comes with being in the UFC despite only being one fight in.
"I get a lot of interviews, podcasts and all these other strange requests, so I mean there's that," he said. "Obviously, I don't have to say yes to any of them, but it's good for me and good for them and it only takes up a little bit of my time.
"It definitely has increased [..] there are some days where I'll get a text asking if I'm ready for the interview and I'm really not in the mood for it, but that's just part of it, it's not the worst thing in the world so far."
Talking with the media involves talking about fighting for Denis, but for him that's not all he's about. For example, he posts on Top MMA News as noted earlier and will blog about things like Shawarma, not necessarily the last UFC event.
"I pretty much don't plan on ever writing much about fighting and if I do it will be a different spin," he said. "To be honest, my day is filled with training, thinking about training, thinking about this and that and technique and whatever. When I'm not training, I don't want to talk about my fights or UFC, I just like being a regular person. Anyone else I don't think likes to talk about their jobs when they get home, you know."
I think Denis was OK talking to me about his fight and the UFC though, but I think everyone can relate to the idea of preferring to leave work at work.
"I'm a human being first and a fighter second, if I get cut from the UFC, if tomorrow I tripped and broke an arm, it couldn't be replaced and I could never fight again I wouldn't be heartbroken. There's more to life than fighting, I appreciate and I enjoy what I am doing right now, but it doesn't define me, so it's another little h."
At the end of that quote you maybe wondering what the heck a little h is. It's actually a part of Denis' philosophy on life and one of his blog topics if you care to read up more on this simple yet satisfying way to live life.
Getting back to fighting for now, Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber are coaching The Ultimate Fighter this season and these are two guys at the top of Denis' division, guys he could very well face at some point in his career. Cruz and Faber are slated to face off against one another for the third time in a rubber match and Denis gives his thoughts on the fight.
"I think Faber is going to have come up with a different game plan," Denis said. "Cruz is like a magician, he's disappearing and reappearing all over the place, he's constantly moving around so Faber is going to have to come up with something else. I don't know how it's going to go this time, I mean I really don't know, I wouldn't bet on either person."
In terms of getting an eventual title shot and maybe matching up against Cruz or Faber down the road, Denis doesn't know how far off that is and he isn't one to get too caught up thinking about it, either.
"I really don't know, I really have no idea. I mean it's really hard to say," Denis said. "I think the important thing especially for the UFC is you've got to keep winning and you've got to be impressive. The more momentum you build, the more attention you get and the easier it is for the UFC to sell the fight.
"What they want to do is they want to sell the best fight possible. They don't want to have someone who ekes out boring decisions and who has a seven-fight win streak in the UFC, they might give him a shot at the title, but they won't do it happily."
I'm sure fans can appreciate Denis' philosophy on moving up the ladder, anybody who wants to and does put on exciting shows earns a lot of credibility with the UFC and their fans.
He got a great start with the Knockout of the Night over Sandoval a short time ago and it will be interesting to see if Denis can follow it up with another great performance this Saturday night against Delorme.
You can follow Denis' Twitter @theninjaoflove, I think you'll find it interesting, especially if you're in to the world of science and technology.
Leon Horne is a writer for Bleacher Report and is part of the B/R MMA interview team, Follow @Leon_Horne