Tonight, a new chapter begins for Aaron Simpson.
The former Arizona State All-American wrestler has spent the first 14 fights of his career competing as a middleweight, but when he steps into the Octagon tonight against Kenny Robertson, it will be his first showing at 170 pounds.
Simpson made the decision to become a vegetarian three years ago. After fully adapting to the lifestyle, he has taken the next step in becoming vegan, which he credits for helping a great deal in his ability to make weight for the bout.
"Being vegan definitely made the weight cut easier," Simpson told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview. "It is something you have to be disciplined about because it's not necessarily the most convenient thing. Once you live that lifestyle and you know where to go and know what you need; it becomes easier. It was the easiest and cleanest way I could have cut the weight. I feel strong as hell right now.
"People are coming out and talking smack about (Houston Texans running back) Arian Foster because he's decided to become vegan. They are saying he's not going to be the running back he was and he is going to lose muscle mass. That's just B.S. You can get great plant proteins that are healthier than animal proteins. It's just a matter of being disciplined about it."
The fight with Robertson will mark Simpson's official debut in the welterweight division. He was originally slated to face perennial contender Jon Fitch until the AKA-trained fighter was forced to withdraw due to injury.
While Simpson was looking forward to facing one of the division's best right off the bat, he's gained enough experience in the fight game to know it is never a good thing to overlook an opponent.
"When I learned Jon (Fitch) wasn't going to be able to take the fight, I was disappointed for a couple of hours and then I got over it," Simpson said. "I put it behind me quickly because I had to prepare for Kenny Robertson. Anything can happen in a fight, and I'm looking to get the win here. Nothing more, nothing less."
"I know I'm going to be the bigger fighter in this bout, and that is a great change. I spent a lot of time facing opponents who were much bigger than I was, and it was an obstacle I constantly had to overcome. I'm looking to get back to my old ways and get this victory."
Simpson will be entering a division that has become an expressway for contenders since long-reigning champion Georges St-Pierre became injured. With the current state of affairs at 170 pounds, Simpson feels the timing is right for him to add his name to the list of fighters who want a shot at wearing championship gold.
"The welterweight division is wide open right now in my opinion," Simpson said. "There are 10 guys who could legitimately become the champion in this weight class, and I'm looking to be another fighter in that mix."