Last year Rick Story's name was on the watch list of surging contenders in the UFC welterweight division. The Vancouver, WA native had put together an impressive six-fight win streak, and with his victory over Johny Hendricks and next Thiago Alves at UFC 130, positioned himself in the Top 10 of his weight class.
Story was ready to square off with the division's best, and when the opportunity to step up on short notice to fight Nate Marquardt arose, he attempted to seize it. But it was a fight he would never see, and following a storm of circumstance which resulted in a loss to last minute replacement Charlie Brenneman, Story suddenly found himself once again on the outside looking in.
"It still bugs me to this day," Story told Bleacher Report. "I hadn't experienced that before and didn't know how to deal with the situation. I still lost and I have to accept it. I have to prove myself. Everyone almost remembers me for that fight. They don't realize I've had two fights since. Every conversation I hear people are saying they saw my last fight with Brenneman. I get haunted by it quite a bit."
The 28 year old attempted to get back on track as quickly as possible, but a unanimous decision loss in his next outing against Martin Kampmann kept that from happening. It was the first time in his career Story had tasted defeat in back to back outings. The Brave Legion fighter refused to focus on the negatives and channeled that energy into his training. He returned to the gym and locked his sights on making his way back to where he feels he belongs—amongst the divisional elite.
After getting back to the win column at the expense of Brock Jardine at UFC on FX 4, Story is focused on the next task in Demian Maia at UFC 153 this Saturday night in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"When the fight with Jardine was over it was a sense of mission accomplished," Story said. "I accomplished what I wanted to. I didn't get it done up to my expectations because when I go out to fight I want to lay a beating on my opponent and make everyone watching happy that watches me fight. I don't want to be one of those people where fans don't want to see me fight. I don't want to be in that category. I want to be an exciting fighter everyone looks forward to seeing fight.
"This fight with Maia is going to be a dang fight. It's not going to be a fight like my last fight with Brock Jardine—I can tell you that much. This going to be way more action packed."
The bout between Story and Maia is the classic "wrestler vs. jiu-jitsu" matchup. While both fighters have shown a willingness to stand and exchange in recent years, Story isn't sugar-coating what he will be dealing with on Saturday night. Story knows the threats Maia brings to the table, and is looking forward to testing the Brazilian's heart in his home country.
"I probably won't feel anything different until I hear my name announced," Story said about fighting in Brazil. "I'll probably get booed but as of right now it doesn't feel different. I'm not really paying attention to any of that. I am paying attention to whether I'm the underdog in this fight or not. That is motivation for me because it seems the underdog angle is where I have been coming from my entire life. It is a place of comfort for me and gives me more motivation.
"All the facts are out there about this fight. It is what it is. Everyone knows my strengths and everyone knows Demian's strengths as well. I believe wrestling is better than jiu-jitsu as far as fighting is concerned. High level wrestling is far more adaptable to MMA than jiu-jitsu is in my opinion, especially where striking is concerned. If it gets slowed down and turns into a grappling match, I'm going to have my hands full, but everyone knows the facts in this fight. There aren't any secrets here."
The fight will only be the second appearance for Maia at 170 pounds. A freak injury to Dong Hyun Kim halted his welterweight debut inside of the first minute and didn't reveal much about Maia's skill set in his new weight class.
"Making the weight is always an issue for anyone fighting," Story said. "Him coming down and having a 47 second fight with Dong Hyun Kim doesn't really show anything. Anyone can be strong for the first minute of any fight. This is going to be new ground for him and I'll be happy to take him there."
While his immediate focus rests on Maia, Story's ultimate goal is to become a UFC champion. It was a road he was traveling at a steady pace, and while the path has taken some twists and turns, he is confident he can not only regain the position, but take himself to the top.
It will all come down to Saturday night at UFC 153. Story is aware of where he currently stands in the division and believes he belongs in the next tier of the weight class. With that being said, he is excited and ready to prove it inside the Octagon.
"A win over Maia will definitely sling shot me back in the direction I want to go," Story said. "I am not going to make any predictions about where it is going to put me. I know who I have beaten, who I can hang with, and where I belong. I just have to prove it. I have to get it done and then wait for the next call from the UFC to see where they want me to go.
"I'd like to say thanks to my team at Brave Legion and my coach Pat White. I'd also like to say thank you to my teammates Luis Iniguez, Tommy Takemoto, Hamza Salim, and my brother Tyler Story for helping me prepare for this fight. I'd also like to thank my sponsor Hayabusa."
To learn more about Rick Story follow him on Twitter @Rick_Story and his Brave Legion Gym at www.infernoclubs.com.