The UFC made headlines in late 2011 when it announced the addition of a flyweight division. To kick off the action in the 125-pound weight class, the organization set up a four-man tournament with the winner being crowned the first-ever UFC flyweight champion.
The buzz surrounding the announcement grew when the list of entries included the No. 1-ranked flyweight in the world, Ian McCall.
While it can be difficult for a fighter to generate buzz competing outside the UFC banner, McCall's run at Tachi Palace made him the top 125-pound fighter in the world. Alongside "Uncle Creepy," former No. 1 contenders in the bantamweight division Joseph Benavidez, Yasuhiro Urushitani and Demetrius Johnson were set to make a historic run at the flyweight crown.
Unfortunately for McCall, the transition to the sport's biggest stage wasn't a smooth one.
After a draw with Johnson in their opening-round tilt, "Mighty Mouse" bounced back in the rematch to earn the unanimous-decision nod. Johnson would go on to win the title after defeating Benavidez in the finals, and McCall was pushed to the side for the time being.
It certainly wasn't the end result the Southern California native was hoping for, but this Saturday night at UFC 156 against Benavidez, he will have the opportunity to begin his charge back to the top.
"I feel like I have failed at this point in my UFC career," McCall told Bleacher Report. "I want to fix that. I want to be where I should be and that is the champion. But before I can go down that road the most important thing for me right now is just to get a win. I need my first UFC win. That is my main goal. I want to get out of there with the 'W' then I can worry about the other stuff later."
The matchup between McCall and Benavidez is figured to be nonstop action from bell to bell. Both men bring exciting styles to the cage and have built reputations for their high-output offensive attacks. The bout is set to kick off the pay-per-view portion of the mega-card, and McCall promises the flyweight scrap will deliver.
"There is going to be excitement in this fight," McCall said. "We are going to beat the crap out of each other with smiles on our faces. We are friends and I think he's in the same place I'm in because we beat up our friends everyday. I basically live at the gym and I have no problems punching my friend in the face. We are going to put on a good show. It is going to be 15 minutes of all-out fighting. Of course I'd like it to be shorter than that but fans are going to get to see some good technique and all around MMA."
"Stylistically I think this match-up is perfect for me. He comes to fight and I like that. I have a lot of training partners who are like that and my style is good against opponents who fight that way. You have to be careful with his punching power but we worked diligently on defense. It is going to be interesting."
Stepping into the cage on Saturday night in Las Vegas, McCall will have the opportunity to breathe life back into his UFC championship hopes. The 28-year-old came into the most successful promotion in mixed martial arts with great expectations, and a win over Benavidez is the first step on his journey back to the top.
Overcoming adversity and circumstance is familiar territory for McCall—and when you've been through the hardest of times, redemption is the perfect motivator.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained first-hand unless noted otherwise.