Former The Ultimate Fighter competitor Sam Sicilia is no dummy when it comes to where he fits into the UFC hierarchy.
He's a former contestant on the reality show who had to earn his way into the promotion during the season finale by defeating one of his former housemates. Sicilia, as a fighter currently on the preliminary portion of any card, recognizes there's a very short leash for those competitors.
Sicilia is also aware, however, that his style of fighting may earn him some extra time regardless of wins and losses. The UFC brass have said on numerous occasions that fighters who come out and put on a show will almost always have a place on its roster.
It's one reason why Sicilia was able to swallow the loss he suffered in his last fight just a little easier. Defeats are never good, but Sicilia says that even in a losing effort his fanbase grew and the UFC seemed ecstatic with the show he and his opponent put on.
"Being in the UFC I had this picture in my head of how I had to look and how I had to finish him. Now all the pressure's off. Being down in Brazil, the fans are pretty rough, but he was just another guy once we got in there," Sicilia told Bleacher Report about his fight against Rony Jason in Brazil. "If you're going to lose, you might as well lose swinging. It's a fight that the fans like. I gained a lot of fans from that fight even though it was a loss."
Coming back from that moment, Sicilia was excited when he was offered his next fight against fellow slugger Maximo Blanco. Throughout his career, Blanco has been known as a knockout striker who doesn't mind getting into a few wild exchanges if it means clipping or catching his opponent.
Sicilia knew right away that the UFC setting him up with Blanco meant it wanted a fight that would set up the entire card for the rest of the evening.
"That's why I think they put me in there with him because they want to see fireworks," said Sicilia. "I've been working really hard for this fight, but I'm still fighting to be relevant really. They put me in with guys like that because I'm exciting and he is too, and that's what they want to see."
Staying relevant is one thing. Staying in the UFC is another altogether.
Sicilia may have gained fans even in a loss from his last fight, but he doesn't want to feel that way again anytime soon. Two losses in a row is unacceptable by Sicilia's standards, so he knows this is a win-or-go-home fight.
"I've been in these situations before. When I fought (Cristiano) Marcello, I had to win to get the contract. The pressure was off when I was going to fight Rony (Jason) but it got put back on once I got to Brazil," said Sicilia "I don't want to take steps backwards in this sport.
"Two losses would be a step back, I've never done that in my life in this sport. It's a good pressure. I think about it when I train and it makes me train harder. I feel the pressure right now, but it's a good motivating pressure."
He plans on releasing the valve and unleashing everything built up over the last several weeks of training when he faces Blanco on Saturday night. If everything goes to form, his job will be safe, and a fan at The Ultimate Fighter finale will have a new souvenir to take home.
"I like being in the middle of a scrap for sure. That's where I feel comfortable," said Sicilia. "I won't disappoint either. Because I'm going try to put his mouthpiece in the third row."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Lead photo courtesy of mmaanytt.se.