It's been a year since Fabricio Werdum last fought in the UFC, and during his absence, the division kept moving forward without him.
Since returning to the UFC last year, Werdum was able to pick up two wins, including his Fight of the Night victory over current top five heavyweight Roy Nelson, and put his name in the hat as a potential contender for the gold.
Still, 12 months have passed since then, and even Werdum admits the circumstances aren't perfect, because, as of his last win, he seemed poised to make a run at the belt in 2012. He's become a forgotten contender because he hasn't been as visible, having no fights since last year.
He plans on reminding the world who he is this weekend.
"It's not ideal. I was off for about a year, and if I could fight four times a year, I would be glad to do that. But I did it for a very good cause, which was The Ultimate Fighter," Werdum explained to Bleacher Report. "I was able to have this great experience. I was in contact with fighting all the time. It would have been different if I was away due to a serious injury or something like that. It wasn't like that. I was able to stay focused on my training (and) I was able to be in the fighting environment all the time. So, (it was) not ideal but for a very good reason."
Since he won his last fight against Mike Russow in June 2012, Cain Velasquez wrestled the title away from Junior Dos Santos, and fellow Strikeforce heavyweight Daniel Cormier came to the UFC and jumped right into the mix amongst the best in the world.
Werdum is happy to make the world remember that he's also right there in terms of title contention, and he believes winning impressively this Saturday will serve as notice to the rest of the division.
"I've been preparing myself for this moment, for this opportunity to fight for the belt for many years now," Werdum said. "I think I was able to showcase in my last fight why I'm ready for it. I did my part, and of course, I have to do it again this time with Big Nog, and I hope to be able to show everyone that I am definitely ready for it. I do feel like I'm just right there, sitting in the corner, waiting for it to happen."
To get to the precipice of a potential title shot, Werdum first has to get past an old rival this weekend when he faces Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the main event for UFC on Fuel 10. Several years ago, when Werdum was still just a young pup in the sport, he fought Nogueira in Pride Fighting Championships.
Nogueira won that fight, and it served as a valuable learning lesson to Werdum, because after that loss he went on to become one of the top heavyweights in the sport, which led him back to the rematch this weekend.
It's a different age now, and Werdum is ready to show Nogueira that he's learned plenty since they first met seven years ago.
"I don't see it as a rematch. I've had all this experience, all these years, (and) they make a huge difference. I see it as an entirely new fight," Werdum commented. "I respect Big Nog a lot, everyone knows that, but in there, I won't acknowledge him. I'll do everything in my power to get past him. It's certainly a different time for both of us. I feel like seven years ago, it was his time, but now it's my time."
Nobody is fooling themselves into pretending that the two fighters in the main event aren't at much different stages in their careers right now.
A few years ago, Nogueira was considered the best heavyweight in the sport alongside former Pride champion Fedor Emelianenko, but as new talent developed and injuries mounted for the Brazilian legend, he was no longer a fighter in the deepest waters of title contention.
Werdum, however, is possibly one or two fights away from challenging for the belt. Still, Werdum hasn't been tricked into thinking Nogueria will just be a pushover because he's not in the same highly regarded position anymore.
"I think he's always a very dangerous fighter. He's always had this very distinct feature about him, which is he's always able to continue losing a fight and then he'll just completely reverse the situation and come out on top," Werdum said. "I feel like he's always going to be that very dangerous fighter, that (he is) always going to have very heavy hands, a dangerous boxing game (and) always have a very good ground game.
"I think he was able to show, and is still showing, that he's doing very well physically. You cannot underestimate him."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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