Brad Tavares is no stranger to competing in hostile territory.
The 26-year-old Hawaiian has stepped into the Octagon nine times since his stint on The Ultimate Fighter, with four of those bouts coming against opponents who were fighting in front of hometown crowds. In fact, all but one of his last five outings have come behind enemy lines, as Tavares has traveled the globe to face fighters attempting to defend their native soil.
He clashed with Tom Watson in England and scrapped it out with Riki Fukuda in Japan. He battled Indiana native Robert "Bubba" McDaniel in Hoosiers territory and then locked up with Florida transplant Yoel Romero at UFC on Fox 11 this past April. While the Ray Sefo protege found success in all but one of those tilts, they came with an added element of experience.
Tavares now knows he can go into any environment and find victory, and he'll be looking to add another chapter to his travel journal this weekend when he faces off with Tim Boetsch at Fight Night 47 on Saturday in Bangor, Maine.
The Barbarian was born and bred in The Pine Tree State, and the Xtreme Couture-trained fighter has certainly adjusted to facing his opponents where they are most comfortable. Those elements could be enough to rattle some fighters, but Tavares credits his island upbringing for instilling the love for the scrap in him at an early age.
"The streak continues," Tavares told Bleacher Report. "This will be another fight where I have to go into someone's backyard and fight the hometown hero. But I'm used to it by now and let's do it.
"I've said it before, but Hawaiian fighters have a different type of toughness, and it's because of how we come up. It's not like bullying or anything like that, but we are raised to handle problems when they come up. If there is a problem, you and the other dude fight it out and shake hands afterward. It's all cool, and it's the way we settle things. I know that sounds immature and dangerous, but it wasn't.
"The fights we got into as kids were all under control," he added. "I see videos on the Internet nowadays where things just get out of control and people get hurt. Street fights in Hawaii are so controlled you would think they were sanctioned. It's really hard to explain. It's almost like a peaceful violence."
In addition to overcoming the unique element of fighting in an opponent's backyard, Tavares will also be facing another circumstance heading into his showdown with Boetsch on Aug. 16.
The surging middleweight was riding a five-fight winning streak coming into his most recent bout with Romero back in April, but the Olympic silver medalist's wrestling proved too savvy on that night, handing Tavares his first setback since July 2011.
While his loss to the Cuban wrestling standout slowed his attempt to break into the upper tier of the middleweight fold, Tavares believes his defeat at UFC on Fox 11 provided some much-needed fuel to his fire. The Las Vegas transplant feels there was a little something extra motivating him throughout his preparation for Boetsch, and he is confident fans will see the results of his hard work at Fight Night 47.
"I was hungry to get back in there," Tavares said. "I couldn't wait to get back in there, and I ended up having to wait a week because I had a few injuries I suffered in the fight with Yoel. That kept me out of training my sparring and rolling hard for a little bit.
"I was able to stay in shape with my conditioning and whatnot, but I wanted to get right back in there and start working my wrestling and my overall MMA game. That loss really opened my eyes, gave me a kick in the butt and made me hungry."
While Tavares and Boetsch both have the potential to be major players in the 185-pound ranks, their upcoming tilt will represent something different to each fighter. The Hawaiian striker has been clawing his way up the middleweight ladder, trying to establish himself as one of the divisional elite, while Boetsch has been battling to maintain his status in the weight class.
A four-fight winning streak once had the Matt Hume-trained fighter within striking distance of a title shot; however, losses in three of his last four outings have threatened to force him back into the competitive middleweight deck.
This makes the upcoming bout between Tavares and Boetsch crucial for both fighters, and the TUF alumnus believes it has the makings for some exciting action on Saturday night.
"I'm sure he has more pressure on him than I do, but I can't let that affect me one way or the other. I can't worry about him and how he's feeling, or what he is thinking about. I'm not worried about whether or not this situation is going to make him more dangerous. The only thing I can worry about is myself. That said, I know he really needs a win, and he's going to do whatever it takes.
"I hope it's an exciting fight where we stand and trade and bang a little bit, but he's a wrestler and needs a win. I expect him to try to put me on my back and grind me out. I hope he's not coming out to wall and stall or lay and pray, but I wouldn't be surprised if he tries that.
"I think this fight can put me right back where I was going into the Romero fight," he added. "I don't think I lost too much ground in the fight with Yoel, and a win over Boetsch will put me right back climbing the ladder. I want to get that momentum back and keep fighting my way to the top of the division."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.