It is rare that a professional mixed martial artist makes their debut in the UFC—the biggest stage in professional MMA. It is through the local shows that fighters are able to develop their talents and work their way up to the big show.
"The guys at Wreck they tend to always make evenly matched fights, they are pretty exciting," Canadian Bantamweight Nick Denis told Bleacher Report's Leon Horne about the Canadian based promotion.
Wreck MMA is a homegrown promotion based in Canada's National Capital region. The promotion acts as a spring board for up-and-coming talents as well as a place for veteran talents to continue showcasing their skills.
Denis is competing in the next Wreck MMA event scheduled for this Friday at the Lac Leamy Casino in Gatineau, Quebec. This will be his first fight back in well over a year.
"In January or February, I can't remember, I moved to Montreal. I didn't have a job and I was training at Tri Star, Grant Brothers Boxing and doing Jonathan Chaimberg's conditioning and all that stuff," Denis said. "I haven't been fighting, but I've been training hard the entire time so it doesn't really feel like I haven't been fighting."
Tri Star gym is regarded as one of the strongest MMA training facilities not only in Canada, but around the world. Taking time away from competition to hone one's skills at a place like Tri Star gym is definitely not something to baulk at, and it will be interesting to see what Denis has learned during his time there.
Obviously, Tri Star gym is recognised as the home of current welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. St-Pierre was forced to withdraw from his UFC 137 title defense against former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz due to injury.
"I'm never surprised that anyone gets injured training, I mean people get injured all the time, it's obviously crappy because I was excited to see him [St-Pierre] Fight," Denis said. "I don't know how bad his injury is, but I suspect at his stage in his career just because he is GSP he can't take any chances you know? If I was him I wouldn't want to fight, even if the injury isn't too serious I wouldn't want to risk it, you got to always come in at 100 percent."
Where Georges St-Pierre is in his career, is where every fighter wants to be—UFC champion. This isn't any different for Denis who has been wanting to get his shot in the UFC, whether it be by fighting his way up the ranks or getting on the reality television show The Ultimate Fighter.
The Ultimate Fighter has spawned the careers of many great fighters currently in the UFC. Despite showcasing great talents, it isn't just one's skills inside the Octagon that gets them on the show.
"I did it [TUF tryouts] the year Junie Browning was on it for 155ers, and then, I did it again this year. The talent portion, it's really easy to pass," Denis said. "After that, the people from Tuff Guy productions that run the show, just producers and what not and it is all interviews and personality."
Despite not making this season's team Jason Miller vs. Team Michael Bisping, Denis left a good impression.
"When they called me to say that I wasn't making it on to the show, they basically told me that any future seasons where they do 135 to 155 I wouldn't have to tryout again," Denis said. "They would just call and fly me out to Vegas, which is great because it's a free trip to Vegas, It's obviously encouraging."
The time couldn't be better for a bantamweight fighter as the UFC is just beginning to push the lighter weight classes in to the limelight with featherweight champion Jose Aldo and bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz paving the way. Denis is happy to see the recognition the lighter weight guys are getting but won't be fully satisfied until he gets his piece of the pie.
"It's encouraging obviously that finally the lighter weight classes are making it in the UFC and what not," Denis said. "It's something I am obviously, striving for, but I won't be too happy until I get there."
Obviously MMA is a sport where a fighter has to strike while the iron is hot because the window of opportunity can be very small. Should Denis win this weekend, he is ready to fight again and again until he gets that call.
"Basically my manager will talk to the people from the UFC and see if that's [this weekend's fight] enough for me to get in or if I need more fights. If I need more fights, yeah I'll want to fight right away as soon as possible because I am in really great shape," Denis said. "I want to get my wins in, everything I need to do to get in the UFC as soon as possible, ideally before the New Year."
Denis has been slowed down a little due to injuries and opponents pulling out of scheduled matches, but prior to his break from competition, he was widely regarded as one of the top bantamweight fighters in Canada. Denis has fought in both Canadian and Japanese promotions and has amassed a 9-2-0 record since his debut.
Topmmanews.com had Denis ranked as the No. 1 bantamweight in the nation prior to his period of inactivity which resulted in him being dropped out of the top 10. A solid win or two should shoot him back up towards the top and that starts with a win over Grudge Training Center fighter Nick Mamalis this Friday at Wreck.
"He's coming off a couple of wins, he's 23-7, a pretty good guy, good wrestler, decent striker, and yeah, it's going to be a good fight for sure," Denis said.
Leon Horne is a writer for Bleacher Report and is part of the B/R MMA Interview team, Follow @Leon_Horne