LAS VEGAS - UFC 137 marks the organizational and featherweight debut of Bart Palaszewski.
Palaszewski (35-14 MMA, 0-0 UFC), a veteran of the WEC lightweight division, was previously scheduled to make his debut at UFC 130 this past May, but an injury delayed the opportunity.
Now at full-health, the ultra exciting Palaszewski returns to action against Tyson Griffin (15-5 MMA, 8-3 UFC) on Spike TV, and he's thrilled for his Octagon debut.
"My initial reaction was 'hell yeah,'" Palaszewski recently told BleacherReport.com. "Because at that point, I hadn't fought in months and I didn't care who they put in front of me, I was going to say yes to it. Then, after it set in and we got to talking that's when the whole wrestling thing came in. It was pretty cool, I actually get to test my skills against a veteran who actually knows what he's doing as far as wrestling goes. What's the point of working on something hard for almost a year and not even get to test it. I'm happy and obviously Tyson being a top 10 fighter in that weight class, beating him is hopefully going to put me in the top 10. So, one step closer to the title."
Like Palaszewski, Griffin's a veteran of the lightweight division but recently made the move down to featherweight.
While Griffin has the edge in Octagon experience, Palaszewski's time spent competing under the WEC has him well prepared to handle the infamous Octagon jitters.
"It was awesome, I really liked the people that we worked with behind the scenes," Palaszewski said of his tenure in the WEC. "Everyone made it fun and it was really enjoyable. I'm 99 percent sure that I'm going to be working with the same people in the UFC, so I'm super excited.
"I'm definitely not nervous as far as the whole behind the scenes thing goes, I know that they've been doing an awesome job and like I said it's the same crew that was running the WEC, so just excited and I want to get after it. It's been a long road, I got to do two camps for this fight, so I'm just excited and I think it's been the longest break in my career so I want to get my new beginning started."
A 10 month layoff from fighting is long enough to make any fighter anxious for a return to action and Palaszewski is eager to test his skillset against Griffin.
"When I was training for the December fight (WEC 53) I was working a lot on my wrestling and I wasn't extremely impressed with it, but I was happy with the improvements. Obviously Kamal is a world class wrestler, even though he took me down a few times, I actually stuffed him a few times, so obviously improvements were made. Coming in to the May fight (UFC 130) I was working extremely hard on wrestling again as well, offensively and defensively.
"So, obviously that fight didn't happen, but I kept working on my wrestling because it was kind of my achilles heel over the years and it just happened that I picked Tyson as my opponent. It was almost like the stars aligned, it's perfect, I've been working on my wrestling super hard and I get to test it against a wrestler. I'm happy that I'm fighting a wrestler and the stars must have aligned right for me."
As for how Palaszewski feels leading into tonight's featherweight tilt, which takes place inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, he couldn't be happier and plans to put on a show.
"I'm super excited. It's my debut in the UFC and my debut in a new weight class. I want to perform all the way around and I wanted to make sure the weight cut was done right, so I took my time with it. I'm just super excited and I just want to put on a good show. 99 percent of the time in my eyes I put on a show unless I get stuffed and layed on for 15 minutes then it's not my fault.
"But when I go out there and get an opponent that's willing to fight as much as I am then it's usually a hell of a fight. I know Tyson's game, so it's going to be fireworks. There's going to be slugging and someone's going to get hit for sure.