TORONTO - Patrick (The Predator) Cote is delighted to be back in the UFC. Although, in truth, the Montreal middleweight never left.
While Cote last fought in the Octagon in October 2010 at UFC 121, he has been a constant on all UFC broadcasts in his role as the organization's French-language commentator. He also is an MMA and boxing analyst on the TVA network.
Cote (18-7) takes on former Strikeforce champion Cung Le at UFC 148 on July 7 in Las Vegas — a return to mixed martial arts biggest stage that was the domino effect of an injury to Vitor (The Phenom) Belfort.
Belfort was slated to meet fellow Brazilian Wanderlei (The Axe Murderer) Silva at UFC 147 last Saturday. But a hand injury sidelined Belfort and the UFC decided to shift former middleweight title-holder Rich Franklin from UFC 148 to replace him.
That left Le in need of an opponent. Enter the 32-year-old Cote, who has won four straight since his last UFC outing.
The former Canadian soldier had been confident he would fight his way back into the UFC. But that didn't stop him from preparing for a future outside the cage.
"It's going very well," he said of his broadcast career. "I'm doing a lot of TV, I'm going to have my own show next season (on TVA). So it's pretty nice."
Cote calls the UFC fights live from a studio in Montreal but is cageside for the Canadian shows. He will return to the microphone after Le — until his next fight.
He says the TV work has helped him keep tabs on the opposition.
"There's a lot of UFC shows and I do all of them so I'm pretty on point about what's going on in the UFC," he said.
Cote also has a company that deals in nutrition (www.korefitliving.com).
"I took care of my future. It's OK. If I have to stop fighting tomorrow, I can. Now I'm doing it because I love to fight, I still enjoy it.
"That's why I'm fighting better now, I think. I don't have all this pressure that I need to fight, I'm scared to lose because I have to feed my family."
Cote's 11-fight UFC history dates back to October 2004 when, on short notice, he was moved up a weight class to the main event against Tito Ortiz at UFC 50.
At the time, Cote's screensaver just happened to be a shot of Ortiz.
Cote lost but put up a good showing, earning him the gratitude of the UFC. He also rocked Ortiz at one point in the fight, a snapshot that became his new screensaver.
He was beaten in his next two UFC bouts before joining the cast of Season 4 of "The Ultimate Fighter," which featured veterans looking for a second chance. Cote made it to the November 2006 final but lost to Travis Lutter.
Cote then reeled off five wins — four in the UFC — to earn a shot at middleweight champion Anderson Silva at UFC 90 in October 2008. He lasted two rounds before blowing out his knee.
Two sets of knee surgery followed. He returned at UFC 113 in May 2010, only to have Alan (The Talent) Belcher pile drive him on his head before choking him out (a move Cote thinks should be illegal).
Cote was cut after a poor performance against (Filthy) Tom Lawlor at UFC 121.
Cote thought a March win in Brazil last time out against Gustavo Machado might have earned him a spot at UFC 149 in Calgary on July 21.
"I was watching the card every day. Man, there were more and more fights booked — and I wasn't there. So I was kind of wondering what was going on. But yeah, I was very confident about being back in the UFC, but not on a big show like that — probably the biggest card of the year. And not in a big fight like that too."
Le, 40, is an unpredictable kickboxer with a dazzling array of spinning kicks and attacks.
"He's a very dangerous striker," said Cote, no slouch when it comes to striking himself. "Explosive, very agile with his legs. Some weird angles. He's tricky too ... I'm going to have my hands full but I'm really confident that I'll be able to put him away."
Le (7-2) is coming off a UFC 139 loss to Wanderlei Silva, who eventually ran him down and punished him.
"The key is to put pressure on him," said Cote. "I can't let him fight his fight. If I let him take control of the pace of the fight, I'm going to be in big trouble ... He has to fight my fight."
NOTES — The injury woes continue for UFC 149 in Calgary next month. Daniel Pineda (17-8) has replaced the injured George Roop against featherweight Antonio (Pato) Carvalho (13-5) of Ajax, Ont.