TORONTO - (Gentleman) Josh Hill is taking a step up in class.
The 28-year-old bantamweight from Hamilton takes on champion Marlon Moraes on Thursday night at the Edmonton Expo Centre for the World Series of Fighting 135-pound title.
For Hill (10-0), the marquee matchup is welcomed after a frustrating period of inactivity. He has fought just once, winning his World Series of Fighting debut last June by stopping Mike Adams, since August 2012 when he earned a decision over John Fraser.
Most of 2013 was lost to Season 18 of "The Ultimate Fighter,'' which stretched from the spring to late in the year. Hill, a member of Miesha Tate's team, lost to Michael Wootten on the reality TV show.
A fight in March 2014 was pushed back to April, May and then June. Hill was supposed to meet Moraes in September but was forced to withdraw through injury. Two weeks before the fight, he tore a muscle in his lower back during a sparring session.
Moraes went on to defeat Cody Bollinger in a non-title bout at a 140-pound catchweight.
A December fight to determine a No. 1 contender was pushed back to January. Then he was matched directly against Moraes in February.
"It worked out, I guess, in the end," said Hill. "I got a couple extra months of training.
"Finally I think it's going to happen. So I'm pumped."
The five-foot-six Hill spent the first half of his training camp in Sacramento with Team Alpha Male, home to UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw and former WEC featherweight title-holder Urijah Faber among others. It was his third trip down there.
That elite-level training will come in handy Thursday.
Moraes (13-4-1) has won eight straight with the last six wins coming in the World Series of Fighting. The Florida-based Brazilian defeated Josh Rettinghouse at WSOF 9 to claim the 135-pound title.
The champion is a 6-1 favourite to retain his crown.
Hill has put his career goal of becoming a firefighter on the backburner for a while. He already has his firefighting certificate from a school in Fort Worth, Texas, but job vacancies are scarce and there is plenty of competition.
"It's a hard gig to crack," he said.
"I'm only young once and I figure I can only fight for so long so I really want to focus on this and take it as far as I can and have fun with it, just see where it takes me."
When he is not training, he teaches at two different Ontario gyms: the Tapout Training Centre in Burlington and Powerhouse MMA in Brantford. He also works part-time as a scale operator at Thomson Metals and Disposal.
"Pretty much non-stop," he said of his schedule. "It's a busy life."
Hill, whose late great-uncle wrestled under the name of (Gentleman) Jerry Valiant and was one-half of the Valiant Brothers with (Luscious) Johnny Valiant, did find time to do a little pro wrestling himself last year.
A cameo with the Alpha-1 Wrestling promotion in Hamilton turned into an actual match with Hill smashing his opponent (Hacker) Scotty O'Shea over the head with a keyboard before he finished him off with a rear-naked choke. O'Shea failed to tap and was put to sleep.
"The fans got a good show," Hill said with a laugh. "It looked real because it was."
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter