TORONTO - Sheldon Westcott has waited a long time for a second chance in the UFC.
It's been almost a year since the mixed martial artist from St. Albert, Alta., lost to Elias (The Spartan) Theodorou by second-round TKO in the final of "The Ultimate Fighter Nations."
Westcott, who has campaigned almost exclusively as a welterweight, had no trouble as a middleweight during the reality TV show but was outmuscled by the bruising Theodorou in the live finale.
"I've got to make everyone forget about the guy who showed up in Quebec City ... I fought like crap," said Westcott.
"You either win or you learn," he added. "I took a lot from that fight. I changed a lot of things in my preparation for fights and I'll come back better."
Westcott (9-2-1) finally gets a chance to showcase his skills Saturday when he takes on Polish welterweight Pawel Pawlak (10-1) on the main card of a televised UFC show in Krakow, Poland.
The 30-year-old Canadian has made sure he does not forget the lessons of the Theodorou loss.
Westcott listens to his entrance music from the Quebec fight — Imagine Dragons’ "Radioactive" — on the last mile of his regular runs to ensure "I'll never gas out again, I'll never put myself in a position to compete that bad again."
It seems to be working, with Westcott saying his last mile is always faster than the first.
Westcott has tweaked his training to include more sparring, with local fighter Ryan (The Real Deal) Ford a favourite partner. He is also working with wrestling coach Roger Alves.
Saturday's main event at the Krakow Arena marks the UFC return of iconic heavyweight Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic after a 3-1/2 year absence. The 40-year-old Croatian faces Gabriel Gonzaga in a rematch of their UFC bout eight years ago when Gonzaga stunned Filipovic with a head kick at UFC 70.
It's the UFC's debut in Poland, joining Scotland as additions to the organization's 2015 calendar.
Westcott was slated to return last August against Brazilian Alberto Mina on a UFC card in Macau, only to fall victim to a staph infection.
He was training at Tiger Muay Thai in Thailand some 10 days before the bout when he noticed what looked like a "little bite" on the top of his foot. The next day the foot was burning and itching. Things got even worse the next morning.
"You know in 'The Nutty Professor' (movie) when his shoes pop off because his foot is swollen? That was my foot," said Westcott.
"I ended up having what looked like a bullet hole in my foot," he added.
He was on IV antibiotics for close to a week, going in for treatment three times a day. "It was awful."
Restored to health, he had hoped to fight on a proposed March card in Windsor, Ont., which never came to fruition. Then Poland popped up.
All but two of his fights have been in Edmonton. The other two were in Yellowknife and Quebec City.
"It's going to be fun fighting in someone else's territory ... coming out first, getting booed," said Westcott. "I'm pretty excited."
P.E.I. lightweight Jason Saggo was to have fought on the Poland card but injured his Achilles in training.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter