Montreal lightweight John (The Bull) Makdessi will be in select company Saturday at UFC 187.
The main card of the Las Vegas show features two title fights, four current or former champions and three others who have fought for the title.
Makdessi (12-3) is right in the thick of it after stepping in for the injured Khabib Nurmagomedov, ranked second among lightweight contenders, in late April to face No. 3 Donald (Cowboy) Cerrone (27-6 with one no contest).
They are scheduled to meet in advance of middleweight champion Chris Weidman's fight with No. 3 Vitor (The Phenom) Belfort and the light-heavyweight main event between No. 1 Anthony (Rumble) Johnson and No. 3 Daniel (DC) Cormier to fill the 205-pound title vacated by disgraced ex-champ Jon (Bones) Jones.
The 32-year-old Cerrone, who has won his last seven fights, is a 6-1 favourite to beat the unranked Makdessi. Still the 30-year-old Canadian sees Saturday as a chance to shine.
"MMA, it's all about unpredictability," Makdessi said in an interview. "The opportunity presented itself and I took it."
"It's a win-win situation," he added. "I've been dreaming about this for many years. I've been working hard over 10 years now to get to this stage, a high stage. If I want to be the best, I've got to beat the best and Donald Cerrone is a top competitor. I take my hat off to him.
"I want to build my legacy, I want to build my name. And this is a good opportunity."
Makdessi fought a month ago, stopping Shane Campbell in the first round at UFC 186 in Montreal. Campbell, from Kelowna, B.C., was a late injury replacement for Abel Trujillo.
Makdessi has won four of his last five bouts and is 6-3 in the UFC since making his Octagon debut at UFC 124 in December 2010. Seven of those bouts have been in Canada, with Atlanta and Newark the only U.S. cities in which Makdessi has fought.
At five foot eight with striking skills that have produced some highlight finishes, Makdessi comes by his nickname honestly. But he will likely have his hands full with the six-foot-one Cerrone, a seasoned, prickly fighter with a well-stocked arsenal who has looked better each time out recently.
While Makedessi is no stranger to fighting taller men, Cerrone will also have a five-inch reach advantage.
Makdessi did not fight for 14 months before the Campbell bout, using the time to work on his game after losing a unanimous decision to Brazilian Alan Patrick at UFC 169 in February 2014.
He says he fell in love with the sport again in the process.
"I had to reassess some things, restructure my personal life, restructure my training," he said.
Makdessi said he's ready for anything. "I'm very comfortable with being uncomfortable."
One unexpected and unwanted distraction has been complaints over the "Fear the Fighter" clothing brand run by Makdessi's brother David. The company reportedly is in the midst of reorganization.
Fellow fighter Gegard Mousasi has filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging non-payment.
John Makdessi says he has had nothing to do with running the business.
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