In his final ESPN.com blog before his fight with Rory MacDonald Saturday, welterweight Mike Pyle discusses taking the long road to get where he is today, and how it's helped prepare him for Saturday.
As Saturday's fight with Rory MacDonald at UFC 133 (Pay-per-view, 9 p.m. ET) fast approaches, I find myself thinking what I was up to at 22 years of age and how the path I have travelled along has molded the man writing this blog today.
If you didn't know by now, my next opponent is 22 and is regarded as one of the best up-and-comers in the entire sport. I am aware of MacDonald's talent and his potential, but I am also aware of the importance of experience.
I can assure you I have plenty of that.
At 22, I was working for a company business and training for “no-holds barred” competition. I guess you could call it mixed martial arts, but it was a completely different sport to what it is now. That shows my age right there.
I was in the backyard of my parents’ house training in a shed and watching fights on a little 14-inch screen television and trying out moves I read about in magazines. I am a completely self-taught fighter and have learned everything I know from the ground up. I didn't have nobody to teach me or show me the way back then.
I had no hype or expectancy. I did it all for myself.
I have worked my way up the hard way and have never looked for a handout. If it wasn't for my own self-belief and determination, this dream would have been crushed many years ago. I didn't have many people looking to hand me a leg-up, that's for sure.
With all that in mind, it's an honor to still be able to fight in the UFC at 35, having been on the journey I've been on, and it is also great to see fighters like MacDonald just breaking through.
Seeing the emergence of guys like Rory tells me this sport is in good place right now. It's healthy, it's growing and it is attracting a lot of the young kids that could go and pursue other big-money sports. This sport will soon be going mainstream and that makes an old guy like me very happy.
I sometimes feel like mixed martial arts world is one big family, but we punch each other in the face now and again. I am the elder statesman and we have young kids like Rory running around. These kids need to be disciplined from time to time, and that's what I plan on doing on Aug. 6.
As much as I respect the kid's talent, nobody is going to tell me that MacDonald will out-tough me this weekend. I have been doing this fighting thing since Rory was in high school and have never taken a step back from anybody. He is a talented young fighter with big dreams and ambitions, but none of that will be enough on Saturday.
You need more than that to beat me at this stage in my career. I am now better than I have ever been, and have both the confidence and experience to back up my skill-set. That makes me a dangerous man in the welterweight division and a nightmare for anybody looking to make waves in this sport by using me as a stepping stone.
Despite this clear threat, I expect Rory to come out there bring it hard from the off. He's young, reckless and brave, and that's all going to play right into my hands. I'll let him come at me as the young and aggressive fighter that he is and he'll then fall into all the traps that "Quicksand" lays for him. I'll tuck him him in nice and tight and then read him a bedtime story …
Follow Mike Pyle on Twitter @Mike_Pyle and be sure to check out his UFC 133 fight Saturday on pay-per-view (9 p.m. ET)