Terry Etim has come a long way since his debut on Ultimate Ring Fighting back in 2005, having fought his way to a 10-0 record before he landed a coveted Ultimate Fighting Championship contract. He made a successful Octagon debut in front of 15,000 screaming fans at the Manchester MEN Arena submitting fellow 155-pound UFC debutant Matt Grice.
Fast-forward to May 2008 and Etim is coming off his first career loss, as well as making his U.S. soil debut. Couple this to a change in opponent, and you might have the ingredients for a nervous fighter.
Not so says the Liverpudlian, "(Rich) Clementi stepped into the breach. He just fought Sam Stout and is coming off the back of some big wins. He is a good, tough opponent and he has lot's more experience than me with over 50 fights. It's a big opportunity, but I am as ready as I will ever be and I am sure it will be a good scrap."
The experience factor weighs heavily in Clementi's favor and he is a noted BJJ practitioner, so does Etim expect this fight to follow expectations and hit the matt? He appears to be game in every element stating, "I have been impressed with his standup and his takedowns, and yes, he is a good grappler, but nine of my fights have been won by submission, so I am not overly worried. I don't know if he is taking me lightly in this bout having seen my loss against Gleison Tibau, but if he does then that's to my advantage"
Having fought his career to date on British soil, including UFC bouts, you could assume that the UFC would be interested in maintaining the Brit fighters in Britain to capitalize on their local popularity. Through exporting both himself and Jason Tan (who also fights at Saturday's UFC 84) to America, it is clear that the promotion is looking to build their stable of worldwide fighters beyond the confines of their current market. Surely that must feel good?
"This is a dream come true," stated Etim before enthusing, "Since I was young, I have always wanted to be in Vegas. It's amazing. I am trying to keep this as any other fight in my mind, but obviously after the fight I plan to take it all in. Unfortunately, it's for one night only, as we fly back the very next day. I have a lot of local support coming over from Liverpool though, so there is going to be a lot of Scousers banging around there over the weekend."
Talking about Liverpool, it's become quite a hotbed for mixed martial arts talent of late with Cage Gladiators running its local show and several other promotions looking to explore the market there. "It's a great atmosphere in Liverpool. I really enjoyed fighting there and there are a lot of good guys in the camps. I would like to fight there again, and with the UFC taking myself and Tan, amongst others seriously, maybe in the future, who knows?"
Does Etim have any awareness of the UFC scouting in the area to continue its U.K. talent roster growth? Maybe from his camp, Next Generation? "I am not to sure about that," he stated, before adding, "it all goes through my manager, but it wouldn't surprise me as there are a lot of tough guys there, very skilled people that have helped me get ready for this fight."
Etim has a tough task ahead of him on Saturday night at UFC 84 in the shape of Clementi. Although you can tell he has the utmost respect for his opponent's achievements, you can rest assured there will be "No Love" by the time the bell rings and the business of winning will be underway.
For Etim, this represents the fulfillment of a dream, but certainly not the end of it. If he can pull off the win, I have a funny feeling we will be waiting a while to see him fight on his homeland again.