Once a full-time nurse in Brooklyn looking, hoping to prove himself in mixed martial arts, Phillipe Nover has made it to the big stage. His dream is finally coming true. After going undefeated on Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter, lightweight Nover is one win away from earning a six-figure UFC contract. On Saturday, he takes on Efrain Escudero of Team Mir at The Pearl in Las Vegas (9 p.m. ET, Spike TV), in what will ultimately be a life-changing fight for "The Filipino Assassin."
Nover took a break from training to speak with SI.com about his upcoming fight, living in a house with Junie Browning and his post-T.U.F. celebration.
SI.com: What is your game plan for the fight?
Nover: I'm taking Efrain very seriously. He's a tough opponent and he got to the fight just like I did. I think my strategy will be to just overpower him. He's as talented as I am, but I think I have some extra strength. I may throw him some shots that he can't handle.
SI.com: What are Efrain's biggest strengths?
Nover: I think his biggest strengths are his takedowns. He took me down on the show quite easily. But at the same time, it's not a wrestling match. He's going to have to go through a tornado of punches and kicks before he can shoot in and take me down. On the ground, I think he's very good as well, but he knows my jiu jitsu is just as good, if not better. So he's going to have a problem. I have a few layers he's going to have to get by before can actually try to solidify a submission or try to win the fight that way.
SI.com: When did production for show actually end?
Nover: Production ended June 27. That was the semifinals, and right after that -- I actually fought after Efrain beat Junie, so what viewers saw was edited [in a different chronology]. I fought the last day and then we left the house.
SI.com: What have you been doing since then?
Nover: I've basically been eating, sleeping and training for Efrain almost every day. In everything I've done for the past six months, fighting Efrain has been on my mind. I quit my job, I moved out of my own house and found a tenant to live there to help me pay for the bills, I moved back to my mom's so she can cook and clean for me and all I have to do is train all day -- I don't have to do much laundry or anything, so she's been really supportive -- and all those steps are just to win this fight against Efrain.
SI.com: Why did you try out for the show?
Nover: I thought it was the best route to show the world who I am. I've been fighting mixed martial arts since I was 3, and I tried out for the show a couple of times and finally got on. You can also see the personality of a fighter when you watch on TV by the way that they live, and I think people become fans of that. If people can see that I'm not just this animal fighter, or this gladiator, that I'm also an everyday person who has a professional job, people can associate with that.
SI.com: Did you ever think you would make it this far?
Nover: I never thought I would make it this far. It was a dream, like 'Wow, imagine if I could actually do that.' I knew that once I was on the show I would definitely do some damage and win a few fights, but I didn't know that I could take it to this level, where I'm actually in the finale and I'm like 99 percent of the way there. I just have one person stopping me, and I'm pretty confident heading into this fight.
SI.com: What was it like working with the UFC coaches?
Nover: Working with all the big names, it was great. These guys train full-time, they're world class fighters, they're champions, and I was so glad to be on [Antonio Rodrigo] Nogueira's team -- he's the champ right now. The guest coach they brought was Anderson Silva, and his assistant coach, Daniel [Valverde], -- all those guys were great. Even Lyoto Machida came. Just to take lessons from these guys was just amazing. I already put them on such high pedestals as fighters -- I've watched them on TV for a couple years already -- and here I am, sharing the same mat with them. It blew my mind.
SI.com: Do you still keep in touch with any of the coaches?
Nover: I kept in touch with a lot of the other fighters on the show and one of the assistant coaches from Nogueira's team, Wald Bloise, the assistant kickboxing coach.
SI.com: Are you glad to be out of the house?
Nover: Yes, I definitely am. I remember the day that I left the house. It was the most amazing experience because I didn't lose any fights, I was in the finale and my dream was coming true. And then I get to listen to my iPod, I get to call my mother and my father, I get to see my training partners, I get to see my girlfriend -- it was like I was in jail and just got out.
SI.com: How was it living with Junie?
Nover: Junie was a wild kid from day one. I remember after we fought and we were sitting down in the training center, I was like, 'Yeah! You and I made it!' He was like, 'Yeah, I hope they have booze.' I didn't know he was into the alcohol that much. I mean, people have had rough upbringings, but I don't really view that as an excuse. He just has some demons and he just needs to discipline himself. And I think he is. He's going to do it. He's fighting [Dave] Kaplan and I think he's going to do well against him. I know he's training at Xtreme Couture now in Vegas, so I think he pulled his act together. Or he might just be another Chris Leben type of guy.
SI.com: Who are some guys you would like to fight in the UFC?
Nover: I don't want to pick out names yet. After Efrain, after I conquer him, I'll look for the next country to conquer. I'm going to eat my cake piece by piece; I'm not going to jump to conclusions and start calling out names. I'm too small of a fish right now. There are about 50 other UFC fighters at 155 pounds, and they're all seasoned trainers and all they've done is train everyday for the past five or six years of their lives. I can't even be compared to that right now. But after Efrain, sure I'll call out some names.
SI.com: If you win, how will you celebrate?
Nover: If I win or lose, I'm celebrating. I'm going to the Philippines in January to spend some time with my family. I haven't really celebrated getting on this show and winning my last few fights, so that's going to be a big celebration.
SI.com: What's your prediction for the fight Saturday?
Nover: I predict a KO or submission. First round.