Brad Riddell has been waiting to step inside the cage against Australia's best fighters – but it took him signing with the world's biggest mixed martial arts promotion before someone stepped up.
The Herald can confirm Riddell will make his UFC debut at UFC 243 in Melbourne on October 6, squaring off against Australian lightweight and fellow UFC debutant Jamie Mullarkey.
Riddell, 27, was signed by the UFC earlier this month but had no opponent for his October debut. Mullarkey (12-2) saw his opportunity and called Riddell out on social media, claiming Riddell hadn't been tested by Australia's best.
Speaking to the Herald, Riddell had a simple message for his opponent.
"Come at me," he said.
"I haven't fought the best Australia has to offer because they never offered themselves up to fight. I was asking for months to fight these guys. For six or seven months I was trying to find a fight and it was a mission; no one was putting their hand up.
"They were making excuses. They'd say I didn't have enough MMA experience – but I've had more fights than I've had hot meals. Now that I'm on the platform, now they want to put their hand up because they'll be seen. I was always there, willing to fight anybody.
While he has a rich resume in kickboxing, struggling to find an opponent has been a constant theme of Riddell's MMA career, fighting Chinese star Kenan Song in just his third MMA bout. Just 10 months after being knocked out by Riddell, Song made his UFC debut and has since gone 3-1 with the promotion.
Riddell, who has fought at both lightweight and welterweight, joins City Kickboxing teammates Israel Adesanya and Dan Hooker, and fellow Kiwi Luke Jumeau on the Melbourne card, and will debut at what is expected to be the biggest combat sports event Oceania has ever seen.
He has lost just once in his seven-fight MMA career, with a submission loss to Australian Adel Brites in July last year. Mullarkey has a win over Brites on his resume, and has backed up back to back losses by knockout with four straight wins.
"There's too many crazy things that happen in MMA to underestimate your opponent, so there's no way I'm going to underestimate Jamie," Riddell said. "But in my mind, I've already won this fight 10 times over, and I will win this fight but hey, he yelled out – closed mouths don't get fed, so credit to him going out asking to fight me and now he's got what he wanted."
UFC 243 confirmed bouts
Israel Adesanya v Robert Whittaker (five round main event)
Lightweight bout: Dan Hooker v Al Iaquinta
Heavyweight bout: Tai Tuivasa v Serghei Spivak
Bantamweight bout: Holly Holm v Raquel Pennington
Welterweight bout: Luke Jumeau v Dheigo Lima
Featherweight bout: Megan Anderson v Zarah Fairn Dos Santos
Lightweight bout: Brad Riddell v Jamie Mullarkey
Welterweight bout: Jake Matthews v Rostem Akman
Flyweight bout: Nadia Kassem v Ji Yeon Kim
Welterweight bout: Callan Potter v Maki Pitolo
Heavyweight bout: Justin Tafa v Yorgan de Castro