Brad Riddell could hear the flesh above his left eye tear open.
In the opening round of his UFC debut his opponent, Jamie Mullarkey, landed a jab on Riddell's eyebrow; the seam of his 4oz glove ripping through the Kiwi lightweight's skin.
At the end of the round Riddell returned to his corner. He asked coach Eugene Bareman and the cutman in his corner if the cut was big. They said no.
So, after having some Vaseline applied to the area, Riddell went back out to work for another two rounds. After a furious 15 minutes in the cage, he stood in front of the roaring crowd at Melbourne's Marvel Arena as ring announcer Bruce Buffer's raspy tones blared over the loud speakers.
"After three rounds we go to the judges' scorecards. All three judges scored this fight 30-27 for your winner by unanimous decision – Brad 'the Quake' Riddell."
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It wasn't until he got back to the dressing room he saw the extent of the damage above his eye.
"It went right to the bone," he said. "I was super lucky I had a really, really good cut man and he managed to clog it up and the blood didn't leak down my face, I was able to keep fighting.
"I saw some of the photos and saw it afterwards. It was pretty big; I could see my bone as well in the mirror in the changing rooms … You sort of just have a laugh about it, take a quick photo and add it to my list of war wounds."
It wasn't the best performance of his career, but it was the perfect introduction to the biggest stage in mixed martial arts. It was the kind of bout you'd expect to see play out in David Fincher's 1999 film 'Fight Club' – both fighters left the arena with the scars to show for it and nothing left in the tank.
It was enough of a spectacle to earn the pair the Fight of the Night bonus, each taking away an extra US$50,000.
Riddell doesn't shy away from his love of fist fights. While they're not easy on coaches, the hard, gritty and damaging fights are what he thrives on.
"I really enjoy that kind of fight," Riddell said.
"I got what I wished for – I got more than I wished for because I got an extra $50,000. I couldn't complain afterwards – I got to show not really so much a heap of skill, but a lot of heart and show the division I'm not going to go out easily; I'm going to go out on my shield."
Just two weeks removed from the bout and the canyon above his eye now replaced by a thin scar, barely noticeable through his eyebrow, Riddell is ready for his next war.
The 28-year-old is optimistic of booking a fight on the card for UFC 245 in Las Vegas on December 15 (NZ time) to join City Kickboxing teammates Kai Kara-France and Alexander Volkanovski on one of the biggest cards of the year.
Through periods of his career, Riddell has had to wait months for fights; more than three years separated his first two professional MMA bouts. Now that he's signed with the UFC he wants to remain active and, with his fan-friendly style, he should be able to do exactly that.
"They're after entertainment, and I entertain people when I fight, so I'm pretty comfortable we'll get there," Riddell said.
"I want to have another fight; I want to have another war. That Vegas card is looking big; it's looking like a good one to show off on."