Brad Riddell's run with the UFC is still in its infancy, but the Kiwi mixed martial artist has wasted no time in making a name for himself.
Fighting in the lightweight division where the talent pool runs so deep it can be hard for athletes to stand out, Riddell's affinity for exciting and action-packed performances has seen him do just that.
With three wins from as many fights in the promotion – all coming against highly touted prospects in the division - Riddell felt it was time he got a look at a ranked opponent. He admits he wasn't confident that the UFC would give him one, then No 15-ranked Gregor Gillespie's name was put on the table.
"I know a lot of people didn't want to fight Gregor. I was more than keen; throw me that bone, I'll eat it," Riddell said.
Riddell will meet Gillespie this afternoon in the co-main event of this weekend's UFC event in Las Vegas in a battle of polar opposites; the type of fight that makes mixed martial arts so intriguing. Riddell, who fights out of Auckland's City Kickboxing gym, is a decorated kickboxer and among the top strikers in the division; Gillespie is a former All-American wrestler who has proven in the UFC he can dominate a fight if it gets to the ground.
"It's sort of like who gets the better with their skill first," Riddell said of the match-up.
"I think it's far easier to learn how to get up and get back to striking than try to catch up to a very, very high-level striker. That's a big focus of mine.
"I get this win against a wrestler of that calibre; it's going to make a lot of people above me in those rankings pretty nervous."
Like Riddell, Gillespie made a huge splash when he entered the UFC - going on a run of six straight wins, with five of those coming inside the distance. However, he suffered the first loss of his career in his most recent bout when he was on the wrong end of a highlight reel knockout - caught by a left high kick by fellow top-15 ranked fighter Kevin Lee.
Gillespie suffered a broken jaw in the bout and was forced to spend time on the sidelines, then was unable to train as soon as he was allowed due to Covid-19 forcing the gyms in his area to close. As a result, he hasn't been in the octagon for more than a year.
With the nature of his loss to Lee combined with his absence from the cage, Gillespie has been the subject of a lot of unwanted comments from fans who, as Riddell alludes to, only remember your last fight.
"People seem to forget that in this sport somebody wins and somebody loses. Everybody trains hard at this level; all of us train as hard as we can every day and it's who steps in there on the night and has that one per cent extra. Kevin Lee had it that night.
"It's just the fans being the fans; they like to chew people up sometimes...I spent a camp preparing for the best Gregor, and the best Gregor is getting you down and keeping you down. Obviously, I'm going to avoid that at all costs and stick to my bread and butter.
"It could be beneficial or detrimental that loss [for Gillespie]. Beneficial in the way it could make him very hungry to get back to where he was; detrimental that he's fighting another high-level striker and he got knocked out striking.
"I've prepared for the best Gregor, and we'll see which one comes up."
Tale of the tape: Riddell | Gillespie
Age: 29 | 34
Height: 170cm | 173cm
Reach: 180cm | 180cm
Record: 9-1 (5 wins via KO/TKO) | 13-1 (6 wins via KO/TKO; 5 via submission)