New Zealand will be well-represented inside the UFC octagon next month, with two more athletes booking their next bouts.
The Herald can confirm surging lightweight Brad Riddell will get his chance at a top-15 opponent when he meets Gregor Gillespie at a Fight Night on March 21, and featherweight prospect Shane Young will make his return against highly-touted Venezuelan Omar Morales at UFC 260 on March 28.
The pair will fight a few weeks after their teammates from Auckland's City Kickboxing gym - Israel Adesanya, Kai Kara-France and Carlos Ulberg - who are all scheduled to compete at UFC 259 on March 7.
For Riddell, the bout against Gillespie - who is ranked number 15 but has been as high as number 10 – represents the kind of challenge he's looking for.
"I'm pumped to fight Gregor. Not many people want to fight him; I don't think really anybody wants to fight him so I was like 'I'll do it; I'm keen'," Riddell said.
"Everybody knows I like a challenge and they keep treating me like all these killers, so it's nothing new to me fighting someone that's dangerous and avoided; I'm like the bodyguard's bodyguard – I go in there with these assassins and I love it.
"I'm pretty pumped to fight Gregor. If you beat Gregor and deal with his wrestling, from there on up there's not many people that wrestle more aggressively than him, so that's pretty cool."
His three UFC opponents to date had a combined 47-7 MMA record before their bout with Riddell, who added another loss to each of their records.
Of his first four UFC opponents, Gillespie will be the third whose primary martial art is grappling-based. Riddell, from a decorated kickboxing background, sees that as an opportunity.
"It's keeping me honest and making me pay a lot of attention to my wrestling and jiu-jitsu, and getting that really on point. I see it as a challenge and a gift; it's skyrocketing my skill base and my grappling, so keep doing it – I've fought tons of strikers in my life so it's nice to fight a different style and skill set."
Riddell and Young will travel to Las Vegas at the same time, with Young working as a training partner for Riddell in the lead up to his fight against Gillespie before his own bout a week later.
Young meets a stern test in the 10-1 Morales, who has shown he has a well-rounded skill set in his UFC career but favoured his submission game earlier in his career.
"At this level, you can expect everyone is going to be well-rounded and athletic," Young said. "That's why I want to be in the UFC; to compete against the top percentage of human beings my weight. I want to be known as the greatest fighter around my weight class in this era. To do that, I have to beat the best – and Omar Morales is on that ladder."
Coming into the bout on the back of a loss, Young said he was glad to see himself matched up against an opponent of such a high calibre. Morales' only career loss was in his most recent bout, where he was out-pointed by Georgian striking sensation Giga Chikadze.
"I'm excited to get a tough opponent; they're not giving me an easy opponent or anything, and that's what I like," Young says.
"I wasn't worried about it, but I'm glad they didn't do that, because this is an indicator that they're pushing me to move forward – just like how Brad has got Gregor Gillespie.
"Different levels obviously, but fourth fight and he's getting Gregor Gillespie, I'm getting someone who has more wins in the UFC than some of my other opponents before my last loss, so that's good. I wanted the challenge."