He's known as the Jedi, but for the past 18 months Luke Jumeau's mixed martial arts career has taken influence from Star Wars in more ways than one.
After suffering an injury in February last year, the UFC welterweight's career has resembled the desert planet Tatooine – barren and desolate with nothing on the horizon.
The 31-year-old fractured his right hand during a unanimous decision win at UFC 221 in Perth, and injury that required surgery to repair. But after the initial procedure and waiting for it to heal, Jumeau was back under the knife when he fractured it again in training.
While he's been recovering in Hamilton, the landscape of New Zealand mixed martial arts has changed drastically. When Jumeau last fought, he was one of two established Kiwi fighters in the UFC, alongside lightweight Dan Hooker. Featherweight Shane Young had one fight under his belt – a short-notice loss to Alexander Volkanovski, flyweight Kai Kara-France was yet to be signed, and middleweight Israel Adesanya was making his debut on the same card.
Now, Young is on a two-fight winning streak, Hooker and Kara-France are ranked fighters in their respective divisions, and Adesanya is the interim middleweight champion.
Jumeau's long wait to get back inside the octagon will come to an end in October when he meets Brazilian Dhiego Lima at UFC 243 in Melbourne – where Adesanya will fight middleweight champion Robert Whittaker for the undisputed title.
"It makes sense for all of this side of the world to have me on this card and share some of (Israel's) success," Jumeau said. "It's going to be a good platform
"I've been on the bench for a little bit now watching the boys all having good success and that, but it only makes me hungrier – especially watching Israel do what he's done. It's achievable for us New Zealanders, man; we can do anything."
As the landscape of the sport in the country has changed, so has Jumeau's path to the octagon. After purchasing an early childcare centre with his partner he was able to stop working as a panel beater and focus on training full time. Despite being one-handed for the majority of the last year, he's been putting in work and, in doing so, has added plenty of tricks to his arsenal.
"I'm ambidextrous now. I can write with both hands, I can switch to southpaw…you're going to see some tricks and some new things there. I've just been working on the force.
"The body and the energy that I'm able to put into it now is massive. The recovery time and rest…my rest used to be an eight-hour day at work. I'm making leaps and bounds."
The bout will be Jumeau's fourth in the UFC, bringing an end to his initial contract with the company. With a 2-1 record to his name with the promotion, the Jedi was working towards the Melbourne date with the intention of making a statement.
In Lima (14-7), Jumeau (13-4) meets a dance partner with whom he can surely put on a fan-friendly fight. In 21 professional fights, the Brazilian has gone the distance just eight times – with eight wins and five losses by stoppage.
While Jumeau was yet to enter talks with the UFC about a contract extension, he knows a statement against Lima would be a good place to start.
"It's all performance based. I'm going to go out there and put on a good show, put Lima away, and extend that contract.
"Lima is a really good opponent. He's got all the skill sets, he's got height, he's got reach, he's got a ground game and all that sort of thing. I think he matches up well with me, but I'm going to put him away."