Jake Ellenberger fought his way up the ranks, competing in 24 fights, as he waited for his opportunity to join the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster.
Saturday night, Ellenberger will compete in his highest-profile bout to date when he fights Jake Shields in the main event of UFC's "Fight Night" at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. The card can be seen live on Spike TV beginning at 9 p.m. EDT.
"It was all about timing," Ellenberger, 26, said. "I wanted to be ready. I had a few offers before. But when I went there and I was going to fight in the UFC, I was going to be ready to fight for the title. I wanted to be able to compete with the best and be world champ."
Shields saw his 15-fight winning streak snapped by UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre earlier this year. Shields (26-5-1) knows that a good showing against Ellenberger (24-5) can propel him back toward another title shot.
"He's a tough up-and-comer," Shields said. "He has a lot of knockout power and is a good boxer and wrestler. His jiujitsu is not the strongest, but overall he's a tough guy that comes forward with a lot of heart, so I'm not underestimating him."
Ellenberger, however, has other plans. Ellenberger believes the hype around Shields is overstated and is ready to mount his own championship run.
"I don't really feel he's dangerous much at all," said Ellenberger, a 26-year-old native of Omaha, Neb. "He's a very one-dimensional fighter. He defends jiujitsu. He's a control guy. He's not really an offensive-position guy. He's a submission guy. He's just going to try to wear you down. I've never really been impressed with Shields. I don't get him."
The rest of the card includes Court McGee vs. Dongi Yang at middleweight; Jonathan Brookins vs. Erik Koch at featherweight; and Alan Belcher vs. Jason MacDonald at middleweight.
The preliminaries, which will air on facebook.com/UFC at 5:45 p.m., include Cody McKenzie vs. Vagner Rocha and Evan Dunham vs. Shamar Bailey at lightweight; Matt Riddle vs. Lance Benoist, Clay Harvison vs. Seth Baczynski, Daniel Roberts vs. T.J. Waldburger and Justin Edwards vs. Jorge Lopez at welterweight; Mike Lullo vs. Robert Peralta at featherweight; and Ken Stone vs. Donny Walker at bantamweight.
Bellator Fighting Championships begins its second week of the fifth season on Saturday with the middleweight quarterfinals.
The quarterfinal matchups are Jared Hess vs. Bryan Baker, Zelg Galesic vs. Alexander Shlemenko, Sam Alvey vs. Vitor Vianna and Victor O'Donnell vs. Brian Rogers.
The event, which will air live at 7 p.m. on MTV2, will take place at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla.
The preliminaries include: Brett Cooper vs. Valdir Araujo at middleweight; Ailton Barbosa vs. Ryan Keenan and Cristiano Souza vs. John Kelly at welterweight; Radley Martinez vs. Brian van Hoven, Dietter Navarro vs. Marcelo Goncalves and J.P. Reese vs. Martin Brown at lightweight; Luis Palomino vs. Edson Berto at featherweight; and Shah Bobonis vs. Marcos da Matta at catchweight (140 pounds).
The main event of October's "UFC 137" underwent an unexpected change last week when UFC President Dana White removed challenger Nick Diaz from the title bout against welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
Diaz forfeited his Strikeforce title to jump to the UFC and get his desired opportunity to fight St-Pierre. White removed him, however, when he failed to appear at a pair of press conferences over the last couple of weeks to promote the fight.
Diaz will now fight B.J. Penn on the undercard. Penn's scheduled opponent, Carlos Condit, replaced Diaz in the main event.
The UFC returned to Brazil this year for the first time in more than a decade. In 2012, Japan gets its first return visit.
The UFC announced last week that it will return to Japan on Feb. 26 in an event from the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo.
The UFC did not visit either Brazil or Japan since parent company Zuffa LLC took ownership in 2001.
The 14th season of "The Ultimate Fighter" on Spike TV debuts on Wednesday at 9 p.m. Middleweights Michael Bisping and Jason Miller will serve as coaches.
This season pits 16 bantamweights and 16 featherweights against one another, with the fighters facing each other in the two-hour premiere to see who advances to the rest of the season. The season, which has already been taped, culminates in a live fight to determine the winners in December.
Diego Sanchez broke his hand during training and was forced to withdraw from the co-main event of "UFC 135" on Sept. 24.
Josh Koscheck will replace Sanchez and fight UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes.