New Zealand middleweight James Te Huna says his UFC career could be on the line next weekend.
After consecutive losses, Te Huna headlines Saturday night's UFC event in Auckland against Nate Marquardt - having dropped down a weight class to revive his "stale" career.
Ahead of the fight, Te Huna, who faces the challenge of having to lose 6kg to make the weight next weekend, says quite simply: "I have to win this fight."
Admitting he's done more preparation on Marquardt than for any of his previous 23 fights, it appears the Kiwi knows he's under pressure to avoid a third straight defeat - and being decked on home soil.
"I've actually done quite a bit of research on him, probably more than anyone else I have fought, and my team has," Te Huna said.
"This is a very important fight, I've been on a bit of a downslide after two straight losses, so I need to win this fight. I have to win this fight.
"Both myself, and my team of eight guys, have analysed Nate and we've come up with a conclusion of what will work. We've picked out all his mistakes, what he likes doing and what he doesn't like doing and have a solid game plan that's going to work."
With the fight representing a few firsts in the history books, Te Huna says there's even a bit of added pressure to make the night a memorable one for all the right reasons.
Most importantly, Te Huna says he's focussed on producing his best possible display.
"The toughest thing about fighting Nate would be if I went out there and didn't perform at my best," he said.
"This is my first time headlining a card and the first time in history a UFC show has come to New Zealand.
"I dreamt of this as a kid and now I'm on a big stage competing against the world's best athletes.
"There are no pushovers in UFC, all the fighters are the world's best and one little mistake and that's it, that's the opportunity gone, there are no second chances. I will not stuff it up.
"I do get nervous in there but nerves are good too. Nerves make me more alert."
Regardless of his own result, Te Huna is confident New Zealand's first hosting of a UFC event will help spread its popularity.
Already, Te Huna says, Kiwis are up to speed on UFC.
"I think New Zealand has clicked on to UFC, more so than Australia," he said.
"Per capita, Kiwis know about UFC, we've always been big on combat sports and with UFC coming to Auckland, it's going to be great for the country and great for new athletes who want to make a career."
- Sunday News
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