Mixed martial arts is an unforgiving sport by its very nature. Tides turn quickly, momentum can be stopped in a flash and a fighter's ascension up the rankings toward potential title-contender status can collapse into a free fall that is difficult to recover from.
Some stretches are so treacherous that a fighter never recovers, but George Sotiropoulos is determined to prove he has what it takes to get back up on his feet.
The Greek-Australian-bred fighter came to the UFC in 2007 as a cast member on the sixth season of The Ultimate Fighter and immediately made a name for himself, as he finished the first two opponents he faced in post-TUF competition.
"Sots" then decided drop down into the lightweight division, where he proceeded to string together five more victories over top-notch competition, including the likes of Joe Stevenson and Joe Lauzon. With a seven-fight winning streak and a string of impressive performances, a potential title opportunity hovered in the distance, but in 2011, things would take a sharp turn south for the American Top Team Fighter.
He would go on to suffer setbacks in his next four outings and was released by the UFC as the result of the losing streak. In those moments, a fighter is faced with a decision to either pack it up and call it a day or light the fires of war to prove there is still more of the story to be written. Sotiropoulos chose the latter, and he's determined to show the MMA world that it's not yet seen the best of what he has to offer.
The 37-year-old Vancouver, Washington, transplant will attempt to ignite that comeback when he squares off with fellow UFC veteran Mike Ricci at Titan FC 29 this Friday night in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The lightweight tilt will serve as the main event on the card, and Sotiropoulos believes fans are going to see a show when the cage door closes.
Yet while there are plenty of labels and cliches that could be assigned to his next fight, Sotiropoulos is simply looking forward to getting back to work and testing his skills against Ricci.
"It might be a new chapter in my career," Sotiropoulos told Bleacher Report. "I don't want to use cliches, but it just might be. Really, there is no such thing as a new chapter because things just continue and go on. It just depends on how you look at it. This will be a fight in a different time and place, but life goes on, you know?
"I definitely have a fire in me and I would agree that I have something to prove. I don't believe I fought my fight in my last four fights and I am not happy with the way things went in those bouts. Things are working much better for me now, and I get to showcase that on August 22. Fans are going to see a very eager, confident, aggressive and slick version of George Sotiropoulos."
The matchup between Sotiropoulos and the Firas Zahabi-trained fighter will pit two versatile and well-rounded fighters together inside the cage. Throughout his career, Ricci has shown the ability to use his range and effectively grapple when he closes distances in order to control and dictate the action.
Sotiropoulos is no stranger to mixing things up on his feet, as the former Australian amateur boxing champion has spent years developing his striking game.
That said, Sotiropoulos has proven to be lights out when the action hits the canvas and is open to his upcoming tilt with Ricci playing out all over the cage.
"I just may take this fight to the ground, but I've worked very hard at all angles of my game," Sotiropoulos said. "I've always worked hard on every part of the game, but every fight is different and you aren't going to be able to showcase every aspect of your skills in ever fight.
"That's just the nature of this sport and how the game goes. There have been big fights that I've been in where I've trained certain things, and those skills didn't turn up in that fight. Then, on the other side, there have been fights where skills I didn't really put a lot of focus on came up big.
"It just depends on how the fight goes, and there are so many variables. It's not a single-dimensional sport. There are different styles of every discipline, so many variables, and that is what is going to make this fight so interesting."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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