Norman Parke is eyeing a sixth win in the UFC and a top 15 of the ranking place when he takes on Jorge Masvidal on January 18 in Boston.
The Bushmills man knows it will be the toughest test of his career to date when he faces the dangerous lightweight, but he admitted he jumped at the chance to go head-to-head with him.
Parke said: “I got contacted by Joe Silva and I said, ‘Give me your best fighter’. I felt like (Jorge Masvidal) was the top ranked fighter, he was the highest on the list, and I thought, that’s it, ‘Boom, I’m in there. That’s an opportunity.’
“Here’s my chance to get the recognition and go straight into the top 15 in the world. I think it’s a great match-up. We’re both well rounded, we’re good everywhere and it’s a good opportunity for me to get straight back in there after the knee injury. I feel like I can beat this guy.
“I’m still undefeated in the UFC. I’m 5-0 in the UFC - well, I have that draw but everyone knows I won that fight - so realistically I’m undefeated and now is the time to step up and see if I’m ready to fight people in the top ten.
“I believe if I win this fight I should take his place (in the rankings), straight up. If I beat him, I should slot straight in at his place at No. 13.
“We’re going to be fighting in Boston as well which is that extra bit special for me. I’m going to have a lot of people coming over to watch me from Northern Ireland. He’s a good opponent and I’m really excited about this match-up.”
Parke was scheduled to fight Diego Sanchez at UFC 180 in Mexico on November 15 but a knee injury - which Parke attributes to wear and tear from years of judo training - forced him to withdraw from the bout. It was a huge disappointment for the UK lightweight.
He said, “It was one of those things where it was a big opportunity on the biggest fight card of the year, the first ever (UFC) fight show in Mexico, sold out in record time, me against Diego Sanchez. I was gutted.
“I decided that there was no way I was going to do a full fight camp, nursing an injury. I just wasn’t going to do it. In my last three fights in the UFC, I’ve been nursing that knee but I’ve just kept going and I wasn’t doing it this time. Now I’ve rested it and it’s one hundred per cent again and I’m good to go.
“I get this great opportunity now to fight a guy who’s ranked No. 13 in the world and for me and the people in Northern Ireland, this is huge.”