It’d be easy for Pat Healy to dwell on his recent back luck, including two promised title fight with then-Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez that never materialized. But he said his opportunity this weekend at UFC 159 is as good as anything he would have gotten in his former home.
Healy (29-16 MMA, 0-1 UFC) returns to the UFC for the first time in seven years when he and fellow lightweight Jim Miller (22-4 MMA, 11-3 UFC) kick off Saturday’s UFC 159 main card. It airs on pay-per-view from Prudential Center in Newark N.J., following prelims on FX and Facebook.
Healy, who’s resurrected his career with six straight wins and nine victories in his past 10 fights, was supposed to fight Melendez in November and then in January, but the champ pulled out of both bouts with injuries, and Strikeforce then closed shop.
Regardless of the setbacks, Healy sees nothing but positives.
“Fighting is all I wanted to do since I was like 15 years old, so I’m really living my dream,” he told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “It’s hard to get down. There were some trying times last year with the frustration of those fights falling through, but I’m definitely well past all that, and getting Jim Miller on the main card on of a UFC event feels pretty much as good as a title fight in Strikeforce.”
For Healy, who heads into hostile territory to fight Miller in his home state, it’s also a chance to continue Strikeforce’s recent success in the UFC. Like the WEC imports a few years ago, Strikeforce fighters have excelled in the octagon with the likes of Daniel Cormier, Josh Thomson, Robbie Lawler and Jorge Masvidal posting impressive wins. Even Melendez looked sharp this past weekend in a title fight with Benson Henderson that he only narrowly lost.
“I think the guys who fought before me are kind of showing everybody we’re the real deal,” Healy said. “I think a lot of us are coming in with chips on our shoulders. We were feeling like the fans and media were treating us like second-class citizens for a long time.”
Healy also knows he’s getting the chance to fight an opponent on a big upswing. Miller, a perennial contender, most recently sliced and diced and scored a rousing unanimous-decision win over Joe Lauzon that earned 2012 “Fight of the Year” consideration.
“I expect him to come out guns a blazin’,” Healy said. “After a performance like that, it’s going to be in his head, and I know that’s one spot where he thinks he can take a great advantage – in the standup. So I expect him to come out hard and fast like he did in that fight, and I’m ready for it.”
And for Healy, he hopes it’s the first of many fights in the next year or two as he moves up the lightweight rankings.
“I want to take advantage of still being young, still having a fresh body, and really work to build my name in the UFC,” the 29-year-old said. “I think a lot of fans still don’t know there’s a sport called MMA. They think it’s just the UFC. I think getting established here is a big piece (of the puzzle).”
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