Eric Nicksick knows Sean Strickland dethroning Israel Adesanya is no easy task.
With Dricus Du Plessis unable to make a quick turnaround for UFC 293 on Sept. 9, Strickland (27-5 MMA, 14-5 UFC) has been called for the title opportunity against middleweight champion Adesanya (24-2 MMA, 13-2 UFC) at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims expected on ESPN and ESPN+.
Strickland has been floating around in the UFC’s top 10 rankings, but setbacks to Alex Pereira and Jared Cannonier had halted his title aspirations. But now that he’s gotten the call after back-to-back wins over Nassourdine Imavov and Abus Magomedov, Nicksick says it’s an opportunity they couldn’t turn down.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” Nicksick told ESPN. “It was probably one of the realest moments I’ve ever had with Sean – just recently, we were in the gym, just me and him, and he said, ‘Man, this might be my only opportunity at this. This might be my only chance at a shot at the title.’ And you could see he had that emotion to him where he was excited for this challenge.
“This is something that I think anybody that steps in the UFC, if you get in this sport or get in this game, it’s because you want to be a world champion. And if that’s not the case, I don’t think that your heart’s in the right place and Sean’s is. Sean’s been busting his butt and doing everything he can to put his best foot forward against arguably one of the best to ever do it in Israel Adesanya. We have a tall task ahead, but we’re up for the challenge.”
Strickland has been called on short notice, but Nicksick does not expect that to play a factor. He says Strickland is always at the gym training.
“This is typical Sean. He stays in the gym no matter what,” Nicksick said. “I think that opportunity allows us to take some of those short-notice fights or fights that come up on four days’ notice, doing that, because Sean is in the gym all the time. We had a feeling that this might be the opportunity for him.
“The motivation alone just by saying, ‘Look man, you might be fighting for the title’ – but there’s no short notice for us. I don’t want to hear, ‘Oh, we’ve got five and a half weeks.’ We’ve had time to prepare, and that was the whole game plan. That was the whole idea is keep your ass in the gym, and we’re not going to have to worry about it.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 293.
Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie