After an up-and-down beginning to his UFC tenure, Sam Sicilia has quietly won three of his last four bouts inside the Octagon.
That hardly gives “The Ultimate Fighter 15” winner a sense of security, as Sicilia knows that he needs to remain consistent to further establish himself in the featherweight division.
“To me, I need to solidify myself in the UFC,” Sicilia told Sherdog.com. “Going undefeated for the year will certainly help me. I had the win-loss, win-loss deal going on. I’ve always fought on the chopping block to where now I feel like after getting another win, I‘ll really put myself into bigger fights.”
Thus far, Sicilia’s 2015 has consisted of a highlight-reel KO of Akira Corassani that had the Swedish fighter hinting at retirement and a unanimous verdict over Yaotzin Meza on July 15. To get where he wants to be, Sicilia will have to travel into hostile territory to face hard-hitting South Korean prospect Doo Ho Choi at UFC Fight Night in Seoul on Saturday.
It’s a matchup that has been more than a year in the making, as Choi has twice withdrawn from scheduled bouts with Sicilia -- first at UFC 173 in May 2014 and then ahead of UFC Fight Night in San Diego this past July. Considering those previous circumstances, you can forgive Sicilia if he is a little perplexed as to why Choi would be rewarded with a fight on his home soil.
“He pulled out both times about two weeks out from the fight. I beat both opponents that replaced him. Now he gets his way; now I’ve got to go down to Korea to fight him,” Sicilia said. “I think we were scheduled in Las Vegas and San Diego and he can’t make the trip up here for some reason. It keeps getting rescheduled so I feel like [UFC matchmaker] Sean Shelby wants to see this fight happen.
“I’ve got to go down there to make it happen and shut him off, show Sean. [For] whatever reason he wants to see this so bad. [I] just go take care of business and prove to him that I can smash this guy.”
Perhaps Shelby, like others in the MMA community, is enamored with Choi’s potential. The 24-year-old “Korean Superboy” made a splash in his Octagon debut, knocking out Juan Manuel Puig in 18 seconds approximately one year ago. That’s par for the course for Choi, who has finished nine of his 12 career triumphs via knockout or technical knockout while making a name for himself in the Japanese promotion Deep.
Sicilia is not as impressed.
“He had that quick one, which is against a guy you should knock out quick. I forget his name. That guy’s not good,” he said. “I don’t know how good that Deep promotion is, but he beat up a lot of guys down there. That’s what everybody did to get in the UFC; beat their local circuit and got in the UFC. In the Octagon, he’s only had  seconds. So this is pretty much his first fight. He’s a prospect or whatever. He’s accurate but he’s not super powerful. I think this is a guy that I beat up and move on to bigger and better and fights.”
Thanks in part to a rocky beginning in which Sicilia lost three of his first five UFC appearances, the Sikjitsu representative stays grounded when it comes to his standing in the promotion. He knows more than most that he’s only as good as his last fight.
“I’ve won three of my last four and it’s a two-fight winning streak…I don’t feel safe. I need to rattle off more than three,” he said. “To me it’s not even a job, it’s a string of opportunities, because they don’t owe you s--t. You’ve got to do the most with every opportunity you’re given here.”
With a win, however, Sicilia believes he will have earned the right to face a ranked opponent when he returns to action in 2016.
“After I get this win and solidify myself, [I want] somebody in the top 15. I‘ve seen guys that I don’t think belong there, and I can fix that myself.
“There’s a couple guys. And I watch the sport and I follow it and I don’t even know who the hell they are...That’s the thing about getting a winning streak is that people actually listen to you. When you’re just fighting for your job, you don’t have room to say s--t.”