Two middleweights looking to emerge as title contenders will battle in the UFC Fight Night 31 main event, as Tim Kennedy faces Rafael Natal in a five-round affair. Kennedy was originally supposed to fight Lyoto Machida; however, the Brazilian was used as a replacement for Michael Bisping last month in Manchester.
Also on the card is a co-main event scrap between Liz Carmouche and Alexis Davis, alongside Michael Chiesa and Colton Smith on the FOX Sports 1 main card.
As the fighters who are taking part in this event finished off a week of media appearances and successfully made weight yesterday (see staredown pics here), It is time for their "Last Words," before the time for talking is over and the fists start flying.
Media Day Recap:
The featured attractions of UFC Fight Night 31 shared some final thoughts and showed praise for the troops with the media, before leaving it all inside the cage on Wednesday night.
Tim Kennedy was first to share his thoughts and it hits close to home for the former special forces group Staff Sergeant.
"There's nothing like it. The 'Fight for the Troops' card, everybody has the same energy -- and that's to put on a great fight. They're doing it because they're fighting in front of warriors."
Main event competitor Rafael Natal was thankful to be fighting in front of the men and women of the armed forces as well, gracious of their courage.
"They really are the fighters. I appreciate all the things that they do because I'm living in the USA now, and I appreciate all the things they do for this country. It's going to be a huge experience. After the fight, they are going to start to cheer for me for sure."
Colton Smith, a former Army Ranger who fights Michael Chiesa on the main card, also spoke about what it means to him to be fighting on this card
"Troops is what I want to fight in front of. I have affinity for my brothers and sister in arms making sure that I can keep putting on shows for them. What they do is hard on the battlefield -- what we do inside the cage is easy."
His opponent, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 winner, Michael Chiesa, also credited the armed forces and what it means to him to have the opportunity to perform in front of them.
"A 'Fight for the Troops' card does not come very often, this is the third one. I know I've got to fight an Army Ranger, but I'm not going to turn down a great opportunity to give back to the troops. These guys go out there and fight for our freedom. They make America the greatest county in the world. It's the smallest thing I could do to give back."
FOX Sports Interviews:
Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting.com and FOX Sports fame caught up with former U.S. Army member Tim Kennedy, asking him about his background in relation to this card, and if he feels like this is his big moment.
On returning from Afghanistan during the first "Fight for the Troops" card:
"I landed the night of the event, so I actually missed attending the event. But all the afterparties I participated in and all the fighters were there and all the energy that was going on -- and me coming back from Afghanistan, emotions were crazy. It was one of those things were it clicked in me that I wanted to come back to fighting."
On how he feels about being in the main event after this card:
"You remember me after UFC 161 -- I was like, please, put me on 'Fight for the Troops!' And then when they said 'You're fighting Lyoto Machida in the main event,' I lost my mind. I was ecstatic; I was thrilled. A couple of changes in opponents... in the end, I'm main eventing the card; it's a dream come true. I couldn't be happier."
On how he deals with the pressure and treat this like a normal fight:
"I'm relaxed when I fight. I love fighting -- I enjoy fighting. Once I'm in the cage, it's me and the other guy -- all that stuff seems on the outside of the cage. What happens inside the cage is how much I've prepared to that point."
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 31 fight card right here, right now, as we head into the FOX Sports 1-televised undercard bouts at 5 p.m. ET and then main card action, also on FOX Sports 1, which is slated to begin at 7 p.m. ET.
Enjoy the fights!