For most of us tough-guy keyboard warrior types, a "new" opponent comprises a random obnoxious drunk dude, cheap shot, defense of common human disrespect or a 3 o'clock "meet me at the flagpole" call out from the local Buddy Revell.
For a mixed martial arts (MMA) professional like Gegard Mousasi, however, "new" takes on a whole new meaning when you train for one opponent, but are then given another just five days before headlining UFC on Fuel TV 9 at Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, on April 6, 2013.
Let's not even factor in Octagon debut "jitters" and the whole Bush League rigamarole that went into Ilir Latifi replacing his injured training partner Alexander Gustafsson, as well as Mousasi's bold career decision that went into calling out "The Mauler," an established, talented and young eight-fight UFC veteran who is on the cusp of a Light Heavyweight title shot, that is now all for naught.
"Short guy, tall guy … very different. I trained more for a striker. I wanted to take Gustafsson down, so I trained more for taking him down. Maybe I shouldn't have said that [laughs] because maybe we will fight another time. But, anyway, the way I'm going to fight [Ilir Latifi] is going to be very different. But, I'm going in with the mentality that he is going in to try and take me down constantly, so I'm going to be very aware of it. So, it's much easier to defend something you expect instead of when you don't expect it. I think I will be just fine."
Indeed, Mousasi -- a former Strikeforce and DREAM champion -- had big UFC plans, but they all went up in smoke when the Swedish MMA Federation decided Gustafsson was unfit to fight (much to the chagrin of Dana White).
Anyway, Mousasi made it clear as early as possible that he was willing, able and eager to fight this weekend regardless of the shenanigans, even mentally accepting bouts with established veterans Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort.
That takes a high degree of balls, regardless of your thoughts on the "Axe Murderer" and/or the "Phenom." Just ask Brian Stann and Michael Bisping, respectively, who had full training camps to prepare and both and ended up staring at the arena lights in concussed dazes.
Instead, Mousasi drew the untested and unknown Latifi, a lose-lose type of opponent who seemingly gets him nowhere near a title shot with a win and most likely even further away with an upset loss.
Regardless of the outcome, White and Co., which rightfully gives fighters the benefit of the doubt -- and more chances than most -- who step up in a pinch, need to look at this situation different. That's because it kept a talented free agent acquisition in the dark literally days up until fight night, allowed April Fools Day-inspired pranks to run rampant and then booked him against a local Rocky-esque fighter with nothing to lose.
Perhaps the promotion thought it was doing Mousasi a favor with the Latifi match up, but all things considered, it's quite the opposite win, lose or draw if he's not rewarded -- or punished -- with a Gustaffson counter-weight once the dust settles.