Travis Lutter will make his long-awaited return to the UFC on April 19 at UFC 83: "Serra vs. St. Pierre 2", in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His opponent will be a challenge as he takes on former UFC middleweight champion, Rich Franklin.
Lutter -- The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season four middleweight winner -- will fight in the Octagon for the first time since his non-title submission loss to 185-pound champion Anderson Silva at UFC 67: "All or Nothing" more than one year ago. For Lutter though, Octagon rust will not be an issue.
"I train everyday, it's just one of those things that I'm not too worried about," Lutter said.
Lutter was slated to fight Ryan Jensen at UFC 74: "Respect" back in August 2007, however, he was unable to compete because of a neck injury. He's acknowledged that his neck is all better and will be ready to go come April.
"It feels good right now, so I'm happy," Lutter said.
"The Serial Killer" is aware that he has a big opportunity going up against Franklin. And he's eager to get in there and win.
"He was the UFC champ for a reason. He's a tough tough guy ... This is the type of fight that motivates me," Lutter said. "It's a chance to go out there and prove I am as good as I think I am."
Lutter, who has a 9-4 record in MMA, believes he can defeat Franklin and knows what he needs to do if he wants to leave Montreal with a victory. His plan for Franklin is simple.
"I have to take him down. If I can take him down, I think I'll win the fight," Lutter said. "First thing I need to do is make weight, next thing I need to do is take him down."
Lutter failed to make weight for his middleweight title opportunity at UFC 67 against Silva.
Both fighters are coming off losses to the same fighter, current UFC Middleweight champion, Silva. Lutter lost at UFC 67 and Franklin lost the rematch to Silva at UFC 77: "Hostile Territory" back in October 2007.
Lutter says he learned a lot from both fights.
"I've got a whole bunch of respect for Rich, he's a great fighter. There's a reason he was the the UFC middleweight champion for a long time. He presents a lot of problems to a lot of different people," Lutter said. "One of those he matches up with poorly is Anderson Silva."
Lutter felt confident getting in the Octagon with Silva at UFC 67 and proved his worth. He now believes that he can hold his own with the "Spider."
"I didn't win that fight, but you know I went in there and I felt like I won seven minutes of that fight, right up until I got submitted," Lutter said. "I felt like I belonged in the Octagon with Anderson."
There's no telling what might happen if Lutter defeats Franklin at UFC 83. Once you get past Silva, Franklin and Dan Henderson, there's not much more competition in the middleweight division.
With the strong return of Ricardo Almeida and the comeback of former middleweight champion, Evan Tanner, the division has received some relief, but not even close to enough. Some have suggested bringing up current WEC Middleweight Champion, Paulo Filho, or even bringing back former top contender in the division, Matt Lindland.
For now though, outside of Henderson, there is no clear-cut contender in the middleweight class. There's nobody who can really step in and go toe-to-toe with Silva.
Yushin Okami does have an opportunity to be Silva's next opponent. However, that is assuming that Okami beats Tanner and Silva beats Henderson.
If the cards fall right, it is not out of the realm of possibility for Lutter to take on Silva.
"That's up to the UFC, I don't get to control who I fight," Lutter said. "If they ask me to fight Anderson, I'm going to fight Anderson. That's who I want to fight. If they give me Rich and Anderson immediately afterwards, I'm down with that. If they make me wait two years, they make me wait two years. It all depends on what happens between (Anderson) and Henderson and I think it depends on how I do against Rich."
Right now though, Lutter is not concerned with who he might fight next. Instead, his intentions are on Franklin.
"I'm just concerned about going out there and getting Rich right now," Lutter said.
Only time will tell if Lutter gets another opportunity at the middleweight crown. One thing is for certain, however: He controls his own destiny in a division that is desperate for contenders.
It begins all over again for Lutter on April 19.
Side note: Lutter is picking Silva to defeat Henderson at UFC 82 and retain the title.