World Series of Fighting (WSOF) will hold its eight-main, one-night Lightweight Tournament this Friday night (Nov. 20, 2015) at Comerica Theatre in Phoenix, Ariz., the winner of which will earn a title shot against division champion Justin Gaethje.
Several of the tournament participants have previous history with Gaethje; however, perhaps none more significant than Rich Patishnock. Gaethje defeated Patishnock via first round technical knockout in the first round at WSOF 8, becoming the promotion's first-ever 155-pound champion.
We have not seen nor heard from Patishnock since that fateful encounter in Jan. 2014. His name resurfaced when WSOF announced its eight-man tournament, giving Patishnock his long-awaited chance at redemption.
The road back to the top has one big bump though -- to advance to the semifinal round of the tournament, Patishnock will have to overcome the relentless striking barrage of Luis Palomino.
After that, his next opponent(s) will be decided in the cage Friday night. It could be Brian Foster or Joao Zeferino -- or even a reserve fighter -- if there are injuries. Patishnock recently told MMAmania.com what he has been doing to get ready for the arduous road ahead.
"Coming off that layoff I've been consistently in the gym, always improving, and a lot of guys who take that time off they're just not doing anything until their fight camp. I've been in the gym, so I'm feeling great going into it."
Why such a long absence away from the cage? Two years is a really long time to go between fights.
"After the fight (with Gaethje) I got right back in the gym. I suffered an injury, which I got over very quickly, but at the time my management and WSOF just weren't communicating I guess -- or there was miscommunication -- and I just couldn't get a fight. I got a really bad eye injury, so that was a big one that I suffered during that time off, and that kept me out a little bit."
Indeed, a combination of injuries and management woes can crush a fight career, but from where Patishnock sits today, what hurt him the most was having zero time to prepare for Gaethje.
"I took that fight with Gaethje on a week notice. My original opponent was supposed to be Baboon. I feel destiny has a funny way of coming back ... or what's supposed to happen is always going to find a way to happen. Now me and Palomino are finally going to get in the cage together and I can't be more honored to share a cage with him. Hopefully, all goes well, I win the tournament, I get an actual fight camp for Gaethje and not on one week's notice."
If the first Gaethje vs. Palomino fight -- or their highly anticipated rematch -- proved anything, it's that both men will take a shot to land a shot. And that's exactly the kind of fight Patishnock expects Palomino to deliver.
"I'm gonna try to set my pace early, keep my range, and fight my fight. It's no secret I'm stubborn. I can take a hit (too). I took some of Gaethje's best shots and toward the end I was still standing. I have a hard head, hard chin, hard jaw, and I'm just gonna go out there and do what I gotta do and see what happens. That's always been my thing -- just go out there and do what you do."
It's not easy to get a read on Patishnock's assessment of Palomino. Being stubborn made him 6-2 with one technical knockout, one submission and four decisions in his win column. It also finished him 1:09 into the first round with Gaethje.
Then again, there's that whole "one week notice" thing. Like Palomino before him, Patishnock has a lot of desire to prove he can do better if he gets that second chance. And he'll get there with a little help from his friends.
"I train with the Miller brothers, and also Carmelo Marrero from ATT. I've got good guys that are just there for me helping me that are knowledgeable and everything. I'm very honored to be working with them and I can't thank them enough."
It's no secret that Jim Miller has a big fight with Michael Chiesa coming up, and Patishnock says he's well prepared.
"He's the same weight as me, and me and him -- when we go I always learn something. He's looking good man, I think he's ready. The thing with Jimmy is you never have to worry about him. He's just always ready for a war. Even in sparring when I move on him he's just a gritty veteran and he's gonna bring it."
Patishnock is equally prepared for Palomino, feeling the tournament format will bring out his best. But, he has mixed feelings about the fact a losing fighter can advance over an injured winner.
"I'm kinda half and half on that. In one sense it's like ... they lost, you know? But, the show's gotta go on, so who else to ask but the guy that just fought and earned their spot? Hypothetically speaking me and Palomino, the winner of us gets hurt, I think it's only fair to go to the next guy who earned a spot when he fought that fight."
The show will indeed go on this Friday night. And you can watch it all go down live on NBC Sports.
Complete audio of our interview is below and complete WSOF coverage can be found right here on fight night.