When GLORY middleweight champion Artem "The Lion" Levin steps into the ring to defend his title against Simon "Bad Bwoy" Marcus at GLORY 21 (results and play-by-play here), it will be the first time the Russian champion is seen on Spike TV.
His last GLORY appearance was at "Last Man Standing" in June of last year, where he put on a performance for the ages, defeating Alex Pereira, Filip Verlinden, and Joe Schilling in one night to win the eight-man tournament and become the first GLORY middleweight champion. But, that card was on pay-per-view (PPV), so many American fans didn't get to see his mastery on that night.
The champion recently moved to San Diego, Calif., where GLORY 21 is being held, and he is excited to make his Spike TV debut in front of a new audience.
"This is a great opportunity for me and my fans," Levin recently told MMAmania.com. "I stay for a quite long time in USA and I can call San Diego my hometown now. It has great importance for me. I want to take kickboxing in USA on a new level and to enlarge the army of GLORY fans."
Levin, 28, has been patient while awaiting his return to the ring, and said he's "ready to the fullest, 200 percent." While being away from the action, "The Lion" has been paying close attention to the rest of the jungle that is the GLORY middleweight division.
He was in attendance for his rival Joe Schilling's fight against Robert Thomas at GLORY 19, and of course, watched the GLORY 20 "contender" tournament to see who he would be facing at GLORY 21.
Levin picked Pereira to win the tournament, and was of the opinion that Marcus was returning too soon after a technical knockout loss to Fang Bian in a fight in China, saying "he should rest."
Marcus -- to the surprise of many -- won the tournament by defeating Wayne Barrett and Jason Wilnis to earn the shot against Levin.
The champion was just as surprised as the rest of those who picked against Marcus.
"Yes, I'm surprised by Marcus becoming a winner, but I consider it to be just a matter of chance at the tournament and other factors," Levin said. "Marcus was fresh before the final, and he performed really well."
The two middleweights have fought once before. Back in March of 2013, they fought under muay thai rules at Lion Fight 9 and Marcus won a unanimous decision that night.
As far as that particular loss is concerned, Levin is letting sleeping dogs lie and focusing only on the present.
"It's in the past," he said. "I live now. My aim is to become better every day than I was yesterday. So you can count how many days have passed since the fight. By that much, I'm better now."
Levin hasn't lost since 2010, when he dropped a decision to Joe Schilling in the GLORY 10 tournament final in a classic fight that went into an extension round. Since that contest, "The Lion" has won seven straight fights and now has a 50-4-1 record overall (5-1 GLORY).
Meanwhile, Marcus has gone 10-2-1 since the Lion Fight 9 encounter and is now 40-2-1 (2-1 GLORY). The Canadian recently told MMAmania.com that the two had spoken at "Last Man Standing" and Levin told him he felt they would meet in the final that night. That, of course, didn't happen with Marcus losing in the opening round against Schilling, but he always felt they would meet again one day.
Levin echoed that same sentiment.
"Absolutely, I knew that the fight will happen," he said. "And I'm glad it's the time now. We are both warriors. We both came through numerous battles. We both never went on easiest path. We both never choose an opponent for ourselves. We stepped in the ring and fought whoever it had been. So this will be an excellent war."
For the GLORY middleweight champion it's not about redeeming the 2009 loss to Marcus. It's just about being the greatest middleweight kickboxer on the planet.
"You should beat the best to become the best. I don't care who's my opponent. It motivates me."