Marc Diakiese will be looking to push the pace and promises a finish as he tries to get back on track Sunday in the UFC's return to Germany.
The British lightweight hasn't had the best year, having suffered the first two career losses, which came back to back against Drakkar Klose and Dan Hooker. However, Diakiese (12-2) still exudes confidence heading into his bout with Nasrat Haqparast (8-2) in Hamburg.
When a fighter loses three fights in a row, that's typically when the UFC shows you the exit door. But Diakiese isn't allowing that to enter his mind.
"People are talking about that, but I'm not too worried," Diakiese told ESPN. "I'm not too concerned. For me, it's about challenging myself. I can always do something else if need be, but to me it's about challenging myself. I know I'm marketable, and if anything, I know I can always get a job. For me, I just know I belong in the UFC and I'll show that this Sunday."
Diakiese is taking confidence from his time spent training at American Top Team, where he got feedback from some of the best fighters in the world.
"People think there's pressure, but for me it's not pressure," he said. "I was doing MMA for fun and enjoying it. You have a skid, you move on and you learn from it. Look at Mike Perry. Two losses, now he's won and he's back in line. I've surrounded myself with the top guys like Dustin [Poirier]. They know the type of guy I am and the level I'm on."
Diakiese has gone all in on American Top Team, which is based in Coconut Creek, Florida. That comes at a cost: time away from his family in England. The Brit is hopeful that the sacrifices he's making now will prove to be worth it in the long run.
"I'm basically out there full time," Diakiese said. "That's the sacrifice people don't see. My daughter forgets who I am sometimes because I'm away for too long. I'm never there. But I feel like this is the right time to do it. I wish I could have been here when I was younger to learn a bit more, what I'm learning now. It's the time to learn and improve, so I feel like I need to be there for now. I've got a family, but this is the type of sacrifice I've got to do."
It is an especially poignant sacrifice to miss family milestones. "My daughter has started speaking, and I haven't been there," Diakiese said. "I was there when she was walking, and I wanted to be there when she started speaking, but now I'm not there. My son is writing letters now, he knows how to spell, and I haven't been there. It's hard. I've missed so many birthdays. But I know at the end it will pay off."
Diakiese has no regrets for the path he has chosen. "I'd rather give my all and if it works out or it doesn't, then I know I gave it my all," he said. "I don't want to quit and say, 'I should have done this or that.'"
The 25-year-old, who was undefeated as recently as a little over a year ago, is looking back at his past performances, including those with highlight-reel finishes, as a "basic" version of who he is now.
"I've watched not just the fights I've lost but all my fights," Diakiese said. "People say I'm aggressive and I'm good, this and that, but to me I'm looking back at my fights and I can see all the mistakes I was doing. I was doing good, I was winning, but I still looked basic, to myself anyway. I don't feel like I'm that type of person no more. I'm setting my shots up and doing everything correctly, and this Sunday you'll see that."
Haqparast made his debut for the UFC only last October in a unanimous decision loss to Marcin Held. Diakiese insists that his opponent has had an easy path to the promotion. "For me, I'm going in and going to implement my game on him," Diakiese said. "I feel like he should not be in the UFC yet. If you look at his record, he's maybe fought twice a year, and some of the guys he's fought are amateurs. He's not beat anyone who was undefeated. I took peoples O's when I was outside the UFC."
Diakiese believes he will be too much for Haqparast to handle come fight night. "I feel like he's not been tested," he said. "It's going to be a finish. I can't pick rounds, but I know it's going to be a finish. At some point, I'm going to break him down because I haven't been training for three rounds, I've been training for five. I'm going in at a high pace from the beginning."