These days whenever Sam Sicilia gets a call from UFC matchmakers telling him about his next fight he just assumes he’s headed into enemy territory.
The former Ultimate Fighter competitor has become the go-to-guy whenever the promotion needs a featherweight to travel somewhere — usually halfway across the globe — and fight someone in their hometown or home country.
In four of his seven UFC fights, Sicilia has faced a fighter in their home country and/or state and he’ll pick up No. 5 this weekend as he takes on Akira Corassani in his native Sweden.
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"I don’t even question it anymore. I’m like ‘of course’ and not in a bad way. They send me to go invade and I go invade," Sicilia said when speaking to FOX Sports.
I don’t even question it anymore. I’m like ‘of course’ and not in a bad way. They send me to go invade and I go invade.
— Sam Sicilia
Sicilia got a harsh lesson about fighting in someone else’s backyard for his second bout in the UFC when he took on Ultimate Fighter Brazil winner Rony Jason in Rio de Janeiro. Going into the fight, Sicilia had heard all the stories about the raucous Brazilian crowd and chants of ‘you’re going to die’ in Portuguese coming from every direction.
Nothing he heard about was even close to the actual experience, but Sicilia knows facing a venomous crowd that was more or less chanting for his demise was a great learning lesson in tuning out everything else and just concentrating on the fight.
This weekend in Sweden he expects much of the same treatment. Then again he doesn’t speak Swedish any better than he speaks Portuguese so the fans can scream away and he won’t understand a word of it.
"I’m moving up, look at me go. They’re not cheering for me to die so that’s a step in the right direction," Sicilia joked about fighting in Sweden instead of Brazil. "Either way, it just sounds like noise once you’re in there. I got thrown in the deep end going to Brazil with my first fight in Rio and after that nothing else could ever faze me."
Sicilia’s willingness to step into the lion’s den could be part of the reason the UFC keeps calling and putting him in these situations. Then again, Sicilia also knows that the UFC enjoys the fact that they always know what they are getting out of him when he shows up to fight.
Rarely is there a ‘feeling out process’ and chances are there won’t be much clinching or fighting not to lose. Sicilia only has one speed when the cage door closes — balls to the wall.
"I think that’s why they do send me places like this. They can count on me to be exciting and they count on me to perform," Sicilia said. "Even when I’ve lost, no one can accuse me of not going out there and making something happen. You still have to watch me because somebody’s lights might get shut off at any second."
This time around he even gets an added bonus of kicking off the live main card on FOX and Sicilia knows how big this moment could be for him. He also knows that winning is most important, but making people stand up, shout, jump and scream during his fight is a very, very close second.
"It’s up to me to start this card off right," Sicilia said. "I’m not into jabbing and hanging around and feeling each other out and all of that s–t. Or when they say ‘he’s finding his range’. Well, I know my range. I’ve had the same sized arms I’ve always had so I just go out there and throw them."