Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Stormin’ Norman Parke made his intentions clear as he stood triumphantly in the middle of the Octagon. Having claimed his first finish under the UFC banner, the emphatic grounded assault of Naoyuki Kotani in round two of their bout in Dublin, Parke had a name on the tip of his tongue when Dan Hardy presented him with the microphone in the Irish capital.
“Hey UFC! Give me a top 20 opponent, Diego Sanchez where you at punk!?” he bellowed which resulted in one of the largest surges of the night from the infamous Irish assembly.
As great as it was on the night of July 19, a lot of fans were sceptical as to whether the match would be made but Joe Silva quickly chalked the bout up for the promotion’s first trip to Mexico at UFC 180, where Sanchez would command more support than possibly anywhere else.
Parke’s win over Kotani would see him remain unbeaten with a record of 4-0-1 and it was obvious why he wanted to fight Sanchez. ‘The Nightmare’ still boasts a marquee name despite his decline in recent years and even if a win wouldn’t put the Northern Irish lightweight into the rankings picture, it would definitely make international MMA audiences more aware of him.
There is no doubt that it was a winnable bout for the Next Generation man. However, a knee injury would rule Parke out of the contest, taking away his moment in the spotlight against a veteran of the sport.
Although there must have been a few anxious weeks waiting for a new opponent, Parke hit the jackpot when he was matched with Jorge Masvidal for Boston’s January card, a fighter who currently occupies the number 13 spot in the UFC’s rankings.
“Of course it was a blessing in disguise, of course it was,” Parke agreed in relation to his UFC 180 pull out. “This is the way it’s meant to be. I just go with the flow to be honest, I never try to plan out things too much. I just live in the moment. If it’s meant to be it’s meant to be, if it’s not just build a bridge and get over it.
“Look what’s came of it. I’ve got a higher ranked opponent, in Boston as well which is huge. That makes it extra special. I don’t know what to say—it’s going to be a great experience. In people’s eyes they don’t know where I’m at in the division. When I put Masvidal away, whatever way I beat him, people are going to know that I slot into the rankings perfectly after it. There will be a new boy on the block.”
Sometimes being a talented fighter isn’t enough, and Parke is certainly that. He is also a genuine company man for UFC. The Rodney Moore product fought across four different continents in his first four promotional tests and even bore the brunt of some dodgy judging in Brazil that handed him his only blemish with UFC—a draw with Leonardo Santos.
He is quite deserving of a shot at a rankings spot, but Masvidal is without question a massive step up in competition for Parke—something that he is quite aware of.
“I never try to get overwhelmed—like he’s higher ranked than me so automatically he’s ten times better than me. I never think like that. What other people will think is because he’s fought Gilbert Melendez I’m going to go in and get an ass whooping.
“They think I’m going to get stopped, they think I’m going to get knocked out. Can they not see my record? I’ve never been knocked out in my whole career. People will be wondering whether I’m ready for this step up, but this is the opportunity that I have. I’m going to grab it with both hands and believe me I’m going to beat Masvidal on January 18 on Boston,” he said.
The January date seems like a win/win for Parke. Even if his hand isn’t raised, he will be perceived to be there or thereabouts in relation to the top 15 after facing ‘Gamebred’. Had he taken a loss to Sanchez, however, an emotional fighter who could have taken on a whole new dimension in front of a vocal Mexican crowd, Parke may have had a more considerable climb back to a rankings bid.
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