Niklas Stolze, who helped Conor McGregor prepare for his bout against Jose Aldo and Nate Diaz, is making his UFC debut in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday where Robert Whittaker and Darren Till headline at UFC Fight Night 174.
The 27-year-old German welterweight will fight Russia's Ramazan Emeev in the preliminary card. Stolze stepped up to fight Emeev after his original opponent pulled out due to injury.
"I've always had the goal of fighting in the UFC and wanted to prove myself. I rang my girlfriend and we celebrated, but I wanted to sleep early so I could train the next morning."
He told AFP from London before flying to the UAE.
Magdeburg native Stolze has 12-3 record in MMA. He made his MMA debut in 2014 and moved to Dublin from Germany in 2015 to train with McGregor at Straight Blast Gym. SBG coach John Kavanagh was impressed with Niklas and was allowed to spar with the Notorious while preparing for the bouts against Jose Aldo in 2015 and two bouts against Nate Diaz in 2016.
"He's my role model and I am a huge fan, because of what he has achieved. I wouldn't say we're friends, but we talked around training sessions. I want to be a household name and be a fighter people get excited about watching."
Stolze has had no contact with McGregor since the Irishman's 2017 boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather but wants to seal his own place in UFC history.