On occasion, when a fighter enters the steel cage, they must defeat more than just their opponent. They must defeat the odds, the hype, and sometimes even themselves. For Hector Lombard, it was never a matter of attempting to make a name for himself.

In examination, there were few who stood the test of time as did Lombard. Thirty-one wins later and five years without a loss, Lombard finally punched his ticket to the UFC, a stage that every martial artist dreams of from the time of comprehension.

Lombard was unable to overcome the hype, however, and suffered his first loss in five years to Tim Boetsch in his Octagon debut at UFC 149. The loss left Lombard’s fans stunned with questions of just how good this superhuman was. Fortunately for the masses of Lombard lovers, fans got an authentic glimpse of what all the hype was truly about the next time he set foot inside the cage. Just three minutes and 38 seconds into his second Octagon appearance, Lombard finished Rousimar Palhares with an array of punches, chalking up his first win with the world’s top promotion.

But Lombard had to overcome more than just his opponent once more. Following his destruction of Palhares, it was announced that Palhares had tested positive for a high level of testosterone, sidelining the Brazilian for nine months. Some may feel the penalty was unjustified, but according to Lombard, justice was served.

“I really don’t like that guy,” admitted Lombard in a recent interview with The MMA Corner. “Before our fight, he claimed that he was going to defeat me and take my leg back to Brazil with him. How did that turn out?

“I guess you have to do what you have to do. When you have to fight, I guess you have to do what you have to do to win. It didn’t matter whether or not he was cheating, he wasn’t going to beat me that night.”

After climbing one more step up the middleweight ladder, Lombard will now get the chance to prove his win over Palhares was worth the hype and more. But once again, Lombard will have to defeat more than just himself.

On March 3, Lombard will join the UFC on Fuel roster that travels to Saitama, Japan for a showdown in the land that played a large role in spawning the prestigious sport of MMA. This time, Lombard will attempt to defeat Yushin Okami in his homeland. It’s a task that can be accomplished, but it certainly won’t come with ease.

“I think the UFC is giving the fans the fight that they want to see,” Lombard said. “I think this is a very good match-up for me. I believe that I am better than him in every aspect of the sport. He will have the adventure of fighting in his home country, but that will be it.

“This will be a fight that I will have to be ready for everything. I saw Boetsch defeat him in Japan before, so I can too. I want to make sure my focus stays on Okami 100 percent. There is all this talk about getting a title shot, or fighting Anderson Silva, or fighting Chris Weidman. No, I am not thinking about any of that,” admitted Lombard. “I want to fight Okami right now and that is it.”

“I will defeat Okami, then we’ll go from there.”

Photo: Hector Lombard (James Law/Heavy MMA)