He was looked upon as one of the up-and-coming fighters in the UFC’s welterweight division. After having won five consecutive fights, Che Mills earned himself a high-profile showdown with one of the best 170-pounders in the world in Rory MacDonald.

In the second frame of their meeting at UFC 145, Mills found himself on the receiving end of a vicious knockout which allowed MacDonald to win his third straight fight within the walls of the Octagon. Despite the loss, which pushed Mills back down the crowded welterweight ladder, England’s own viewed the defeat as a valuable life lesson, a lesson that will assist Mills in his climb back up the narrow ladder.

“You know, it was a very difficult loss,” admitted Mills in an exclusive interview with the MMA Corner. “Every loss at this level is tough to swallow.

Mills (James Law/Heavy MMA)

“Losing is never fun, but it taught me that I need to continue working on my overall game, specifically my wrestling. I was exposed on the ground, and it taught me that I need to improve my ground game. While a lot of fighters look at a loss as a negative, I found it be a blessing in disguise. I’ve worked on those aspects 100 times more than before.”

Mills will attempt to apply these learned lessons in his upcoming bout when he meets Matthew Riddle in a main card clash at UFC on Fuel TV 7 on Saturday, Feb. 16, when the UFC travels to London. Fighting in his home country will be to Mills’ advantage, but the opportunity to fight in general is something Mills has learned never to take for granted.

“I’m in the top of our sport. It means a lot to be fighting here because, in a sense, it means I’m mixing my skills with some of the best fighters in the world. It makes me extremely proud to be a part of this company. Not only that, but I have already been able to capture two wins, which included two finishes,” Mills said. “I’m looking to add to this total when I meet Riddle.

“I haven’t really done anything differently in terms of preparing for this fight. It’s pretty much always the same thing for each fight. We work on a little bit of everything and don’t focus on one area too much. If anything, perhaps I’ve worked on a little more wrestling for this fight. I’ve been training at Trojan Free Fighters, which is my home for training. We’ve got a lot of good guys down here, especially on sparring days. We call our sparring days our ‘meat days.’ I leave these days feeling like I’ve been hit by a bus [laughs]. It’s a great place with a lot of talent that has allowed me to keep improving as a fighter.”

Mills will need to be at the top of his game when action begins in a few short days, as Riddle is currently riding a three-fight winning streak in light of his no-contest as a result of a failed marijuana test. When examining his opponent’s overall skill set, Mills believes there is one specific area that he’ll be able to exploit come fight night.

Mills (James Law/Heavy MMA)

“I think I’ll be able to hold the edge in the striking. It’s no secret to most people, but at the end of the day, he knows how to strike and he’ll be prepared. You know how it goes, this is MMA and so we’ll just have to see. In terms of his whole positive test for marijuana, I don’t really care. I don’t smoke it, so I have no idea. I don’t really have any thoughts on it. It doesn’t seem like a sports enhancer to me,” Mills said. “But, I wouldn’t really know.”

While the lifestyle of a fighter is certainly complex and filled with many twists and turns, Mills has only one goal set before him. It’s a simple but fulfilling goal.

“When I look back on my career when everything is said and done, I just want my son, my family and friends to be proud of me,” Mills confessed. “I just want them to know that I gave it my all.”

Mills would like to thank his training partners and coaches at Trojan Free Fighters along with his supporters and sponsors which include Fear The Fighter, Venum, Training Mask, Core 150 Shaker, Sport Kitchen, Sci-MX Nutrition, Vita Coco, MMA Apparel and Tahir at Gloucester Pain Relief Clinic.

Top Photo: Che Mills (James Law/Heavy MMA)