The term “under the radar” is often overused in the world of mixed martial arts, but UFC middleweight Chris Camozzi fully embodies it. In 2012, the Colorado fighter went 3-0 inside the Octagon with finishes of Dustin Jacoby and Nick Catone, as well as a decision win over Luiz Cane at UFC 153 in October.

Quietly, the 26-year-old has amassed a 5-2 record with the promotion, albeit in two separate stints. The success of the last 12 months has pushed the Factory X product to a pay-per-view main card slot at UFC 158 on March 16 against fellow Ultimate Fighter 11 alum Nick Ring.

As Camozzi prepares for his second appearance on pay-per-view, the parallels between his last main card bout—an embarrassing first-round submission defeat to Kyle Noke at UFC 127 in Australia—and this fight might be cause for concern, but after nearly reliving the Noke fight against Cane in Brazil, Camozzi is confident in his abilities.

Camozzi (L) connects with a left hand (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

“It’s just another fight; I’ve been here before,” Camozzi told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “Obviously, the last time was the worst thing that could’ve happened, so it can only get better. I got to redeem myself a bit against Cane, and now I get to do it again on pay-per-view.”

Against Cane, Camozzi found himself in the perilous spot of having his back taken by an experienced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner—just like in the Noke fight—but instead of panicking and being submitted, Camozzi showcased just how far he’s come as a fighter by escaping and going on to win the fight.

“In a weird way, I’m almost glad that it happened,” he explained. “It was one of those ‘face your fear’ type of things. After Australia, I came home and I drilled [that position] over and over again and said that will never happen again. That really got put to the test. I’m happy that I passed the test and I was able to get that out of my mind.”

With the submission attempt from Cane, the first frame of the UFC 153 bout was razor-thin. And although Camozzi’s Muay Thai was on full display for the remainder of the fight, the fact the fight went to the scorecards in Cane’s home country had many on the edge of their seat awaiting the verdict—a unanimous decision in Camozzi’s favor.

Camozzi (bottom) battled through adversity (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

“When it went the distance, I was nervous,” admitted the fighter. “I thought I did enough to win, but you never know how the judges see it. The fight right before mine was pretty close, but I thought [Reza Medadi] had won, but the Brazilian [Cristiano Marcello] got the decision. That sort of set the tone for the night. After that, my coaches looked at me and said I would have to finish my fight.”

Although Camozzi came up short in his efforts to finish the Brazilian, he still walked out of the cage with his third straight win. After his efforts to call out other fighters fell short, Camozzi was faced with a new scenario he’d yet to encounter in the fight game—fighting a friend.

“There are other guys that I would’ve picked first to fight,” declared Camozzi about his former TUF teammate. “They gave me Nick and they gave me a main card slot, so I can’t complain about that.

“Every time I get to fight in UFC is awesome. Even now, I’m still in shock over it.”

Camozzi may never get used to the excitement of fighting for the UFC, but one thing he is getting accustomed to is being the villain. The fight with Ring will mark the sixth time in his last seven fights that he’s fought in his opponent’s hometown or country.

“I’m starting to like it,” he said with a laugh. “There’s always going to be a good guy and a bad guy; I don’t mind playing the bad guy.

“The pressure is on Nick to perform in front of his friends and family. I get to travel and do what I love.”

Camozzi (L) delivers a knee (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

After sitting on the shelf since his October win over Cane, Camozzi is eager to keep his momentum going and continue his ascension up the 185-pound ladder.

“I haven’t fought in what feels like forever. I’m itching to go,” he said. “Four wins in a row [including Ring] should get me a tough test and a bigger name. I’m fine with working my way up, but if I don’t break into the top 10, my next opponent had better be in the top 10. There are several guys on the list that I think I can beat.”

But Camozzi isn’t ready to settle for another decision. He has his sights set on making an even bigger statement in Montreal: being the first to finish Ring.

“It would put an exclamation point on it,” he proclaimed. “Nick is a tough guy; Boetsch couldn’t finish him. If I can finish him, it definitely proves that I’m ready for big-time competition.”

Chris would like to thank his coaches and teammates at Factory X Muay Thai.MMA, his management Ingrained Media, his sponsors: Insta Loans, RevGear, Muscle Pharm, Tool King, Fulmer Helmets, Alien Ware, MGR Construction and Hatebreed. Chris also supports #FranksFight. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisCamozzi

Top Photo: Chris Camozzi (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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