The road back to the UFC has been a long, arduous journey for Oregon’s Pat Healy. Since a lone appearance in the world-famous Octagon in 2006, Healy has competed 18 times, winning on 14 occasions. Over that stretch, the 29-year-old fought in the IFL, MFC and most recently in Strikeforce.

Now, after seven years away, Healy finds himself on the UFC 159 main card on April 27, facing consensus top-10 fighter Jim Miller.

“I really can’t tell you how excited I am,” Healy told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “I wake up every morning excited and it’s hard for me to go to bed. Just the opportunity to be on the main card of the pay-per-view with Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen headlining, it will draw so much attention.”

Healy’s excitement is more than understandable. After all, the last eight months have been quite tumultuous for the Sports Lab product. Healy earned the No. 1 contender’s designation from Strikeforce and was slated to challenge Gilbert Melendez for the promotion’s 155-pound title, only to have Melendez get injured on two separate occasions. The first resulted in the entire event getting canceled at the last minute and the second ended with Healy facing a promotional newcomer on the card’s prelims.

Healy (top) controls his opponent (Jerry Chavez/The MMA Corner)

“As good as Strikeforce was and as much good came out of it for me, it was hard constantly not knowing if Strikeforce was going to be there tomorrow or when you are going to fight,” said Healy of the now-defunct promotion. “They didn’t have very many shows and they still had a lot of athletes. Keeping us all busy was a hard thing for them to do.”

In his Strikeforce swan song in January, Healy defeated the previously unbeaten Kurt Holobaugh. Despite the appearance of a mismatch on paper, the fight proved more difficult than most anticipated.

“I never do very good in the favored position,” Healy quipped with a laugh. “That’s the type of fight that’s always been the hardest for me. Looking at my Strikeforce career, only two fights—that one and Eric Wisely—were the only ones where I was a favorite and those were two of the closest fights I had.”

Even with the close nature of the bout, Healy still managed to pick up his sixth straight victory, the longest streak of his 45-fight career. While a title shot is no longer on the table, Healy’s fight with Miller gives him the opportunity to quickly make a splash in the UFC’s deepest division.

“I think it’s a great chance to introduce myself to UFC fans,” said the fighter. “With what I did in Strikeforce and a win over Jim Miller, it leaves me pretty close to the top. I don’t expect to get a title shot with a win here. I think it will take at least one more win, maybe two to get in that conversation. But I think a win would leave me in the top five.”

Against Miller, Healy is facing one of the division’s elite. Of Miller’s four career losses, all have come against former champions or title challengers. And he’s coming off a “Fight of the Night” performance in his last outing, a win over Joe Lauzon.

“He’s a whirlwind, comes right at you,” Healy explained of his opponent, Miller. “You have to prepare for anything and everything. He comes to fight and is really active everywhere.”

With Miller’s penchant for fast-paced and excessively violent fights, Healy has focused on implementing his skill set rather than trying to take away any particular aspects of Miller’s attack.

Healy (L) throws a left hand (Jerry Chavez/The MMA Corner)

“I have to force the spots that I do well in,” he declared. “I don’t think either one of us are going to take a step back. I have a few size advantages on him. I have to fight my fight, work the clinch and put him on his back.”

As if facing Miller isn’t a tall enough order, Healy will do so in Miller’s backyard of Newark, N.J. But after so many fights in his 12-year career, Healy won’t be rattled by the environment inside the Prudential Center.

“Whether it’s for you or against you, it’s all about the crowd being involved,” stated Healy. “For me, it doesn’t really matter if the crowd is cheering or booing. As long as they’re not boos for a boring fight, you just feed off the energy.”

If you’re the betting type, don’t bank on a boring fight when the cage door shuts on Saturday night. In fact, if Healy has his way, both he and Miller will walk away with bonus money regardless of whose hand is raised at the end.

“I absolutely have to go out there and make this an exciting fight,” he proclaimed. “I honestly think that’s more important than winning or losing this fight. That’s the thing I’m trying to focus on, not holding anything back, letting everything go.

“If I do that, winning will take care of itself.”

Pat would like to thank Sports Lab, Jason House with Iridium Sports and his massage therapist Bill Proppy. Follow him on Twitter: @BamBamHealy

Top Photo: Pat Healy (Jerry Chavez/The MMA Corner)

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