Fans could easily wonder how a professional fighter who is a former contestant on The Ultimate Fighter—a presence that earned him the nickname “Stripper”—and former standout wrestler could be such an outdoorsman. Well, the answer to that question is simple.

“I’m an Eagle Scout,” said Ramsey Nijem in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I earned it a couple days before my 18th birthday. I grew up camping and all that stuff. I grew up in Washington, where there’s a lot of outdoor activities to do.”

Nijem, a finalist from season 13 of TUF, has often intimated his love for mountain biking, whitewater rafting and all things outdoors, and Utah, home of his gym, The Pit Elevated, is the perfect environment for such a lifestyle. The particular river he likes to frequent with friends is only a couple hours from the gym. Nijem made sure to make that outing after his last fight and has plans to do it again after his next one.

“We went down to the Green River and we floated the river, going camping and fishing and stuff,” explained Nijem. “It’s one of my favorite things to do. So after this fight, I’ll definitely take a couple days off, get my mountain bike back out, and go out for some rides, since I’ll have the energy. This camp’s been a pretty hard one, so by the end of the day I have no energy to go out and ride. My poor bike is just sitting there all lonely. When the fight’s over, we’ll have to get back out on the Green River and catch some trout before it gets too cold.”

While it’s fun to go out with the other experienced outdoorsmen among his friends, he also gets the occasional chance to introduce some city folk to the Utah lifestyle.

“We’ve tried taking some of our friends out that aren’t from here, and it’s always fun,” Nijem joked. “My manager Audie, he’s from [Los Angeles], and we had him go outside and go fishing with us when he was out visiting. It’s so funny to see somebody who’s never really done that, you know?”

It’s good to see Nijem able to get out and have some fun, especially in light of his recent loss. At the UFC on Fox card on April 20, he got caught with a punch from Myles Jury in the second round that ended his three-fight winning streak.

“I learned to be more patient and let things happen how they happen in a fight,” admitted the Palestinian-American. “Don’t try to force something when something’s not there. I feel like I got caught running in, and I wanted to make the fight end. I felt good and I thought everything was going well, and I just rushed in and got caught. I’m definitely going to be more conscious of when I attack and how I attack.

“One thing we changed is that we drilled a lot for this camp. We really tried to get the muscle memory down for fighting. I haven’t been doing it for that long, you know, and I didn’t have the muscle memory down yet, so we changed up a little bit how we’re training, and I feel like it’s gotten me a lot better.”

No sooner than the second week of June did Nijem learn of his next fight. With 10 weeks to train, he feels really good about his chances at redemption. That chance will finally come this Saturday night.

At the inaugural live sporting event for Fox Networks’ new flagship station, the Zuffa LLC brass will present UFC on Fox Sports 1: Shogun vs. Sonnen. On the preliminary card for this historic event, Nijem will face off against another TUF alum in the form of James Vick, who was a contestant on last year’s The Ultimate Fighter: Live.

Vick is an undefeated newcomer to the sport, at least in non-exhibition events, with all of his four wins happening in 2011. However, he was knocked out in the semifinals of the show and was therefore prevented from competing in the finale due to medical clearance restrictions. Nijem will be Vick’s first fight on an official UFC card.

It’s difficult to really pinpoint the type of fighter Vick is at this point in his career, but two of his wins were by submission and one was by TKO. Combining those stats with the fact that he trains under Lloyd Irvin would lead anyone to believe that he has sufficient training wherever the fight may go. Nijem has an idea of what to expect from his opponent.

“I remembered him from The Ultimate Fighter,” Nijem stated. “I remembered him being tough. I know he doesn’t have a lot of fight experience, so it’ll be kind of nice, since I’ve never really fought anyone that I’ve had more experience than, as far as MMA fighting. He’s a good boxer. He’s tall, skinny, gangly and will be hard to deal with, but I feel like it is a match-up that is really good for me.”

Nijem points out the obvious physical difference between these two fighters. Nijem is 5-foot-11, which is still on the taller end for the lightweight division. However, Vick stands at 6-foot-3 and is extremely tall for his weight class.

“I feel like, MMA-wise, it’s a good fight for me,” said Nijem. “It’s the classic wrestler versus striker type of fight. I feel that when my wrestling is on, I’m one of the best wrestlers at [155 pounds], and I can take anyone down and hold him down and get on the back and do my thing. I feel, stylistically, it’s a great fight for me. I’m just going to show up, do my best and beat someone up.”

As a high school wrestler, Nijem was a standout, earning “Wrestler of the Year” honors and continuing his amateur career into college. Wrestling was his segue into MMA. Confident in those grappling skills, he still knows what his opponent will most likely bring to the table.

“I’m sure he’s going to be trying to establish his range right off the bat, being 6-foot-2, you know, as tall as he is, and me, just trying to close the gap, getting on the inside, and putting him on the fence and on the ground,” Nijem said. “I think I’ll end up taking him down and pounding him out until the ref stops me or I get a submission.”

A stoppage in this fight will be a significant outcome for Nijem. It will be the first step in moving back up the ladder in a stacked lightweight division. He doesn’t plan to take too long of a break either, as there is still enough time left to end the year with a bang.

“As long as I come out healthy, I’d love to fight again before the year’s over and put a good exclamation point on my year,” Nijem explained. “That’s all I do. I’m 100 percent into the fight game. I just want to fight and get better and keep moving up the ranks. I had a little bit of a setback, but I feel like I’ve gotten better and grew from it and am ready to move forward.”

On Saturday night, live from TD Garden in Boston, Mass., Nijem will have the chance to get back in the win column. Then he can go fishing one last time before winter sets in, only this time with something to celebrate.

Ramsey would like to add a special note: “I’d really like to give a shout-out to Jason South, he’s one of my training partners. He’s a tough dude. He’s an undefeated fighter. He’s been on The Ultimate Fighter, but he lost the fight to get into the house. He’s tall, skinny, and a pretty good boxer, so he’s been my main training partner for this fight—him and my little brother. My little brother’s a tall, skinny, good boxer, too. I’ve had some good training partners for this camp.” Ramsey would also like to thank his sponsors and team: VA Mortgage Leader, The Pit and The Pit Elevated, Triumph United and Dethrone. Follow Nijem on Twitter: @RamseyNijem

Photo: Ramsey Nijem (L) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)