Rick Story leaves academia behind to focus on UFC title

The welterweight, who has lost friends serving in the US army overseas, was set to begin officer's school at the start of this year.

ABU DHABI // Rick Story might well have been serving as an officer with the US National Guard now, stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Instead, the American, 25, is preparing for a very different kind of battle on Saturday night, one that will take place inside a cage at UFC 112: Invincible on Yas Island. The welterweight, who has lost friends serving overseas, was set to begin officer's school at the start of this year. He had been commissioned as a platoon leader while in university.

He was three fights into his first four-fight contract with UFC when the call came from the National Guard. At the time he was unsure of his future in mixed martial arts. "It was a big decision," he said. "I wasn't sure if I was completely into the fighting. In my three fights I was one-and-two, so it wasn't like I started off with a bang. "I was struggling financially and wouldn't have been struggling if I took the place. But I didn't get the school I wanted, so I gave up that career path and took a chance."

He went on to win his fight against Jesse Lennox at UFC Fight Night 20 in January and was offered another four-fight deal. For now, his plan to stay in southern Oregon and put himself through university for a masters in teaching has been put on hold. He is dedicated to pursuing a welterweight championship title. "I wouldn't be doing this sport if I wasn't planning on being a world champion," he said.

Story is tough but his voice softens when he talks about his love for the sport he hopes will bring him success. "When I learn a new technique, I feel like a little kid," he said. "It sounds geeky, but I feel giggly and I just want to get started." On Saturday he will face English fighter Nick Osipczak, a maths graduate from London who starred in TUF: United States v United Kingdom. He is the next obstacle, and Story is ready to do battle.

"He has a different kind of style; it's not a style I am used to facing. He doesn't seem aggressive, he seems to wait until his opponent gets tired. But I don't usually tire." loatway@thenational.ae