Michael Kuiper entered the UFC in early-2012 with lofty expectations. A black belt judoka out of the Netherlands, the ink on Kuiper's contract had barely dried before the then-undefeated 22-year-old made his Octagon debut against Rafael Natal.
Since that time Kuiper has lost two of three, while suffering through a revolving door of opponent withdrawals and fight delays. His roller coaster tenure inside the UFC has now led to UFC Fight Night 30, where Kuiper and Brad Scott will open up the Facebook prelims, often the last bastion for fighters on the edge to make a case for themselves. Kuiper, however, isn't worried.
"I am not a person that focuses on things I can not control," he told MMAFighting.com. "Stress has always been something I managed throughout my fighting career both in Judo and MMA.
"I see this fight like any fight. It is another opportunity to test myself as an athlete and fighter. I focus on what I can control, and don't place any unnecessary stress on myself. I am there to train and win."
If Kuiper is in a better frame of mind for this camp, even despite the potential ramifications of a loss, it's hard to blame him. The road to Kuiper's last fight, a submission loss to Tom Lawlor, is in the running for being the unluckiest in recent MMA history.
Kuiper was initially scheduled to meet Thiago Perpetuo in January, but then Perpetuo withdrew due to an injury less than two months out from the bout. Caio Magalhaes replaced him, yet three weeks later Magalhaes withdrew as well.
Kuiper was shifted to a later UFC card and set to fight Buddy Roberts. Of course things inevitably went from bad to worse, as Roberts was lost due illness two weeks out from the event. Finally, to top things off, Roberts' replacement Josh Janousek pulled out five days before fight night.
Kuiper was removed from the card, having lost four opponents over a span of less than two months.
"It was annoying to prepare for various fights and not be able to show my skills on those particular fight days," Kuiper admitted. "There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into these bouts, and people that are close to me also make plans to travel.
"I just adjusted the training and moved forward the best one can do under such circumstances. "
By the time Kuiper squared off against Lawlor, he'd been sidelined for eight months, gameplanned for five potential opponents, and promptly lost in the second round.
Kuiper, though, isn't willing to blame his loss on the circumstances.
"The level of competition I had outside the UFC was competitive. It takes a little bit of time to adjust to the level fighters that are in the UFC, and I am a young fighter still," Kuiper said. "The thing is I learned a lot from the losses, and I truly believe I am a better and improved fighter as a result."
To say Kuiper's UFC tenure has not gone as planned would be a bit of an understatement. The middleweight prospect is an established finisher, having ended 11 of his 12 victories without help from the judges, yet he's been unable to gain traction with the general MMA fanbase thus far in his short stint.
Regardless he views Saturday night as an opportunity to amend that problem.
"We all fight on the same broadcast," Kuiper said. "American fans like most all MMA fans appreciate good fights and tough fighters.
"Other European fighters have also been very successful globally such as Stefan Struve, Gegard Mousasi, and Alistair Overeem. At the end of the day it is about making exciting fights. If I can do that, I am optimistic that the American fans will also welcome me," Kuiper concluded.
"(It's) just another day in the office to challenge myself and become a better competitor."