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Even with the freeloaders, Josh Samman happy to get a fight in his home state of Florida

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

ORLANDO -- Josh Samman is one of those fighters who is stealthily climbing the rungs in the middleweight division, and yet it's a wonder, because he keeps making loud noises on the way up.

Samman faces Tamdan McCrory on Saturday night at UFC on FOX 17, and with a win he'll make it a perfect 4-0 in the UFC since competing on The Ultimate Fighter 17. Should he finish "The Barncat," he'll have four finishes in that stretch. In his last four victories, dating back to an XFC fight against Mikey Gomez, Samman has displayed an all-around arsenal. He has two submission wins, and two knockouts.

The biggest one came a year ago against Eddie Gordon, who was a sizable favorite at UFC 181. Samman, fighting with a heavy heart on the birthday of his late girlfriend, delivered a second-round headkick which earned him a Performance of the Night bonus.

So what does he see in McCrory, who is entering his second stint in the UFC following a five-year hiatus and a layover in Bellator?

"Tamdan seems to be coming back anxious to make a statement, which is the case of a lot of guys coming back after a layoff," Samman told MMA Fighting at Thursday's media day. "It was the same with me when I came back after two years. I was so hungry to prove to everyone that I was back. I knocked out Eddie Gordon very quickly — well, not quickly, it was two rounds — but I beat Caio, too. I look at Caio similarly because he had beat the last two guys before I fought him, and he'd knocked those guys out in the first minute, so, everybody at this point is a banger. Everybody is going to be very difficult and I don't expect Tamdan to be any different, man. I think it's a really difficult fight, and I'm not looking past him one bit."

McCrory last competed in the Octagon at UFC 101 in Philadelphia — the same night that Anderson Silva put on one of his greatest performances against Forrest Griffin. He was out of the game for five years, but returned 2014 against Brennan Ward at Bellator 123. After upsetting Ward, he submitted Jason Butcher in 66 seconds at Bellator 134 in February. Now he's back in the UFC as a 29-year-old intrigue.

Yet at a gangly 6-foot-4, he's only got an inch on Samman.

"He's big and tall, you've seen him," Samman said. "His length is just as long as mine is, but, not only is he going to be the tallest guy I've faced, I'm the tallest guy he's faced. So he's never fought somebody like me. The last two guys he fought were small guys. I think Brennan Ward went down to 170 after they fought, and Jason Butcher's not a big guy. So, I think my physicality will the difference in this fight. I think we both have a good fight IQ, we both have very similar skills — we both have good boxing and good jiu-jitsu — but I think I'm the more dynamic striker and I got more tools in the bag."

One thing that Samman has going for him is that he's fighting for the first time 2011 in his home state of Florida. The last time he fought in the Sunshine State was against Dan Cramer under the Bellator banner. Since then he's been booked twice to compete in Florida, only to have it fall through both times.

"I was supposed to fight Caio last year when the UFC came to the Amway before I got injured," he said. "Then when they rescheduled the fight with Caio it was supposed to be at the Hard Rock in Hollywood a mile from my house. Then they moved the whole event to Las Vegas. So third time's the charm for me. It's just always been my dream to fight in the UFC in Florida, and while I love Vegas and the bright lights and all that stuff are cool, I have hundreds of people that are coming to see me on Saturday. So the pressure's on. I'm no stranger to the pressure. I've put myself in the situation before, and I relish in it, I'm ready for it."

Asked if he was getting bombarded for ticket requests, Samman said it's gotten a little comical.

"Man, the UFC gave us a ticket block, and I emailed all my friends — I said listen, now's the time to get them, prices are going to go up," he said, pointing out that some of them didn't listen. "I've got so many texts in the last two weeks. You find out who you're friends are."

Though it's been over two years since his girlfriend was killed in a traffic accident, Samman is once again fighting close to her birthday. She would have turned 25 this year on Dec. 6.

"The Eddie Gordon fight, the things that I've been through, I think about everyday," he said. "I don't go more than a few hours thinking about it. I'm choking up about it right now thinking about it. It's always heavy on my mind."