John Alessio could hear his hometown crowd swell as the Octagon doors swung shut. Bright lights beating down on him, anticipation resting on the tip of his lips -- the moment had finally come.
After half-a-decade of grinding through the slums of MMA in search of a shot at redemption, Alessio, a native Canadian, had been given a fight against Matt Riddle in his own backyard. A triumphant return to the big show at UFC 124 in Montreal. For a split second his dreams appeared to be coming true, but fairness and fate are not always aligned.
Unable to break out of a contract with Golden Glory, Alessio watched helplessly as the opportunity slipped through his fingers, gone as hastily as it had arrived.
"It was very hard, man," Alessio admitted on Monday's episode of The MMA Hour. "I've been waiting for that phone call for years. I finally get it and I'm the one that has to say no? It was kind of ridiculous."
Not only was Alessio forced to abandon his UFC dream, he was shown no remorse in the process. Slated to fight Siyar Bahadurzada at United Glory 13, Alessio gawked as Golden Glory's army of lawyers descended upon him, threatening legal action if he tried to pull out of the match.
"They didn't want to budge," he explained. "They said they would take me to court if I even tried to mess around. They were trying to throw their weight around and act like they're the UFC, when really there's only one UFC. There always will be. I thought they should have let me out, but they didn't want anything to do with it."
As the ultimate capper, Alessio's seven-fight win streak met a violent end against Bahadurzada, while Riddle's bout somehow found its way onto the UFC 124 pay-per-view broadcast, with Sean Pierson playing the part of hometown hero.
Since then another shot has been hard to come by, though not for lack of trying. After ripping through five bouts in 2010 and three in 2011, the 32-year-old Alessio made his 2012 debut last Friday, snapping the win streak of Pat Healy's twin brother, Ryan, at The Score Fighting Series 4.
Following the three-round brawl, Alessio's stock is once again in the spotlight, and so he offered this pitch to the Zuffa brass.
"I'm 10-1 in my last eleven fights," Alessio explained. "I've got eight finishes in there, so I've shown I can finish. I've shown I can brawl. I'm undefeated as a lightweight, which is my new weight class. I haven't competed in the UFC at that weight class. There's tons of good fights for me at lightweight. No fights that I fear in that weight class at all. I'm ready to test myself at 155. I'm one of Canada's top, premier fighters."
Conveniently, UFC officials are expected to announce their debut trip to Calgary -- UFC 149 -- at a press conference this Wednesday. And with the timetables flawlessly aligned, Alessio couldn't ask for a better opportunity for vindication.
"That would be absolutely perfect," he excitedly proclaimed. "I'm from B.C. I've fought in Alberta numerous times ... so I've got a good fanbase there. B.C. being real close, all those fans can come. I think it makes a lot of sense to have me on the card. It would be a dream come true."
When Joe Silva kickstarts the match-making process, you can bet Alessio will be patiently waiting for that phone call. But even if it never comes, he's confident his story is far from over.
"I have zero quit," Alessio concluded. "I'm a fighter for life. I've been doing this going since 1998. You're not going to see me quit anytime soon. I need to get back to the UFC, to be able to lay my head down at night at the end of my career.
"I won't be denied."