Ireland's Aisling Daly can take a step towards a title at UFC 186 tonight
Tonight at UFC 186 Aisling Daly will battle local favourite Randa Markos in Montreal, Canada at UFC 186. The ladies straw-weight division has been thrown wide open after some recent results. The winner of Saturday's bout could be sling shot into a title fight.
Both ladies progressed through The Ultimate Fighter 20 reality series into the UFC proper. Both gave a good account of themselves on the show but neither has fond memories of the process.
Rather than look back in anger, Randa appreciates TUF 20 was a means to an end - "It was a difficult experience and I don't think I would do it again. I needed to do it because nobody knew who I was going into the house. Nobody thought I was a threat at all but I showed the world what I can do. It was definitely a fast track for me into the UFC."
Aisling has told the independent.ie previously she wasn't a fan of the reality show and had some strong words for some of her cast mates.
Carla Esparza emerged from TUF 20 to beat Rose Namajunas and become the inaugural UFC straw weight champion. She has since dropped her title to Polish sensation Joanna Jędrzejczyk.
Joanne Calderwood had been tipped as the next likely challenger if she could get past UFC debutant Ukrianian Maryna Moroz. She couldn't and the division is now devoid of an obvious contender for the title.
Enter Daly and Markos.
Aisling is ranked #10 in the division while Markos is up at #6. A win for either lady could conceivably propel them into the top five. As we've seen in other UFC divisions you don't necessarily have to be the #1 ranked contender to the a title shot. Conor McGregor will challenge Jose Aldo from his #3 spot, while Chris Cariaso found himself fighting Demetrious Johnson from his #8 berth.
Aisling believes a title shot is a very real possibility if she can win on Saturday.
"I definitely think a title shot is on the cards if I win, but I've got to get past Randa first. We'll see how this fight goes and whether it justifies a title shot. At the very least I think it will put me in the picture for a co-main event spot when the UFC comes to Dublin in October" explained the Dubliner.
During the trying times of TUF 20, being locked away from civilisation 'Big Brother' style, Aisling and Randa became quite close. You'd think it might be hard then to step into the Octagon to fight your friend; not so.
Both fighters can separate the personal from the professional and view the contest as something distinct from their friendship.
Randa fighting won't be an issue even if Aisling is a friend - "Not at all. In the house you need to find people who you relate to just to get by and keep you sane. I met some great people and I'm really glad I got to know Aisling. We went into the house knowing we could all end up fighting each other at some point, so no, it doesn't matter that we're friendly."
Daly has the same workman like approach - "It really doesn't bother me fighting people I know. I never have any hard feelings towards my opponents before or after fights. I really liked Randa and we were good mates in the TUF house. I hope there are no hard feelings after this fight."
Though Aisling has more experience than Randa, she enters the contest as an underdog.
Markos beat the highly ranked Tecia Torres during The Ultimate Fighter and lost to the #3 ranked Jessica Penne in her UFC debut proper.
Aisling also lost to Penne but during the TUF show, where the fights are classed as exhibition matches and therefore don't appear on your official record. She beat the unranked Alex Chambers in December and was supposed to fight #2 ranked Claudia Gadhela in Poland earlier this month. However, the Brazilian dropped out injury and hence the fight with Markos this weekend.
Despite being the underdog Daly and her camp are brimming with confidence. Her coach John Kavanagh predicted a one sided victory. His charge is a little more balanced - "It won't be easy, she's a tough fighter and very strong mentally. I know she's going to bring it 100%. I really hope she does because I'm 100% ready for war"
Regarding the finish, Daly was pretty optimistic - "I'm not anticipating three rounds, I think I can get an armbar finish in the 2nd round."
Despite having a number of high profile fighters pull out the UFC 186 still boasts some interesting match-ups. You can watch UFC 186: Johnson vs. Horiguchi live on BT Sport 1 (part of the Setanta pack in Ireland) from 1am on the morning of Sunday, April 26. Aisling Daly v Randa Markos is the first fight on the card and will be streamed live from 11:30pm on Saturday exclusively on UFC Fight Pass.