In the main event of Rise FC 4, the stakes could not be higher.
For Connelly, 33, he said not only is this an opportunity to add another belt to his collection, but it’s a chance to solidify himself as a top candidate to be a replacement opponent for UFC Vancouver, already riding a streak that’s seen him win and finish seven of his last eight bouts.
“I don’t think this one more win will be enough to necessarily get me a contract outright, but I know I’m the next in line if anyone gets hurt for Vancouver,” said Connelly.
“A win just ingrains it more and more that I’m the guy if someone gets hurt.”
Originally from Victoria, it’s been over six years since Connelly last competed in his former hometown, with the last occasion being at AFC 18 in May 2013.
Connelly said he couldn’t be happier for this throwback opportunity and is sure to feel a lot of pleasant memories come rushing back.
“It’s awesome and very nostalgic, especially being in the exact same venue too,” said Connelly.
“Now living in Vancouver, I get all the perks of being an out-of-town fighter, but also all the perks of being the hometown guy.”
Although it may not be his first time fighting in Victoria, this will be Connelly’s first look at a title in his original hometown, as well as his first crack at gold in his home province.
He said he’s excited for the opportunity to finally fight for a title in B.C., an opportunity that’s not an option for him in B.C.’s other major promotion, Battlefield Fight League.
“The Battlefield belt’s held by my good friend and training partner, Achilles, and I don’t see anyone taking that from him until he’s in the UFC and it’s vacated,” said Connelly.
“By winning this, we can really solidify that we’re the guys for 155 in all of B.C. and really make a statement in that regard.”
Although from across the continent in North Carolina, this will be Owens’ second straight trip to B.C. to compete for Rise FC, with his promotional debut coming at Rise FC 3 against Sabah Fadai.
Owens, 34, said he was impressed and blown away by the treatment he received the first time around, and said it would mean a great deal to walk way as the lightweight champion.
“It’s a big deal. Rise FC, no pun intended, is on the rise,” said Owens in an interview.
“I know this promotion is going to keep setting the tone, and I’m pretty sure they’re going to be the place to be on that coast. If you want to make some noise, this is going to be the promotion to go to.”
Owens enters this contest riding a massive wave of momentum, fresh off a victory over highly-touted prospect and TUF veteran Joe Giannetti at Cage Titans 44 last month.
Now on a two-fight win streak and his most recent losing streak firmly in his rear-view, Owens said he feels like he’s on a roll and not ready to stop.
“My last loss, it had been awhile since I fought and my back was kind of against the wall. Now, I’ve got a little momentum, so I can be free to execute without thinking about anything else,” said Owens.
“I also think the timing of these fights is very good. They’ve all been back-to-back, so it’s just been a continuous grind.”
After coming up short in his most recent title fight against Nate Andrews at CES 51, Owens is driven for another shot at adding a second title to his collection, to go along with his Fight Lab strap.
Now in a much better state of mind, Owens said he couldn’t be in a better place to accomplish the feat Saturday night.
“I know Tristan’s putting the work in, but no need for false modesty; I’m incredibly technical, I’m incredibly well-rounded, and I’m motivated,” said Owens.
“Some things in my personal life worked out really well this year, so I’ve had much more training time. It’s a horrible time to fight me. If you’re a fan of MMA, you definitely want to watch this fight.”
“I’d like to thank my gym Checkmat Vancouver, Revolution Martial Arts, The Sound, Roll Jiu-Jitsu, Universal MMA, my strength coach Michael DeFrancesco, and my sponsors: Body Energy Club, Synergy Health Centre and East Vancouver Sports & Rehabilitation Clinic.” Follow Connelly on social media: FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM