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FROM PATCHES NEARBY: Enumclaw Business Owner on UFC 148 Fight Card

Combat Sports and Fitness owner Jeff Hougland has recovered from a hand injury that sidelined him last fall and looks ahead to the July 7 fight against Renan Barao in Las Vegas.

So you all love local mixed martial arts?

Check out some of the comments on the MMAJunkie.com news article announcing that owner Jeff Hougland will be fighting Renan Barao, who Hougland himself described as the third-ranked bantamweight fighter in the world, at UFC 148 this July in Las Vegas, and they range from thoughtful to downright mean.

Hougland is clearly the underdog, but it's what you do with what the naysayers dish out that counts. "People are gonna say all kinds of stuff," he said Monday. "I use it to motivate me, to be honest."

Since which kept him from his second fight in the UFC against Mike Easton, Hougland's been patiently recovering and waiting for the chance to get back in the cage.

When he was informed over the weekend about facing Barao, he was excited but knew the politics of the match-up weren't in his favor. "I definintely think they brought me in to lose, but I plan to sail," he said.

A fight is a fight, and in order to move up the ranks, he knows he needs the challenge. "I'd be an idiot to pass on this opportunity," he said. "On paper, he could murder me. If I beat him, I get in the mix and get a huge bump up. That's what this is about. I didn't go to the UFC to say, 'hey can I fight the losing-est guys you got?'"

With a specific opponent to prepare for, Hougland said he can now tailor his training for Barao. In spite of his injury, "I never stopped training. I'll train specifically for Barao now but I never leave the gym. I'm constantly trying to get better at everything."

The fight is scheduled for July 7 during the UFC Fan Expo in Las Vegas. Three other fights: Dominick Cruz vs Urijah Faber, Rich Franklin vs Cung Le, and Michael Bisping vs Tim Boetsch are also on the fight card. "It's a huge exposure fight for me," Hougland said.

Barao reportedly has one of the longest winning streaks in MMA history. "I'm just happy to have the opportunity to fight a higher-caliber guy," Hougland said. "All the pressure's on him."

Thought his own focus will be on preparing for this fight, Hougland told Patch that his training partner, Ian "The Mule" Williams will be the main event at Rumble on the Ridge at the Snoqualmie Casino on April 14. who train at Combat Sports and Fitness faired at the last Rumble.

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