MICK PARKIN is still well and truly on cloud nine after making his UFC debut.
The undefeated heavyweight prospect punched his ticket to mixed martial arts' promised land last August with a first-round submission win over Eduardo Jose Neves on season six of Dana White's Contenders Series.
The Sunderland slugger, however, would have to wait almost a year to make his first walk to the octagon – which took place on the UFC London prelims in July.
But to say the feeling he experienced that night at The O2 was well worth the wait would be somewhat of an understatement for Parkin, who dominated American Jamal Pogues on his way to a decision victory.
He told SunSport: "It was amazing. I always set my goals [in my career]. But I didn't say to myself, 'Just UFC'.
"I just thought, 'Just keep fighting and a big show will come in.'
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"But obviously, everyone who fights in MMA knows the UFC is the pinnacle of the sport.
"It was great to finally get to the UFC."
Despite having complete and unwavering belief in his abilities and an unbeaten record to boot, Parkin did, at times, wonder if he'd ever set foot inside the octagon.
He admitted: "It was a long process for us with fights falling through and people pulling out and getting late replacements.
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"And then for it to finally happen, get my shot on the Contenders Series, getting the win and then finally fighting in the UFC, it's just a dream come true.
"I've worked quite hard for this. And to finally have something to show for it, it's been amazing."
Walking out in front of 18,000 screaming fans is quite the contrast to Parkin's part-time stint as a bouncer on Wearside.
Revealing his former gig, he said: "I just worked the doors the doors.
"Doing security work on the weekends to be able to get by while I trained full time.
"I just did it Friday and Saturday night. I'm not like some of these guys who work a full-time job and train. That's hard.
"I've always taken the easy option and worked the weekends and trained full-time.
"These guys, I've seen it in my gym, they're doing 10 or 12-hour shifts and then they're coming to the gym and then they're up early jogging, that's crazy for me.
"But obviously, you've got to do what you've got to do."
Parkin's second octagon outing on Saturday night sees him travel to Sao Paulo to take on fellow Contenders Series graduate Caio Machado.
He said of the Brazilian: "He looks good and he looks decent. It's a good match-up.
"He's quite aggressive with his striking style and comes forward a lot. But I do feel like it's a great match-up for me and my style."
Parkin – a training partner of heavyweight contender Tom Aspinall – didn't hesitate to take a second octagon fight a mere four months after his debut.
And he's hoping to be just as busy in 2024, a year in which he hopes to make a serious impact on the division.
The 28-year-old said: "I take every fight as it comes.
"I know there are not many big guys so taking it slow as a big guy can still be quite hard.
"But, realistically, I'm thinking three or four fights a year would be perfect – if I can get that. Two, maybe, depending on injuries.
"I'm looking to get this one out the way, get a win on this one and get ready to go again in February or March time.
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"If there is a UK card, I'd like to jump on that again and then just slowly keep on fighting.
"The fights will start getting a little bit harder, but hopefully I can start pushing on to the top 15 and it slowly starts coming together."
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