Curtis Millender has been waiting several years to get his hands on Rory MacDonald. The former UFC fighter will finally have that opportunity Thursday.
Millender is set to make his PFL debut against MacDonald, a former Bellator champion and UFC title challenger, in the PFL 2 main event in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He stepped in on short notice after MacDonald's original opponent pulled out, but Millender started to prepare earlier in April as an alternate in the welterweight tournament.
"I've always wanted to fight Rory - for years," Millender told theScore. "I've always wanted to test myself against him. I know I can beat him. ... It was a dream opponent, a dream fight of mine."
Millender has fought 24 times as a professional, facing the likes of Thiago Alves, Kevin Holland, and Belal Muhammad, but most would consider this the biggest fight of his career. However, Millender is expecting an easy night at the office.
"I don't really give a shit what he's going to do," Millender said. "All I have to worry about is what I'm going to do. As long as I go out there and stick to my game plan and do exactly what I'm supposed to do to beat him, that's what's going to happen - I'm going to beat him.
"When I fought Thiago, I had to really get my shit together, because I was a fan of Thiago. I grew up watching Thiago. If I can go in there and do what I did with Thiago, this is going to be a walk in the park with Rory."
Not only would Millender be in a good position in the tournament if he pulls off the upset against MacDonald, but he also thinks it would prove to his doubters that he belongs in the sport.
"I get written off a lot by the MMA casuals, just because of my takedown defense or me not being able to get up," Millender said. "But a win over Rory, you guys have to respect me. I'm a f------ talent. ... I just want to clean my name up."
"My goal is to not even give up a takedown this fight," he continued. "And if I do give up a takedown, I'm getting right back up and he has to f------ pay for it."
The 33-year-old was released by the UFC in 2019 after two straight losses. He went 3-2 in the Octagon before compiling a 1-1 record during a short stint with Bellator.
Millender doesn't think he deserved to be cut, especially considering one of the UFC fighters he beat - Max Griffin - is still on the roster.
"My heart was broken," Millender said. "It was definitely weird, especially seeing guys that I've beaten that were still there, and other guys that were on two- and three-fight losing streaks still there. It was a real shitty situation.
"I didn't understand why. I was holding grudges and I wasn't doing the things that I needed to do. It really pissed me off. I was very mad. Very, very mad."
However, Millender's at peace with the situation now that he's in the PFL and gunning for the promotion's $1-million grand prize.
"If I beat Rory, I'm not even in the UFC but I'm still doing bigger things than the guys that are still there," Millender said. "That's why the focus is on Rory, putting him down, and then putting down the other three dudes (and) being a millionaire. It's time for this fight shit to pay off for me."