CHICAGO -- UFC on Fox 6 is packed with homegrown talent. Clay Guida, Mike Russow and Ricardo Lamas all grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Anthony Pettis is from nearby Milwaukee. Eric Koch was raised in Iowa, then moved to Milwaukee and trains with Pettis. The card has a noticeably Midwestern feel, and the fighters are happy about fighting so close to their own backyard.
For Guida, there is an extra thrill in fighting Hatsu Hioki at the United Center. Growing up in Johnsburg, Ill., he watched the Bulls dominate the 90s from that arena, and later, saw the Blackhawks win their first Stanley Cup in 53 years. Guida was at the Blackhawks' home opener on Tuesday night, and it's quite moving for him to get to compete in the same place.
"I've been going to sleep with an even bigger smile on my face knowing that I get to fight in the friendly confines, the Madhouse on Madison, you're going to see the true definition of the madhouse. I get chills every time I think about it," Guida said.
"To be able to perform in that stage, the house that Jordan built, and [Scottie] Pippen, and John Paxson and Bill Cartwright, and all these guys, the six-time champion Chicago Bulls, the former Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, it's an honor. To see my dad and my aunts and uncles and that this is where they watched those teams, I'm kind of at a loss for words for it."
Lamas wrestled and coached at Elmhurst College, a division III school in Chicago's west suburbs. The wrestling team was so excited about Lamas' fight in Chicago that they made a change to their schedule.
"They have a meet in Wisconsin, it was a quad," Lamas said. "They canceled two of the matches so they can make it back in time for my fight. My head coach, my old coach, they're all going to be there."
But that doesn't add any pressure to Lamas.
"Honestly, it makes me feel more comfortable being at home, being surrounded by people I'm familiar with. If anything, it makes me more comfortable and will help me perform better on Saturday night."
Koch will face Lamas and his large cheering section, but he's hoping to draw energy from his own fans.
"Chicago, I know this is Lamas' hometown, but I'm right down the road. It's not a problem for me. It feels like an old school fight. It feels like a local fight, like I used to drive in Iowa," Koch said.
Koch was slated to face Jose Aldo in a title fight in July, but an injury took Koch out of the match. The title shot went to former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. No matter who is in the crowd, Koch is focused on getting his title shot back.
"I used to fight in front of my family all the time. I used to have big crowds for cheering for me. It doesn't bother me. I'm here to get my title shot back."
Pettis, who will fight Donald Cerrone, sees the extra fans in the crowd as no different from the ones who fill his sports bar in Milwaukee.
"I fight on pay-per-view on my sports bar back home. Every time my bar is filled up for my fights. I don't think it's more pressure, I'm going to feel more relaxed knowing my family is in the audience. Afterwards, they can celebrate with me."