At 37, Patrick (The Predator) Cote still enjoys climbing into a cage to fight.
"For sure, if not I'd probably be at my home now drinking wine and having a barbecue," the Montreal MMA veteran said with a laugh. "This is why I'm still here. Because I'm still enjoying it.
"I don't make all those sacrifices — diet, the training, the injuries, leaving home every morning, leaving my little girl behind to get into the gym two, three times a day — if I'm not having fun and not enjoying it."
Cote (24-10-0) returns to action Saturday night after a 10-month absence to take on American-based Brazilian Thiago (Pitbull) Alves (26-11-0) in a welterweight bout on the main card of UFC 210 in Buffalo. It's Cote's first fight since being dominated by Donald (Cowboy) Cerrone last June in Ottawa.
It's also the first of four fights on what he says is his last UFC contract.
Daniel (DC) Cormier defends his light-heavyweight title against No. 1 challenger Anthony (Rumble) Johnson in the main event at the KeyBank Center. Former middleweight champion Chris (The All-American) Weidman, currently ranked fourth among 185-pound contenders, takes on No. 5 Gegard Mousasi in the co-main event.
Cote, who made his UFC debut in 2004, is an athlete who has long planned his exit strategy from his gruelling sport. When not fighting, he does French-language commentary for UFC events and serves as an MMA analyst on Quebec TV and radio.
A Canadian army veteran, Cote also works with the military on close-combat instruction. In addition, he is an athletes' mentor for the Canadian Olympic Committee and has a real estate company.
"I don't want to fight until 40," he said.
"We'll see if I'm going to finish that contract," he added. "But you know what, I'm well-prepared to take my retirement when the time comes. But like I said, I'm still enjoying it. I still think that I have a couple of good fights in me. But when the time comes, I'm not going to make the fight I'm not supposed to."
Cote has always been a smart fighter, one who realized when he had to change up his game or drop from middleweight (185 pounds) to welterweight (he is 5-2-0 since dropping to 170 pounds).
But the Cerrone fight was ill-advised, at least in hindsight. The prickly lightweight-turned-welterweight floored Cote twice, took him down twice and had a 73-46 edge in significant strikes when the bout was stopped midway through the third round.
"He's one of the best fighters in the world so ... when you are not at your best, you're going to pay the price and that is exactly what happened," Cote said. "I wasn't there mentally at 100 per cent. I did realize that after the fight but I didn't talk about it. I don't make excuses, I don't talk about what went wrong."
"That was a bad night ... but I'm back now," he added.
Saturday marks Cote's 21st fight in the UFC. It will be No. 22 for Alves.
"Super-tough guy, super-tough fight," said Cote. "Every loss he has is against a top-ranked fighter. He's going to be very very aggressive, he's going to be very dangerous because he had two losses in a row. So he's going to have his back against the wall.
"Super-good striker on his feet. He's very very dangerous. Powerful. He can hurt me on his feet, for sure. But all around I think I'm a better mixed martial artist. My wrestling, my ground game, I think is better than him. I have more power in my hands than him too. But his standup game, his Muay Thai, the fluidity with the combinations with legs and kicks and punches, he's very very on point. So I'm going to have to be careful about it."
Alves is coming off losses to elite fighters in lightweight Jim Miller — he was suspended for three months for weighing in more than six pounds over the lightweight limit — and welterweight contender Carlos (The Natural Born Killer) Condit.
Cote and Alves have seen the good and bad of MMA.
Both have fought for the title and lost — Cote lost to middleweight champion Anderson Silva at UFC 90 in 2008 and Alves was beaten by welterweight title-holder Georges St-Pierre at UFC 100 in 2009.
Both have fought their way back from injury.
Cote needed several surgeries after blowing out his knee in the Silva title fight. Alves, who has also had knee problems, needed surgery to separate an artery from a vein in a brain abnormality that turned up in a pre-fight scan.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press