Collin Huckbody certainly isn’t following a typical career path when it comes to competing in the UFC, but he believes it’s the right one for him to take.

“Young Huck” was awarded a UFC deal in August after picking up a first-round submission win over Kyron Bowen at Dana White’s Contender Series, but when it came time to schedule his octagon debut, Huckbody admitted something just didn’t feel right.

Ultimately, he and the promotion elected to part ways for the time being, and the 26-year-old middleweight was again a free agent.

“It was most definitely a difficult decision, but there’s a silver lining in it, and I think it will be the best decision for me at the end of the day when I look back and see supposed downfalls,” Huckbody said. “I think this will be one that I’ll understand.”

Huckbody’s reasoning was simple, even if not one you normally hear: Despite riding a five-fight winning streak that includes three consecutive submission wins, he just didn’t feel certain he was truly ready for the deep waters of the UFC.

“When I get to the UFC spot, I want to be ready for every single person they put in front of me, and I just need a little more time to develop my skills,” Huckbody admitted.

As Huckbody continues on his journey, he’s made wholesale changes around him. He said he parted ways with his former manager “because we had different visions of our future.” He also uprooted from a small team in Minnesota and relocated to The MMA Lab in Arizona.

“They’ve really been working with me, helping me believe in myself – in my standup, as well as my ground,” Huckbody said. “Now that I have a team around me that believes in me and puts a lot of effort into my progression as a martial artist, I feel like I’m training how a UFC fighter should train.

“I love my gym back at home. They showed me a lot of stuff on the ground, but in Minnesota, we need more striking work, so I’m happy to be out here in Arizona expanding my skills.”

Huckbody (8-2) gets a chance to show his progression on Thursday, when he headlines CFFC 90, which streams live on UFC Fight Pass from Lancaster County Convention Center in Lancaster, Penn. He’ll challenge for the vacant CFFC middleweight title when he takes on Alaska’s Aaron Phillips (5-1).

It’s a change in opponent from the man Huckbody was first supposed to face for the belt, fellow DWCS alum Anthony Adams. However, Huckbody said he isn’t concerned with the assignment.

“At the end of the day, every fight ahead of me is my most important fight,” Huckbody said. “I’m treating this very seriously, just as seriously as I’d treat a UFC fight. Every fight is crucial at this level, so I need to bring my game every single time.

“I’m just going to show up and do what I do. That’s kind of how I approach things. Maybe watch a little film on him. But for the most part, I’m just going to execute and show up on fight night.”

Where, exactly, a win puts him remains to be seen. After all, he just had a UFC contract in hand and admitted he wanted just a little more seasoning ahead of that octagon debut. But Huckbody says he has no expectations and is willing to go back on DWCS if that’s what the promotion wants.

“I’ve seen a lot of other successful UFC fighters have two runs at the Contender Series, too,” Huckbody said. “I wasn’t the only one that fought once, and unfortunately I did get the contract but didn’t get to fight, but it does give me confidence seeing how the UFC runs everything, and now, for me, it’s just about showing up and taking care of business and not really worrying about the bright lights.”

A CFFC title would certainly go a long way toward keeping his name top of mind with UFC matchmakers. He could certainly catch the eye of other top shows, as well. But Huckbody said that’s not really his concern right now. Instead, improving during this reset period is what matters most, and he’s convinced that it will be the right move for him long-term.

“I think this is the perfect opportunity to show my skills,” Huckbody said. “I think you’ll just see a lot smoother Collin Huckbody, a lot faster and more sure of himself, and obviously in great shape and ready to go.”

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