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Niko Price can't wait to fight at UFC on ESPN 42: 'I'm back!'

After being away from the octagon for over a year, welterweight Price is more than excited for his bout against Phil Rowe in Orlando.
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There's no other way to describe it than to say that Niko Price is counting down the minutes until he steps foot back into the octagon. Following his weigh-in on Friday morning, Price yelled, "I'm back" and then sprinted off the podium.

It's been over a year since Price last fought, his last time coming against Alex Oliveira in October 2021. He left the octagon that night with a unanimous decision win, but has been dealing with injuries and surgery since, which has kept him away. However, he hasn't let the "stay ready" mentality slip away.

"I've been staying in the fight mindset, not letting it get away and getting too heavy or big or malnourished," Price said. "Just trying to have everything stay ready so when they called, I'm ready to go."

Through 14 fights in the UFC, the welterweight has had a mixed bag of results, recording seven wins, five losses and two no contests. As much as Price couldn't wait to get back to fighting, he knew that his recovery was more important than rushing the process.

"(The hardest part) was watching everyone fight and being like, 'Dude, I should be fighting these guys right now', but then you sit back, and I was like, I need to sit back and recover so I can come back and fight these dudes," Price said. "I'm back now, and I'm ready to start going."

The Cape Coral native returns to action against Phil Rowe (9-3 MMA, 2-1 UFC) at "UFC on ESPN 42: Thompson vs. Holland."

The last time a UFC event was held in Orlando was back in February 2018. When Price (15-5 MMA, 7-5 UFC) got the call to fight in Orlando, there was no hesitation, with it being just over a three-hour drive to the Amway Center. With the location set, Price didn't care who he was fighting, he just wanted to get back in there.

"I don't care who it was, you could've sent me Khamzat (Chimaev), I'm signing up," Price said. "It doesn't matter. I ask for these killers; I want these killers. Phil (Rowe) came up and I was like, 'Yeah, I'll fight Phil, of course. He's another killer, I'm down.' I want to fight the hardest dudes, I want the Khamzat fights, I want the fight the top 5, the top 3, I'm down for it all."

When asked what Price thought about Rowe as an opponent, there wasn't much thought needed, as his answer was simple:

"He's a good guy, cool, hilarious," Price said. "He dances good, makes some funny videos. He's a good fighter."

"The Fresh Prince" comes into the bout on a two-fight win streak after defeating Orion Cosce and Jason Witt, both by TKO. He has won nine out of his last 10 bouts and has an 80.5-inch reach, compared to Price's 76-inch reach. Rowe trains out of Fusion X-Cel, also located in Florida, making this a bout for Florida bragging rights.

There aren't nerves surrounding Price's eagerness to get back into the octagon; it's more excitement. He's ready to be let into the cage and put on a show once again. The 33-year-old aims to close out the year with a win and has his sights set on a big 2023.

"Get in the top 5, simple as that," Price said. "I have three more fights on this contract, I'm going to make a big name with those, and then we're going to be in the top after that and then the belt is next. Simple."

This story first published at UFC.com.