Former champion Matt Hughes had plenty of motivation when he thought he was preparing for a title fight against Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight titleholder Matt Serra.
Not only would Hughes have a chance to regain the belt he held twice for a period totaling more than four years, but he was going to get an opportunity to fight the man he had sparred with verbally for the last six months.
Mutual dislike between rival coaches Hughes and Serra was one of the main plot lines on the recently completed sixth season of the UFC's reality show, "The Ultimate Fighter."
Too bad all that animosity won't be put to good use anytime soon.
Because of a back injury suffered by Serra during training, Hughes learned last month that his opponent in tonight's UFC 79 main event at Mandalay Bay would be Georges St. Pierre, with the interim title at stake.
Hughes and St. Pierre, essentially the world's top welterweights for the last several years, have fought each other twice, with each scoring a stoppage victory.
"I was very disappointed (not to fight Serra) because I was very surprised by his attitude on the show and some of the stuff he has said about me," Hughes said. "I really wanted to kick his butt."
Hughes didn't have to look far for motivation to fight St. Pierre, however.
"This is an exciting fight for me as well -- I get to fight the guy that beat me last," Hughes said.
Hughes seems unconcerned about the possibility of losing for a second time to the fighter widely considered to be on par with him atop the division.
"I don't think much about legacy," Hughes said. "I'm just chasing the dream that I get to step in the octagon with one other guy."
While Hughes, 34, and St. Pierre are both near the top of their games, the other fight heading tonight's card is one that appears to be happening a few years too late, skill-wise.
However, judging by the reaction at Friday's weigh-in, the Chuck Liddell-Wanderlei Silva matchup has lost no luster among mixed martial arts fans.
For years, MMA followers clamored for a showdown between Liddell, the UFC's most popular fighter, and Silva, the biggest 205-pound star in the Pride Fighting Championships.
They face each other tonight with Liddell on a two-fight losing streak and Silva having lost four of eight since an 18-fight unbeaten streak.
"(Silva) was ranked above me a lot of times, depending on what poll you look at, and I was above him in others," Liddell said. "Plus, even his fans would give me a lot of flak.
"This fight has been a long time coming."
It will be Silva's first UFC fight since he lost a light heavyweight title bout to Tito Ortiz in April 2000.
Another Pride import will make his debut with plenty of fanfare. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou won his last two Pride fights in the first two minutes.
The 23-year-old native of Cameroon, who seemingly hasn't stopped smiling since he arrived in Las Vegas, will fight Lyoto Machida, who has an 11-0 professional record, 4-0 in the UFC.
Machida will provide an interesting contrast in styles for Sokoudjou, as the Brazilian has won seven fights by decision, including all four UFC victories.
The 10-fight card begins at 5 p.m., with the five-fight pay-per-view telecast beginning at 7.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or (702) 224-5509.