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Maybe no one was more excited  ...

Let's rephrase that. No one was more excited to see Lincoln land an Ultimate Fighting Championship event than Drew Dober.

In fact, upon learning of UFC Fight Night at Pinnacle Bank Arena — the promotion's first visit to Lincoln — the Omaha native and UFC fighter immediately reached out to his matchmaker.

"I need to be on this card," Dober texted.

"I was like, 'Do you know any other Nebraskan that would bleed and die for the audience in Nebraska?'" Dober recalls. "(The matchmaker) said, 'Don't bleed and die. We'll get you on the card.'"

The match was made. Dober, a Millard North graduate, will meet Jon Tuck in a lightweight clash. It's one of 12 fights on the Aug. 25 card, and among the matches leading into the main event featuring lightweights Justin Gaethje and James Vick.

The 5-foot-8, 170-pound Dober is one of two Nebraska natives on the card. Jake Ellenberger will fight Bryan Barberena in a welterweight bout. Ellenberger grew up in Omaha and trains in California.

For Dober, it's a chance to fight on home soil for the first time in five years. He fought several times in Omaha and Council Bluffs, Iowa, before he broke through with the UFC.

Dober was invited to take part in the 15th season of "The Ultimate Fighter" in 2012, and though he was eliminated early from the show, the UFC took notice.

"Unfortunately I didn't make it into the house (that season), but I think it was just better for my career," said Dober, who started competing in mixed martial arts at age 13. "I got to experience what the cameras and lights were all about and then I got to go back home, have a couple fights and then I got signed by the UFC shortly after."

Dober's career professional record is 18-8, including 5-3 in the UFC. He'll enter Lincoln with some momentum. Dober has won his past two fights, including a unanimous decision over Frank Camacho in January, which earned him a Fight of the Night bonus.

"I feel like physically I'm at my best," Dober said. "My mental game is getting there, too. I think I'm absolutely ready to start fighting the top-10 guys, and now it's just getting that opportunity."

It just so happens that a top-10 fighter is helping Dober make his climb in the lightweight division. He trains (and lives) in Denver with Gaethje, who is ranked seventh in the world.

With UFC Fight Night in Lincoln less than two weeks away, Dober's training is currently in overdrive. He's training three times a day. It's rugged, but Dober wouldn't want it any other way.

"I get to live the life of a Power Ranger," the 29-year-old southpaw said. "I get to get up and play-fight with my friends every single day. It's a recess."

Dober knows his opponent pretty well. Tuck, too, was on the 15th season of "The Ultimate Fighter," and he'll enter the Lincoln event with a 10-4 record.

For Dober, it's an opportunity to keep moving up.

"Just another step up that ladder," he said. "I'm looking up at the stars, ignoring the clouds. It's not going to do much for my confidence. I have so much confidence right now."

Fans on Aug. 25 will likely notice Dober's experience in Muay Thai, a kickboxing technique that uses stand-up striking combined with several clinching techniques. Dober began working with the style at a young age.

Fans will notice another element of Dober's cage presence.

"My heart," he said. "No matter what, I forget that I'm even tired because I have such a drive to win and I want to win in a fantastic fashion."

As for having home-cage advantage on Aug. 25, Dober calls it nostalgic, exciting and motivating. He'll fight in front of family, friends and others who helped kick-start his mixed martial arts career. Dober's mother and sister live in Omaha, and his father's side of the family is in Lincoln.

As for plans after the Aug. 25 bout? Well, first, Dober will tend to his food cravings.

"It's a diner. Anything you can get at a diner," he said. "I'll just run to a Denny's or an IHOP. Cheeseburger. Pancakes."

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.


Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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