The scars of battle

JOSE RODRIGUEZ

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

For Winnipeg's Joe "El Dirte" Doerksen, every scar tells a story.

The veteran mixed-martial artist has 50 fights under his belt and as many pocks and pits on his face to show for it.

Dennis Kang, Chris "The Crippler" Leben, Joe "Diesel" Riggs and David "The Crow" Loiseau have all left their marks on the middleweight.

"If it wasn't for scar tissue, there'd be nothing about me that's pretty," says the affable 31-year-old, who holds wins over Kang, Leben, Ed Herman and current UFC middleweight title contender Patrick "The Predator" Cote.

Coming off a loss to Alberta's Jason "The Athlete" MacDonald at UFC 83 in Montreal last April, Doerksen is looking to start a win streak when he takes on John Meyer at the Venom at the Snakepit event in Calgary next Friday.

Doerksen says that if there's one thing he's learned in his nine years in the sport, it's that you can't take any challenge lightly.

"Guys are so well-rounded now," he says. "When I first started out, my entire training would consist of rolling around with some guys at the gym for a few hours and practising my wrestling. Now, I do my technical training at night. I do weights and cardio during the day and I have a very strict diet. After a fight I might grab some cheeseburgers, but while I'm in training, everything is very regimented."

Doerksen is among a growing group of gun-for-hire scrappers who have no permanent affiliation to any one promotion. That has allowed him to fight for the UFC, the WEC, King of the Cage and the now-defunct IFL.

The MMA landscape in North America has grown in the past three years, with Affliction Fighting and EliteXC leading the charge to unseat reigning champs the UFC. The growth of the sport has surprised even veteran fighters like Doerksen.

"I never imagined it'd take off like it has," he says.

The explosion in popularity in MMA has allowed Doerksen to drop the odd construction jobs he used to need to pay the bills.

"I've been a full-time fighter now for two years," he says.

Doerksen says he has about seven or eight years of pro fighting left in him. So it's important for him to fight as much as possible.

"This is only my second fight this year, and ideally I'd like to fight about four times a year," he says. "If I retire at 38, I hope to have something to show for it. Not to look back and think, I made a bunch of money but I drank it all away."

Doerksen readily admits he has no idea how he'd make a living if he wasn't fighting.

"I'd either be a cop or a drug dealer," he jokes. "I really don't know. I've always focused on fighting ever since I was young and nothing else."

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IN THIS CORNER

Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva, Mixed Martial Arts

Wanderlei Silva has become a fan favourite with his mix of stand-up dominance and aggression. The Brazilian, who began his pro career in Brazil's infamous Vale Tudo circuit, uses his strong Muay Thai skills to finish fights more often than most pros. He was the Pride middleweight champ for six years and won the Pride Grand Prix in 2003. Since switching over to the UFC, Silva is 1-1, with a decision loss to Chuck Liddell and a KO win over Keith Jardine. Silva now lives in Vegas and trains out of Xtreme Couture. He is married with two children.

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ON THE CARD

Future fights and events

UFC 88: Breakthrough goes Sept. 6 from Atlanta. The main event will feature former light-heavyweight champ Chuck Liddell taking on undefeated TUF 2 winner Rashad Evans. Also on the card will be Rich Franklin's return to the 205-lb. class, where he will take on Matt Hamill.

UFC 89 goes Oct. 18 from Birmingham, England. Michael Bisping will take on Chris Leben in the main event.


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