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Beneil Dariush, left, kicks Carlos Diego Ferreira in their lightweight fight Feb. 6, 2021, at UFC APEX in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Beneil Dariush, left, kicks Carlos Diego Ferreira in their lightweight fight Feb. 6, 2021, at UFC APEX in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Beneil Dariush is a living, breathing example of what you see is what you get.

A minute before putting his life on the line in the Octagon, the Placentia lightweight shows all the emotion of someone enduring a tax audit. No pacing, no shadow-boxing, no fist-bumping adrenaline rush with UFC announcer Bruce Buffer.

Going into Saturday’s fight against fellow top-10 155-pounder Mateusz Gamrot at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi, Dariush knows, despite his seven-fight winning streak, he is not a desirable callout for his fellow lightweight title contenders.

“I’m not very vocal. I don’t get too involved in the media and this whole game everybody’s playing,” Dariush said Tuesday in a phone interview from Abu Dhabi. “And then the other thing I would say is because I’m a dangerous fight. You know, I’m not very lucrative as far as fighting me.”

There was a time when Dariush’s name might have been on other lightweights’ lips. Not helping his cause was a broken fibula suffered in training just two weeks before a UFC Fight Night 202 main-event fight against Dagestani sensation Islam Makhachev in February.

Dariush, already nine months removed from his unanimous-decision victory over Tony Ferguson at UFC 262, went on the shelf. Makhachev handled short-notice replacement Bobby Green in less than four minutes, and now he is the one taking on former champion Charles Oliveira for the vacant title in the UFC 280 main event Saturday.

“Our sport is about ‘what have you done for me lately?’ and I haven’t been active lately, unfortunately,” Dariush (21-4-1) said. “So with that being said, I feel like I lost so much momentum, but that’s OK, you know? It’s not the end of the world for me. I enjoy fighting and having an opportunity to fight again, this is enough for me.”

Now with his first fight in 17 months, Dariush welcomes a clash against Gamrot (21-1, 1 NC), who has won four in a row after suffering his only loss, via split decision to Guram Kutateladze, in his UFC debut two years ago.

Making their fight more enticing is their penchant for entertaining scraps. Each has collected four fight night bonuses during their current streaks, and Dariush plans to be the first to finish the 31-year-old Pole.

“The game plan is to finish him and I’m open to knockout or submission. It doesn’t really matter, but the game plan is to put a lot of pressure on him and to take him out,” he said.

Dariush has five fighters ranked above him, with Oliveira fighting Makhachev for the gold, Dustin Poirier slated to fight Michael Chandler, and Justin Gaethje waiting in the wings. A victory could ensure his next bout will be against one of them, but Dariush refuses “to sell my soul to get the belt.”

“At this point, I’m not going to be begging for a title shot. You know, I’m not a beggar,” he said. “I’ve done what I need to do. And I’m just gonna go forward. I have a few things I do want to talk about. So Lord willing, I will win and I get to talk about them.”

Call it what you want. An off-hand approach. The long game. Letting his actions speak for him. It also could be considered a risky strategy for a 33-year-old fighter.

But for someone who thought for a bulging disc and nerve damage in his neck, which was the impetus for his seven-fight winning streak, he accepts what he is given.

“My career was dead at one point. And God pretty much did a miracle. And I’m back and look where I am. So that’s what I try to look at,” Dariush said. “Those are things that I try to think about, instead of worrying about the things that I can’t control and the things that actually bothered me, because obviously it’s easy to get upset.

“But you gotta remember, man, I got more blessings to count than anything else.”

UFC 280

When: Saturday

Where: Etihad Arena, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi

How to watch: Prelims (7 a.m., ESPɫ̳/ESPN+); main card (11 a.m., PPV via ESPN+)

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