The fighting pride of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, Norman Parke, faces the greatest test of his young UFC career this weekend.

His opponent Sunday in Boston, Gleison Tibau, is one of the promotion’s most accomplished lightweights in history. The Brazilian has earned fifteen wins in a UFC career that dates back to 2006.

But Parke (seen above right in a win over Naoyuki Kotani), whose career MMA record stands at 21-2-1, hesitates to even describe the fight a “test” at all.

In an interview with Jonathan Shrager for MMA Underground, Parke flatly describes a very different perspective on the bout from that of the public.

“It’s a huge statement to stay in the UFC that long,” Parke says of his opponent. “If I can stay in the UFC and have a career like that I’d be a happy man. But I want more than that.”

“I feel he’s had his opportunities to make a run at the title,” he continues. “Now he’s facing a young up-and-comer, had five fights in the UFC, getting better each fight, and this is the test people want to see. I feel it’s not a test at all, I feel I can get the job done.”

Asked of his opponent’s strengths, Parke describes the obvious — Tibau’s power, evidenced by a muscular physique.

“He’s strong, like a bodybuilder strength, but people have to understand, I’ve been training with heavier people all my life,” Parke says. “Strength don’t faze me at all. I feel I’m the strongest lightweight, period. As soon as we clinch up, I’ll understand if he’s really this freakish-strength fighter, but I won’t ever be freaked out by it. I’ve felt it all before. When I started judo I wrestled boys 90-100 kg, and there I was, a 72 kg fighter! You naturally develop a type of strength.”

“People look at his build and my build and think they know what’s going to happen. It won’t happen like that.”

Parke, who was one of Northern Ireland’s top judo players prior to his MMA career, recently called out Khabib Nurmagomedov as a potential opponent.

“People have been saying I’m too quiet, but people who know me back home know I’m not a quiet boy,” he says. “I’m not calling Nurmogomedov out being disrespectful. I’m seeing an undefeated lad and people don’t want to fight him. He’s come in to the UFC and completely controlled everyone, which I like — I admire that, a European SAMBO fighter. But I think I’d be a great test for him.”

Full video is here: