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Irish eyes

BELFAST, Northern Ireland – Colin Robinson is big and thick and has the grizzled look of a longshoreman.

He's not the kind of guy who's likely to make an appearance on "Dancing with the Stars." Light on the feet, he's not. He's thunder without the lightning.

Or, precisely, he's the type of fighter who amateur boxing is prejudiced against, with its computerized scoring system that relies more on quick, flicking punches rather than powerful, concussion-inducing shots.

It was that prejudice that ended what Robinson calls his love affair with boxing.

"I became pretty disillusioned with it, to be honest with you, with the scoring and all," Robinson said. "There were too many rules and regulations, with the (required) headgear and all, to suit me."

He shoved aside any thought of winning an Irish heavyweight title and prepared to move on with his life. And then, as a 34-year-old, he discovered mixed martial arts and, he says, his life was changed.

And it will continue to change Saturday when he walks to the Octagon to fight Eddie Sanchez at UFC 72 in front of an adoring home crowd at Odyssey Arena.

"I'm an ultimate fighter now and that's what I really was meant to be," said the burly, 38-year-old Belfast native. "This is the ultimate sport and it's perfect for me."

He concedes his emotions will be on overdrive. Controlling them, says UFC light heavyweight contender Michael Bisping, will be one of the most difficult tasks Robinson faces.

Bisping is from Manchester, England, and got a chance to fight at home in April when he headlined UFC 70 at Manchester's MEN Arena. The adoring crowd sent Bisping's adrenaline soaring and he fought outside of his game plan. He nearly was submitted by Elvis Sinosic, but fought through it and wound up winning by technical knockout.

"I think it's going to be a shock, more than anything, for him," Bisping said. "It was a great shock for me. I had fought in Vegas, so I was used to the big crowd, but nothing had prepared me for the reception I got fighting in my hometown.

"I'm assuming the Irish fans are going to do the same for (him) and it's going to be a shock. The adrenaline just took off. If I could give (him) any advice, it would be just to keep calm and control it and fight like it's any other fight."

Robinson insists he'll be calm, even though he concedes that Belfast crowds have a reputation for tremendous loyalty to their hometown heroes. And though Sanchez has two UFC fights under his belt and is coming off a heavily-hyped bout with Mirko Cro Cop, Robinson is undeterred.

"I believe what you'll see will be a fight with very sharp striking skills," Robinson said. "And I believe the fight will get to the ground and that's where it will go my way. I'll finish it with the ground and pound. That's how I feel. I'm a finisher and that's why I love this sport so much because there are so many ways to finish a fight.

"I just believe that I'm going to come in and do my job and let people know that Irish MMA has arrived. Like I said, we've played catch-up for a while, but it's really progressed here and I think I'm going to show that the caliber of Irish MMA is very high."