Dozens of UFC fighters have learned the same bitter lesson over the last 12-plus years: If you don't show up to the post for a title shot when you get one, there is no guarantee you'll get it in the future.
Lightweight contender T.J. Grant is the latest fighter to find himself in that position.
Grant earned a shot at then-champion Benson Henderson's title on May 25 when he knocked out Gray Maynard in just 127 seconds at UFC 160 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.
But Grant suffered a concussion in training for Henderson, and on July 12, pulled out of the title bout that was set for Aug. 31 at UFC 164 in Milwaukee. He was replaced by Anthony Pettis and Pettis, of course, delivered a superstar-like performance in submitting Henderson in the first round.
Pettis quickly called out featherweight champion Jose Aldo after the bout. That left Grant shrieking and hoping he gets his opportunity. He told MMA Fighting's Chuck Mindenhall he thought he would be ready to fight by December. The UFC has a show on Dec. 28 in Las Vegas, but it is already topped by a pair of title fights: The middleweight rematch between Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva and the women's title rematch between Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate.
That makes it unlikely that UFC president Dana White would put a third fight on that card.
Grant, though, wanted everyone to remember that he earned the opportunity and doesn't want to lose it because of an unfortunate injury.
I'm pretty sure Aldo is a little banged up as well right now. My opinion -- I'm a fan, and I love watching UFC fights. I watch all of them, whether they're people I'm potentially fighting or not, I enjoy it. Pettis against Aldo is an exciting fight.
But, hey, I just won my last fight in two minutes. I knocked the [Gray Maynard] out. I knocked the guy [Matt Wiman] out before that. I feel like I've earned it. I feel like I'm the guy. I've been in the UFC a long time. I've never really gotten the push that I feel like I need, but I've also built a lot of experience in fighting and haven't been in the spotlight, which is nice, too. But I'm ready to be there and I'm ready to go out there. Give me the opportunity man. I feel like I've earned it.
Whether he gets it or not is up to UFC president Dana White and matchmaker Joe Silva. The UFC's history in the past has been not to have a newly crowned champion go chasing another division's champ right away, but the Aldo-Pettis match has a bit of history.
Pettis was supposed to challenge Aldo for the featherweight title on Aug. 3 at UFC 163, but he injured his right knee and had to pull out. But then his knee healed faster than expected -- I hear you, all you conspiracy theorists -- and when Grant pulled out of his fight with Henderson, the UFC tabbed Pettis to replace him.
Grant's probably in a good position to get the next shot, particularly since Pettis injured his left knee Saturday and may be out for a while. But with Grant probably not available until the new year, that's no sure thing.
This is a situation that bears watching.