"The division's gotten tougher," Bowles said this week (comments transcribed by MMAFighting.com). "It kind of evolved while I was out. A lot of people surpassed me ? their careers just kept going on, and mine was just on hold. And I think it just got tougher. And I think now that (bantamweight) is in the UFC, people are going to start dropping down. It's just getting better and better."
While Bowles makes his UFC debut this week, his opponent is a familiar foe. Bowles defeated Damacio Page by first round guillotine choke back in 2008, and though he was a bit surprised by the UFC bringing this bout to him, in the end it made sense.
"I'm not really one to ask for opponents, or say no," Bowles said. "That's not how it works. They just call you and say this is who you're going to fight. I thought it was a little strange, and then I started thinking about it ? we had both been out for a little while and we're both Top 10 in the world fighters. He had a bad last performance, so did I. So I think it kind of makes sense to match us up."
"Peoples' careers have evolved. They're more relevant than me ? some of them have fought two or three times since I've been out. People kind of forgot about me. I just have to go out there and get a win and remind them that I'm here and that I perform well."
For Bowles, getting back into the cage this week is extremely important for him after a rough and depressing layoff.
"It was awful," Bowles said. "Not only was I not fighting ? some of the time, I wasn't training. All you've got is a lot of time to sit around and think about what you could be doing and watching (other fighters) on TV, watching them have success. And in my mind, I'm thinking I could beat those people that are having success. It's a little depressing, but (I just) had to know that I'm going to be back and I'll do well."
"I've been sitting on the couch for the past year. I'm excited to get back in the cage ? especially in the UFC. It's something I've been waiting on to happen. I really feel like I just need a win and to stay healthy. Domination, if it happens, will be icing on the cake. But right now I'm just focused on staying healthy and the win."
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Penick's Analysis: A lot has happened in the bantamweight division over the last year, and with Miguel Torres climbing back up in the ranks and Urijah Faber entering the division, Bowles needs to re-introduce himself to the audience in a big way this week. He's a supremely talented fighter, but the layoff might be a major issue into this fight. It should be a good fight, and I'm excited to see Bowles back in the cage. A big win on Thursday could put Bowles right back into the mix at the top of the division, and he'll begin his path towards getting another shot at capturing gold.