Jason Knight is the first Coast native to sign with Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The Lucedale native will face Tatsuya Kawajiri in a featherweight bout on Friday at the Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale 22 in Las Vegas.
Knight, who recently signed a four-fight deal with UFC, is a last-minute replacement. Mirsad Bektic was originally scheduled to face Kawajiri, but pulled out of the bout because of injury.
The 23-year-old Knight is a former Atlas Fights featherweight champion.
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"It's a dream come true to fight in UFC," Knight said. "I've worked toward this goal my whole life. I had my first MMA fight when I was 14. Being a MMA fighter helped keep me out of trouble. It's taught me a lot of discipline and self control."
Knight, who recently appeared on the Titan FC 35 card at UFC Fight Pass, has won seven straight fights and owns a 16-1 MMA record. He finished opponents in 12 of those wins, including 10 by submission. His best victory in that stretch was a second-round submission over Chechen Musa Khamanaev.
"Khamanaev was one of UFC's top prospects," Knight said. "UFC dubbed him the next world champion. But I defeated him and that was a big deal. That's definitely the biggest win of my career."
Kawajiri, 37, has a 34-8-2 record in MMA. He is considered a back take specialist. Kawajiri has a powerful, positionally focused ground game, making it tough to shuck off or trap him for submission.
Knight, nicknamed the "Kid" is also known for his explosive strikes and impeccable ground game.
"Kawajiri may be 37, but he has a lot of grit," Knight said. "He's been around and fought in every major organization for MMA. Kawajiri's good on the ground, but I'm good on the ground too. It's going to be tough, but I can beat him."
Knight, who trains in Alan Belcher's MMA Club in D'Iberville, leaves Monday for Las Vegas.
The TUF 22 Finale concludes the 22nd season of the "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series. The main event will be televised by Fox Sports 1.