This weekend, Mixed Martial Arts veteran Bart Palaszewski will look to secure his spot as the top contender in the UFC Featherweight division, facing Hatsu Hioki on the main card of UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan. The fight could determine the identity of the next contender for Jose Aldo's UFC Featherweight title, with both Palaszewski and Hioki currently coming off victories inside the Octagon.

Bart "Bartimus" Palaszewski is 36-14 in his Mixed Martial Arts career, with 17 KO/TKO and 11 Submission victories. The Polish-American fighter is well-known for his relentless fighting style that always delivers a Fight of the Night candidate. In his most recent fight, Palaszewski impressively KO'd Tyson Griffin in Round 1, which earned him the prestigious Knockout of the Night award. The fight was a double debut for Palaszewski, both as the UFC fighter and as 145'er. At UFC 144, Bartimus will look to continue the same pattern against Hioki, with sights on proving he is the man to dethrone Jose Aldo.

We had an opportunity to interview Bart Palaszewski, who shared his thoughts about this Saturday's encounter with Hatsu Hioki, and the possibility of challenging Jose Aldo for his belt.

Follow Bart Palaszewski on Twitter @Bartimus7.

Can you tell about your training camp coming to this fight?

“Preparations are going great. I had a longer camp this time, but I usually do 10-12 weeks, so it’s nothing unusual. Some hits and bruises here and there, but nothing serious. Everything is going great, and man, I feel in the best shape of my life.”

Do you think Hatsu Hioki could have some sort of advantage fighting on his home turf? After all, this could be different from fighting in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“No, I don’t think so. Even tho we are fighting in Japan, the fans will be cheering him and booing me, it doesn’t bother me. As far as timezone goes, we are going to fight under USA time. So there won’t be jet lag or something like that. If anything, I’m the one who’s going to have an advantage there. Other than taking a 14-hour flight, there won’t be any differences.”

Hioki likes to wrestle, and most of his victories are coming via submission. But considering the fact that you are a BJJ Black Belt, and coming from a strong wrestling camp, do you think he actually might be a comfortable match-up for you?

“I’m actually extremely happy with the match-up. That’s the fight I asked for. I actually think he got really lucky with George Roop. He lost that fight. I want to fight him, and to prove that I’m a better fighter. Octagon jitters are just an excuse, because we all know he fought in big events for DREAM Shooto and Sengoku. For me, if there are 10 or 10,000 people in the crowd – I’m coming to do work. Jet lag, Octagon jitters… all those are excuses. I just think he’s all hype.”

Marlon Sandro is Hatsu Hioki's most credible victory...

“My teammate just knocked Marlon Sandro out. Oh, and that’s another fight with BS call. I watched that fight, and I think Sandro won. He didn’t deserve that decision.”

You definitely paid your dues as a fighter, but do you actually see this fight as the #1 Contender match-up?

“That’s what I heard. I heard if he wins he’s going to get a title shot. I don’t know if I will, but that’s definitely something I want. I’m going out there to take care of business. I’m going to whoop Hioki’s ass. Bottom line. He can’t take me down, his Jiu-Jitsu is good, but I’m a legit Black Belt as well. One way or another, I’m going to test his chin and knock him out. That’s my plan.”

At the age of 28, and with 40 MMA fights behind your back, do you see yourself moving closer to the peak of your MMA career?

“I have 50 fights, I’m 36-14. I do have a lot of losses, but most of those losses were boy fighting men. I started to compete at the age of 18 because I loved it. I didn’t know the sport is going to get big. So today I can say that I love my job, and I know that it’s a good thing because not so many people can say they really love what they do.”

So the recent talk (Note: ESPN story) about MMA fighters not getting paid properly, is something that definitely is not on your agenda.

“Not at all. I’m happy with the UFC and where I am. If you want to do something else because you think you are not getting paid properly - go do something else. Don’t complain about it. You know, when I started fighting I was getting paid 50-100 bucks. I wasn’t paid much at WEC either, but I knew that I’m going to work my way up. And that’s what I did.  I worked hard and did my thing as a fighter. In NFL you get 3,000$ as soon as you sign, but in NFL you have to basically play 15 years basically for free before becoming someone. That’s the way you also have to look at it. Do you think I got paid great by the UFC in the beginning? No. But that’s the way it goes – work hard, do your thing, and you will make good living. No one becomes a millionaire right off the bat. The bottom pay is good, there’s also an opportunity to make sponsor money, and other things that make it a worthy job. Just work hard and you are going to make it one day.”

Where do you see yourself at the end of 2012, obviously if you don't believe the doomsday prophecies?

“I don’t believe in doomsday prophecies. I think the prophecy of 2012 is just something for people without a life to look forward to. It’s something that made to scam people into buying survival gear. As far as my plans go, I want to break into Top 5 of the UFC Featherweight division and get my title shot. I’m in a hunt for the belt now, and that’s where I’m going to be at the end of the year. If the UFC offer me a title shot against Jose Aldo after I whoop Hioki’s a--, I’m definitely going to take it.”

Could be a silly question, and I don't mean to overlook Hatsu Hioki in any way, but if the UFC told you today that you are fighting Jose Aldo, do you think you can beat him?

“Absolutely. He’s a stand-up fighter, so am I. I think that a lot of guys he fought are not as durable as me, and don’t have the heart I have. As far as wrestling goes, I don’t think it’s going to be a wrestling match. It’s going to be a fight. I just believe I’m way more durable than him, and any of the opponents he faced. Aldo is better come prepared for a fight, because that’s something I’m going to bring.”

Thanks a lot for your time, Bart. Would you like to mention any sponsors?

“I want to thank everybody at Team Curran, Davis Speed Center, my management company VF Elite, Muscle Pharm, Jaco, SafeAuto and Headrush for taking care of me.”