IT'S moments like these -- entering the cage to a standing ovation, hearing his name chanted by hometown fans and then raising his arms in victory -- that make all those hours in the gym worthwhile for Roland Delorme.
They are also some of the memories the proud Winnipegger will carry with him forever, long after his days in the octagon are done.
Delorme, a 28-year-old father from St. Norbert, won his UFC 161 bout with a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) over Edwin Figueroa of Texas in a jam-packed MTS Centre Saturday night, improving his record to 9-1.
"I heard the 'Rolly!' chants," Delorme told a media scrum after the fight. "Maybe that's what gave me that extra push to really get a 'W.' I haven't fought in my hometown for three years so it felt good.
"Today is euphoric for me. It feels like my career has come full circle. I started fighting in Winnipeg at the Convention Centre way back in the day in front of 1,500 people, now I got to fight in front of 15,000 people at the MTS Centre."
Delorme, who took a year off to recover from elbow surgery, had some immediate plans to celebrate the victory.
"How do I enjoy this? I get to go out and have a few beers now," he said with a grin. "That's how I'm going to enjoy it.
"I tried to stay calm as much as possible, but at the same time it's hard. It's hard when you walk out into your hometown and they're screaming your name and the crowd's roaring. That's a feeling I'm never going to forget. If I never get it again, that's something I'm never going to forget. That's something I'll take with me for the rest of my career and my life."
A submission specialist -- six of his eight previous wins came that way -- Delorme dominated the first round and had opportunities early to finish Figueroa. But the 28-year-old Texan battled back and by the end of the bout was firing shots back at Delorme.
Asked if his opponent did anything he wasn't expecting, Delorme quipped: "Yeah, he didn't tap out.
"I thought I'd be able to finish him. I had him in some bad positions, I had his arm trapped for a little while. I'm surprised I couldn't finish, but the guy's tough, man. You don't make it to the UFC by not being tough.
"There were times in the first, second and third where I was pretty close. But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, you know what I mean? When you're in the octagon you need to be able to finish or it doesn't count.
"I expected to win and I felt like I won the first and second rounds," Delorme added. "In the third round he kind of came back at the very last 30 seconds and landed a lot of punches. For the last 15 seconds I was trying to survive to the end. Props to him for being able to put it on me in the last 20 seconds."
Delorme's surgery -- he had bone chips removed from his elbow in December -- kept him out of the octagon for a long spell. And now he wants to get busy again.
"I want to fight as soon as possible in the next few months," said Delorme. " I've had a year off because I had surgery and I want to have another fight right (away). I've got to make up for lost time here and get some paycheques."
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @WFPEdTait