James Vick is betting on himself to be UFC's next star -- literally

James Vick will face Joseph Duffy at UFC 217. Al Powers for ESPN

UFC lightweight James Vick has been betting on himself, quite literally, for years. And he finally may have convinced the UFC to follow suit.

Vick (11-1) will try to improve his UFC record to 8-1 on Saturday, when he takes on Joseph Duffy at UFC 217 inside Madison Square Garden.

Fighting out of Fort Worth, Texas, Vick says he's been laying money on himself since he began fighting -- and doesn't expect this weekend's bout to be any different.

"Every time I fight, I bet on myself," Vick told ESPN's Five Rounds podcast. "I'm not betting crazy amounts, but I always bet the [maximum limit]."

The UFC has been a little slower to get behind Vick, at least from a promotional standpoint. Despite an impressive 7-1 record, Vick has never cracked the division's top ranks.

Part of the reason for that, Vick says, is none of the higher-ranked lightweights will agree to fight him. He also believes the UFC hasn't given him a strong marketing push.

That second complaint came to a head in May, when Vick publicly encouraged the UFC to start promoting him after he knocked out Marco Reyes in front of a hometown crowd in Dallas. The UFC responded to Vick's plea immediately.

"I went to the back and talked to the director of communications for about 30 minutes, while the event was still going on," Vick said. "They flew me to out to several guest appearances after that and had me do some media coaching. They responded very well."

The promotion also responded in the form of a contract extension offer, which Vick signed earlier this year. The 30-year-old says he's happy with his new deal and really only has one more request: Top-ranked opponents.

"I understand, 'Who the hell wants to fight a 6-foot-3 lightweight, who finishes people in all areas?'" Vick said. "I get that. But at the same time, there has to be some balance.

"I feel like I have to get the promotional push to get those fights. I just saw [welterweight] Darren Till win one fight -- and don't get me wrong, he deserves this -- but he went from like 10,000 followers on Twitter to 28,000 in two days.

"That's 100 percent the media push. That's [UFC president] Dana White saying he's the future of the division. I'm not hating on anyone, there's a big enough pie for everyone. I just want my fair share."

Obviously, Vick is hopeful he'll receive a top 10 matchup after dismantling Duffy this weekend.

If that doesn't happen, he admits he might have to rethink his approach in 2018 -- but he's betting that won't be the case.

"If I'm going to fight someone outside the top 15 after this, I'm going to tell them to put me at 170 [pounds], where I don't have to cut weight," Vick said. "I'll do the Donald Cerrone approach and just fight five times a year and get paid, without having to cut weight.

"I don't think that's what will happen. I think I'll be fighting for a top contender's spot by this time next year."