Jamahal Hill finally knows the answer.
For years, Hill asked himself if he was talented enough to be a hero.
That question motivated him during his training. It pushed him beyond limits, far beyond what was previously considered a breaking point. And in the main event of UFC 283 last Saturday, Hill gave a definitive answer to the question.
“It’s a good story,” says Hill (12-1, 1 NC). “There was no blueprint for me. But I made all these dreams come true.”
Hill defeated Glover Teixeira by unanimous decision in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to become the new light heavyweight champion. He dominated every aspect of the fight, dominating most of his 25 minutes in the cage.
Although it was widely assumed that Teixeira’s jiu-jitsu would be superior, it was Hill who stood out as the better grappler. The hitting was completely lopsided-232-75 in favor of Hill’s-and Hill’s takedown defense was almost flawless as he protected 15 of Teixeira’s 17 takedown attempts.
“I was happy to go all five rounds and keep working,” says Hill. “I went in, followed the game plan, and did what I said I was going to do.”
Starting in the second round, there were many instances when it looked like Hill would finish Teixeira after drilling him with a vicious flurry of shots. The end seemed inevitable in the third when Hill landed a devastating left head kick, but was unable to deliver the ground and pound necessary to finish Teixeira.
“There were a few times I was asking myself, ‘How tough is this guy?'” says Hill. “It definitely took more than I thought it would.”
In the fourth round, it was head kick after head kick from Hill, and it was realistic to believe that the fight would be stopped. But referee Marc Goddard never called a stoppage, and the doctor allowed Teixeira to continue into the fifth.
Teixeira (33-9) probably came out on top in the fifth. That was his best chance to win the fight right away, but Hill broke free and regained control in very short fashion.
“You don’t want to be on the ground in an MMA fight, but I stayed focused on what we trained for,” says Hill. “I reversed him, changed positions with him, and knocked him up on the ground.”
Completing Teixeira’s mammoth task was a reflection of Hill’s journey in life. The 31-year-old comes from humble beginnings, but hard times have never dampened his ambition or spirit.
“I wanted more,” says Hill. “I still do. I have bigger dreams than this, too. I only have eight fights in the UFC. I’m just getting started.”
Before Hill’s flight back home even arrived, there was much talk of a possible title bout against reigning middleweight champion Alex Pereira, who was in Teixeira’s corner at 283. Teixeira, who announced his retirement after after the loss, he will be his guide Pereira. priority moving forward. Social media was abuzz with the idea that Pereira stood down Hill after the fight, but Hill put that to rest quickly and very quickly.
“That was a cap, that was the whole cap,” says Hill. “People have to stop that. The media will take anything and run with it. On the whole Pereira situation, I saw something that was like, ‘After the fight, Pereira went up to Jamahal.’ Bro, I walked over to his corner and shook his corner’s hand. He wasn’t looking me up and down. I put my hand out and he looked me in the eye when I shook his hand.
“The reason I don’t like that is if he had come [at me] or stare at me, or some kind of thing like that, he would have been dealt with right then and there. To think that he would do something like that and not say anything, that is blasphemy. Besides, he knew what the moment was [meant] for Glover. I doubt he would try to make that moment about himself. That moment led to me becoming champ and Glover retiring, and everything he’s achieved in his career.”
As the chatter grows louder around a title fight against Pereira, more and more fighters will be hungry for a shot at the belt. Jan Blachowicz, Magomed Ankalaev, and Anthony Smith are the top three contenders, while former champion Jiri Prochazka will step to the front of the line immediately when healthy.
With the division set to achieve what Hill has worked so hard to achieve, he is willing to pour more of his soul into the sport to extend his stay at the top.
“The belt is amazing,” says Hill. “It’s shiny and s—. Now that I got it, I know what comes with it. It comes with a bounty.
“Everybody wants what I have. I am focused on that. It’s time to evolve, level up again, and control the divide.”