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Jamahal Hill finally knows the answer.
For years, Hill asked himself whether he was talented enough to become champion.
That question drove him during his training. It pushed him beyond limits, far beyond what was previously believed to be his breaking point. And in the main event of UFC 283 this past Saturday, Hill gave a definitive answer to the question.
“It’s good to know,” says Hill (12-1, 1 NC). “There was no blueprint for me. But I made all of these dreams come true.”
Hill defeated Glover Teixeira by unanimous decision in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to become the new light heavyweight champion. He controlled every aspect of the fight, dominating the majority of their 25 minutes in the cage.
While it was widely assumed that Teixeira’s jiu-jitsu would be overwhelming, it was Hill who stood out as the better grappler. The striking was entirely lopsided—232-75 in Hill’s favor—and Hill’s takedown defense was nearly flawless as he defended 15 of Teixeira’s 17 takedown attempts.
“I was prepared to go all five rounds and keep working,” Hill says. “I went in, followed the game plan, and did what I said I was going to do.”
Beginning in the second round, there were multiple instances where it appeared Hill would finish Teixeira after drilling him with a vicious flurry of shots. The end appeared inevitable in the third when Hill hit a devastating left head kick, but he could not deliver the ground-and-pound necessary to finish Teixeira.
“There were a couple times I was asking myself, ‘How tough is this dude?’” Hill says. “He definitely took more than I thought he would.”
In the fourth round, it was head kick after head kick from Hill, and it was realistic to believe the fight would be stopped. But referee Marc Goddard never called for a stoppage, and the doctor gave permission for Teixeira to continue into the fifth.
Improbably, Teixeira (33-9) landed a takedown in the fifth. That immediately became his best chance to win the fight, but Hill broke free and regained control in a very succinct manner.
“You don’t want to be on the ground in an MMA fight, but I stayed focused on what we trained,” Hill says. “I reversed him, I switched positions with him, and I beat him up on the ground.”
The enormous task of finishing Teixeira mirrored Hill’s journey in life. The 31-year-old comes from humble beginnings, but hard times never wavered his ambition or spirit.
“I wanted more,” Hill says. “I still do. I have bigger dreams than this, too. I’ve only had eight fights in the UFC. I’m just getting started.”
Before Hill’s flight back home even landed, plenty of discussion took place about a potential title bout against current middleweight champion Alex Pereira, who was in Teixeira’s corner at 283. Teixeira, who announced his retirement following the loss, shared that guiding Pereira will be his priority moving forward. Social media was abuzz with the idea that Pereira stared down Hill after the fight, but Hill quickly–and emphatically–put an end to that.
“That was cap, that was all cap,” Hill says. “People need to stop that. The media will take anything and run with it. The whole Pereira situation, I saw something that was all like, ‘After the fight, Pereira went up to Jamahal.’ Bro, I walked over to his corner and I 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 because if he had came [at me] or stared at me, or some type of thing like that, it would have been addressed with him right then and there. To think he would do something like that and I would not say anything, that is blasphemy. On top of that, he knew what the moment [meant] for Glover. I doubt he would try to make that moment about himself. That moment was about me becoming champ and Glover retiring, and all he’s accomplished in his career.”
As the chatter grows louder surrounding a title fight against Pereira, there will be more and more opponents hungry for a shot at the belt. Jan Blachowicz, Magomed Ankalaev, and Anthony Smith are three top contenders, and former champion Jiri Prochazka will instantly step in front of the line once he is healthy.
With the division lining up to take what Hill has worked so hard to attain, he is willing to pour even more of his soul into the sport in order to extend his stay on top.
“The belt is cool,” Hill says. “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’ve got. I’m focused on that. It’s time to evolve, level up again, and rule the division.”