For someone dubbed by UFC president Dana White at various times as the most feared and most dangerous competitor in the history of The Ultimate Fighter, TUF 17 middleweight finalist Uriah Hall sure is humble. Just ask him about his knockout heard ‘round the world of Adam Cella, and he’ll claim that the spinning hook kick he landed wasn’t up to par.
“I know that kick, and to be honest with you, it’s not my best kick,” said New York’s Hall. “Not to say I have better, but to me, that’s not a perfect hook kick. I know what a hook kick should look like and I don’t think it was a good hook kick. I think I adjusted it enough to where it did enough damage, but people are saying it’s spectacular and I don’t really think too much of it as spectacular.”
Well, it looked pretty damn spectacular to everyone who saw it. Hall laughs.
“I’m a perfectionist, and hopefully I get a chance to attempt it again.”
His next chance comes this Saturday in Las Vegas, when he meets Kelvin Gastelum for the TUF 17 title. It’s one of the most highly-anticipated finals in series history, partly because of the unbeaten Gastelum’s upset-ridden run through the field, but mainly due to Hall’s path of destruction through his set of opponents that stunned viewers and his fellow competitors. And once White began singing the 28-year-old’s praises, Hall went from a relatively unknown east coast prospect to the most intriguing newcomer in the sport. As for the “feared” tag, he takes it all with a grain of salt.
“I didn’t really see myself as the feared guy in the house,” he said. “I was just there for the competition. I wasn’t there with a strategic plan to say ‘all right, let me go for this guy because he’s weak,’ or whatever. I was there because it was a tough tournament and may the best man win. I wanted to see how far I could go with it.”
He’s taken it all the way to the goal line. Now he just needs to cross it this weekend. After making his way into the house with a decision win over Andy Enz, he knocked out Cella, Bubba McDaniel, and Dylan Andrews in succession, building his budding legend with each fight. But as far as making bold and outrageous statements as the final approaches, he simply looks back at the whole TUF experience with an air of appreciation.
“Overall it was a great experience just being in that environment, completely out of my comfort zone, and at that particular time that was what I needed,” he said. “I was there for a tough tournament, and I had a great coach (Chael Sonnen), someone who believed in us and mentored us, so it was a blessing to have that, and I’m looking forward to using what was instilled in me to move on to the next chapter of my life.”
Before the next chapter starts, he must close this one against his Team Sonnen squadmate Gastelum, and though the Arizonan may be the underdog according to the oddsmakers, Hall isn’t buying it.
“The kid, just being on the show with him, he gets better every time,” said Hall of the 21-year-old, the youngest fighter ever on TUF. “He pushes the pace and there was no hole in his game; he’s good at everything and is very well-rounded. Being on the show with Kelvin, it was more like he was a little brother. We would wake him up to go train, we’d stay on him with his diet and all that stuff, so I have no bad thoughts towards him. It’s like with me and Bubba. We met before the whole thing and even Dylan too, so I had to separate that and just go in there and do what I had to do. It sucked, but at the end of the day, may the best man win, so I had to put that aside.”
It’s all part of the maturing process for the Jamaica-born Hall, a Tiger Schulmann MMA product who built a 7-2 record on the local east coast circuit, with his only losses coming against current UFC middleweight contenders Chris Weidman and Costa Philippou. He bounced back from the defeats with three consecutive wins, so did he think he was going to get a call from the UFC before heading out for the Ultimate Fighter?
“Honestly, I didn’t know,” he said. “I just went out there because someone gave me the message and I figured that I was more than ready. I lost to these two guys (Weidman and Philippou), and I know I can beat them if I ever get the chance again, but what did I have to lose? And I just took that shot. I flew out there without any money to get back. I was that determined, and it ended up working in my favor, thank God. But I was ready. I wasn’t thinking too much into it, but I just had a feeling that this is something I should be doing, and this is somewhere I should be.”
No one’s doubting that he belongs now. All he needs to do is put a stamp on it by defeating Gastelum and taking home his TUF 17 trophy. If he can do that, who knows, his next stop could be to help lead the charge of the UFC into New York.
“I would be honored,” said Hall. “I was actually thinking about that – what if I’m that dude to kind of open that gate. That would be so cool. This is my home, and I know it’s not legal here yet, but I know Madison Square Garden would be ridiculously packed (for a UFC event). It would be awesome to be a part of that history.”