(This story appeared in today’s edition of USA TODAY.)
In 17 seasons of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the UFC’s long-running reality competition series has produced three world champions and nearly 200 UFC fighters. Uriah Hall might prove to be better than any of them.
“Every guy Uriah fought wound up in the hospital,” UFC President Dana White told USA TODAY Sports and MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “The first fight to get into the house, he breaks the kid’s arm. Then he knocks out Adam Cella with an incredible spinning high kick, then he knocks out Bubba McDaniel and then Dylan Andrews had a broken nose. That’s never happened in the history of ‘TUF.’
“He is without a doubt the most-feared guy coming out of ‘TUF.’ Ever.”
Fighting professionally since 2005, Hall earned notoriety while competing for the New Jersey-based Ring of Combat promotion, where he earned a middleweight title.
The UFC then selected the 28-year-old as one of 28 contestants on “TUF 17.” The destruction of four opponents in the show’s exhibition fights followed.
“I didn’t picture it this way at all,” Hall said. “We’re living our dream, and it’s so amazing just to be actually in it. When you have a dream, you’re thinking about it, but when you’re actually living it out, it’s surreal.”
Hall (7-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) makes his official UFC debut Saturday, when he meets fellow tournament finalist Kelvin Gastelum (5-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Events Center (FX, 9 p.m. ET).
Hall is a heavy favorite, and while White points out nothing is guaranteed in MMA, he thinks the bout could mark the start of a special UFC career.
“We do have to wait and see, but Uriah does have a lot of experience. And if you look at his losses, one was to Chris Weidman, who’s fighting Anderson Silva in July for the title, and his other loss was to Costa Philippou, who is also legit,” White said. “No guy has come off any season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ looking as nasty as this guy has. People are on my Twitter saying, ‘This guy should go right to a title shot.’
“All of the fans have super-high expectations for Uriah.”
Hall realizes the buzz surrounding his debut.
He watched his Twitter account add more than 27,000 followers during the 12-week run of the FX-televised reality show. He has seen clips of his highlight-reel finishes spread across the Internet. And he knows he’s expected to not only win Saturday but also to do so in spectacular fashion.
Yet Hall insists he’s taking it all in stride.
“It’s good because it means people are watching. But I’m not trying to live up to anyone’s expectations,” Hall said. “All I have right now is the moment.
“It’s good to make plans, but you don’t know what’s going to happen when you wake up tomorrow. I have the now, and I’m enjoying the now.”
For more on The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.