Uriah Hall: “I don’t have that killer instinct’
Uriah Hall, now seemingly just a faded memory, was once the daunting force during The Ultimate Fighter Season 17 that no one seemed to want to face after his brutal spinning wheel kick knockout victory of Adam Cella. It was clear that Uriah Hall was the ominous presence in the house, and by the way that Bubba McDaniel reacted, was what all the men feared would be their outcome.
It all started with the knockout of Adam Cella. With footage swirling around on commercials of that season of TUF with ambulance lights, stretchers, and Dana White saying it all involved “one of the nastiest knockouts I’ve ever seen in the fight business, let alone The Ultimate Fighter” everyone was on the edge of their seats to see who was responsible.
It was all done by the hands (or foot rather) of Uriah Hall.
Poor Adam Cella was on the other end of the devastating kick. A kick that left the room, and living rooms around the country (and world) in silence. At first, it appeared that Cella was seriously hurt. Even Hall seemed to be worried of the outcome of Cella. And although Cella was fine, the kick left a wake of fear throughout the house.
It was from this point henceforth that Hall’s name began to explode in the MMA community. Now, the Ultimate Fighter contender was being tossed into conversations about being the next big thing not only in the UFC, but the Middleweight division specifically, and someone who may even be a front-runner for the title. Even though he had already faced the likes of fighters like Costa Philippou and lost to current UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman before even being cast on the show.
However, after one of the most vicious attacks ever seen in an Octagon, the man responsible seemed to lose all taste for blood. What’s even more in question is whether he ever had the killer instinct to begin with. After he knocked out Cella we saw Hall’s eyes soften and feel too much remorse for his actions. Furthermore, during his bout with McDaniel we saw Hall show distaste in really going in for the kill, or even hurting his opponent at all.
Though this in everyday life is a very admirable quality, in the fight game the last thing you want to feel in the ring or the cage is compassion.
“I love Uriah Hall,” Dana White said after Hall had lost his bout against John Howard in Hall’s second UFC fight. “I have a great relationship with this kid. He’s one of the nicest human beings you can ever meet. But he’s not a fighter, man.”
To the fans that wanted Hall to be everything that they had hoped for. This had become a huge disappointment. The explosive destruction that Hall displayed on Cella had disappeared somewhere in the endless reels of fight film. Just a memory now. Sadly, the memory of Uriah Hall fades even more as time goes by. Now, Hall sits with a 0-2 record in the UFC books after he fought Kelvin Gastelum during the TUF Finale and “mentally broke” according to Dana White, and his unimpressive performance against John Howard doesn’t help his cause.
But he’s got one more shot to prove his worthiness. One more shot to prove he is indeed a fighter. This Saturday at UFC 168 Hall is set to face off against Chris Leben in a life or death fight for his career.
He enters this fight knowing the things that are being said about him, but the crazy thing is, he doesn’t disagree with a lot of what of what he’s heard.
“I hear those things, and my first thought was what? Whoa. No one wants to hear those bad comments. But for me it’s taking the good out of it,” he said. “I think you can learn from any situation. There was one point when my buddy brought the news to me, saying, ‘oh man, Dana says you’re not a fighter, what do you think about that?’ And I explained to him that Dana is right, I am not a fighter. I don’t go in there trying to kill someone. I enjoy the idea of picking someone apart. I’m more of a martial artist, and for me it’s just getting things perfect,” he explained. “It’s trying to get to that perfection level, even though I know that’s not something that I can achieve.”
“(Dana’s words) did some good things for me, man. It’s in your face, but you look at people who are successful in life, you’re always going to have those struggles, always going to have those battles, but it’s about overcoming it. For me personally, it was a big deal. I just felt at one point that it was just so fast and so sudden that I couldn’t handle it. But it didn’t break me, it taught me. So it’s about redefining myself and bouncing back.”
During his current camp Hall has made it a point to tweak his training style. He knows that what Dana wants is a killer, a fighter who is able to finish his opponent in the blink of an eye. Hall knows where he stands in that aspect, but in order to get his hand raised (which, after all, is his job at the end of the day) Uriah Hall is taking advantage of the resources he has to become a more effective weapon. Uriah has been training with the likes of Mark Munoz in California and Clayton Hires, Chael Sonnen’s striking coach, in Oregon.
Uriah admits that he was a bit star struck by the big show, and in a way did mentally break, but it has come to a point now that Hall realizes what opportunity he has laying in front of him.
“Coming off the show, I would say I felt nervous,” Hall says. “It was just a new game to me. And I look at the UFC as like the Harvard of martial arts. You reach that high of a level, it’s like, whoa, all eyes are on you with the media and all that.
“But the other day I was at a local event and these guys were just fighting in the cold man. It was outside. It was in the middle of nowhere, and it was a mismatch in weight, I was like…are you kidding me? At that given point, I was like, I think I’ve got it good. And I realized I was kind of wasting away what’s in my hands. I wasn’t grasping it. It was like I didn’t realize my potential. It’s just a lot of stuff going on, but it’s about balancing it out.”
Now that Hall has had the bitter taste of defeat in his mouth it seems that he is more amped to go after the sweetness of victory again.
“I feel like this fight is a do or die, but I also look at it as a way to bring that side out of me,” he says. “It’s kind of hard to explain. It’s like these two losses make me appreciate the wins more. It just kind of changed me to understand what I’m fighting for. And to go in there and put all those emotions aside. It’s something I’ve struggled with for a long time.”
And though he knows that he may never be the killer that Dana wants him to be he has full faith in his ability to be a fighter.
“Because, again, I don’t have that killer instinct. I don’t know how to go in there and kill someone. But I do know how to pick you apart and dismantle you. It was just focusing on that and understanding it and I’m at a point where I’m working with some great guys. I’m up here in Portland man and chopping trees and punching meat, that Rocky mentality, and it feels good.”
The big question is, how will he react to a fighter like Leben? If there has ever been a fighter to put the fight in someone’s face, it’s Leben. And though Chris may not be the most technically sound of fighters he’s a grinder and will definitely, as always, be coming forward.
This will make Chris Leben’s 22nd UFC fight. He may not be the prettiest to watch, but he is never short on entertaining. Leben moves forward relentlessly, and the more he gets hit the more dangerous he seems to be. He’s a gambler, sometimes he knocks out (Wanderlei Silva for one) and sometimes he’s the one getting knocked out (can’t forget Anderson Silva’s debut).
Hall is no fool. When pit up against “The Crippler”, Hall had an idea of what the UFC was trying to do.
“Probably,” he says. “If anything, once I’m backed into a corner man, I’ll go through that person. It’s an interesting match-up. I think it’s great. I know he likes to come forward, and I know he said something about, ‘I’m going to pressure Uriah and break him.’ For someone to come at me, especially him who just walks forward, you couldn’t ask for a better target. It should be interesting.”
Very interesting indeed, considering that it’s not only life or death for Hall, but its fair to say that if Leben loses this fight its the last we’ll see of him on the UFC roster as well. Leben is on a three fight-losing streak. Another loss would almost guarantee his dismissal from the UFC. The difference between the two is Leben has proven himself time and time again to be a gamer. Hall on the other hand has not. Leben has stepped up to the plate many times to prove that he isn’t afraid to fight, but when hall has been tested he crumbles.
“A buddy of mine made a comment, ‘are you afraid to be in the ring?’” he says. “It’s a little nerve-racking to be in there, but I’m not afraid to be in there. I’m more afraid to what I might do to my opponent. When I see myself bashing someone’s face in I’m like, oh crap.
“But, I’m over that.”
So he says…
We will see this Saturday if Hall is over it and whether or not he has what it takes to be in Octagon. Leben will no doubt test his willingness to fight. It can be guaranteed that Leben will not share the same sentiment as Hall does and will in fact be looking to bash his face in. We shall see at UFC 168.
If Hall is not able to overcome this obstacle then we are left with a great question about Uriah Hall. What happened? Was he so terrified of his own abilities that he withdrew? Was the warrior too soft to implement his weapons in battle? If Hall is not able to destroy “The Crippler” in an impressive fashion it is fair to say that his career as a fighter may be short-lived, and maybe even fairer to ask whether or not Uriah Hall ever was a fighter to begin with. We’ll see on December 28th at UFC 168 if Hall brings what tools are necessary. He’s going to need them.
All Quotes from MMAFighting.com