Queens' Uriah Hall getting some sophisticated coaching from Chael Sonnen
Uriah Hall's time spent on "The Ultimate Fighter" can be summed up in a simple advertising adage: Less is more.
That approach to being inside a cage, fighting another man trained to inflict punishment in multiple ways, is directly attributed to Hall's coach on the show, Chael Sonnen.
"He made me feel like I had no pressure," Hall said. "For the first time, I felt no pressure. Before, I was used to 'You gotta give 110 percent,' then he was like 'Go out there and give me 90.' I was like 'What?' For the first time, it was like 'Don't do your best.' It just made me perform better."
That's a unique position for a coach who spent just six weeks with the fighters while the show taped in November and December and began airing Jan. 22. But Sonnen's approach on "TUF" was one of motivation. Learning what each fighter needs in order to be motivated was the key.
"We spent more time trying to get him to pull back, as opposed to move forward," said Sonnen, a former All-American wrestler at Oregon and veteran of 40 pro MMA fights. "And that is beyond rare, almost inappropriate for a coach to tell a guy, 'Hey, you're doing too much.' "
Exactly how much Hall did on the taped series will be on display Tuesday as FX airs his first-round bout against Adam Cella.
"The confidence I've gotten to not be afraid to take risks is a hell of a lot better than worrying about losing," said Hall, 28, from Queens. "For the first time, I don't care about losing. Before, it was like 'I gotta win' and that prevented me from performing."
How Hall (7-2) performs beating up people on television is, in many ways, connected to his television watching as a boy on the island of Jamaica and the verbal and physical beatings he says he took after immigrating to America and settling in Queens.
Growing up in the Caribbean, Hall said he used to watch a karate show on TV.
"I didn't even know what it was, but it looked so cool," he said. "I would wait every time to see it."
He said it wasn't until he walked out of a psychiatric counselor's office as a teenager in Queens, his lack of confidence fully exposed, that Hall actually went into a martial arts school. It was next door to the psychiatrist. All that inner anger from being bullied and made fun of in junior high school needed an outlet. Hall found that in martial arts, first in the traditional form of karate and later in kickboxing, boxing and MMA.
"He talked to me for like two seconds and he was like, 'You have no confidence,' " Hall said "And I'm like, 'Whoa, this dude can see straight through me.' I needed that at the time. I was trying to act like I was a tough guy, like I was confident. It didn't work."
In fighting, Hall found his confidence. He also perhaps found his calling. Eight of his nine pro fights were in Ring of Combat, a highly regarded regional promotion in New Jersey. His two losses were to top UFC middleweights Chris Weidman and Costa Philippou, both of whom train on Long Island with Ray Longo and Matt Serra.
"He's a phenomenal athlete. Good kid, great personality," said Jon Jones, the UFC light heavyweight champion and his opposing "TUF" coach. "I'm supportive of great martial artists, despite what team they're on. If he's awesome, he's awesome."