LAS VEGAS - The boss said many words after his last fight, but five of them stick out: “He’s not a fighter, man.”
That’s what UFC president Dana White said about Uriah Hall after UFC Fight Night in Boston last August.
When the guy who helps determine many things in a fighter’s chosen profession, the last thing that fighter wants to hear is that he’s not very good at what he chose to do.
But here’s the thing: Hall is good at mixed martial arts. The Jamaican-born, Queens-raised Hall proved that on the 17th season of “The Ultimate Fighter” with a series of knockouts that set the Internet a blaze.
And that’s the Uriah Hall who showed up Saturday night at UFC 168, winning by TKO over Chris Leben. The fight was stopped after the first round by referee Steve Mazzagatti based on the advice of the cageside doctor. UFC broadcaster Joe Rogan said Leben asked to stop the fight.
"Those words really hit," Hall said at the post-fight news conference. "Those words definitely did something good and I’m glad he said them.”
Inside the cage during his interview with Joe Rogan, Hall apologized for his performance. Perhaps he didn't want the fight to be stopped the way it was, with Leben calling it quits from his corner in between the first and second rounds.
"I really wanted to go out there and finish the year in style so that result was disappointing," Hall said.
Hall (9-4, 1-2 UFC) dropped Leben (22-11, 12-9) quickly to open the first round, then did it again in the final seconds. He landed a right uppercut to Leben’s face. Leben dropped, Hall moved in and landed a series of strikes before the bell sounded to end the first round. Hall walked away smirking about the untimely timeliness of that ball.
It didn’t matter. Seconds later, his work from seconds earlier, paid its dividends.
“I wanted to dedicate this fight to some great people we lost this year, Nelson Mandela,” Hall said. He also mentioned UFC heavyweight Shane Del Rosario, who passed away recently and actor Paul Walker.
Hall reached the “TUF” finale and lost to Kelvin Gastelum by decision in a rather flat fight. He then lost to John Howard by split decision in a bout that included nearly as many sportsmanship glove touches as it did MMA punches. That’s the one that caused White to say what he said about Hall.
"I didn’t expect that type of ending but all things considered I felt good out there," Hall said. "It was a relief to get my first win in the UFC and for me fighting is a scary experience so it’s about going out there and overcoming that fear. I enjoy this but I have a different mindset than most fighters do. I’m a martial artist, not a fighter.”