Is it possible to possess such a dynamic skillset that it hinders forward progress? In the case of Josh Emmett (9-0), the reigning lightweight title-holder at West Coast Fighting Championship (WFC) and Team Alpha Male standout, he may be a victim of his own innate ability and strength.
The road to the UFC is a ceaseless uphill climb with bends and blind spots. Emmett’s GPS has guided his endeavors down this road for a little over a year, yet the needle on his gas tank continues to point well above half full,
“Every time someone has gotten hurt, or I’ve gotten injured or wasn’t able to fight, it always leads me to the next step in this game. It seems like someone is on my side. Everything happens for a reason.”
Positivity radiates off of Emmett, yet, it’s difficult to imagine the undefeated prospect doesn’t squint at each and every exit along his journey as a professional mixed martial, hoping to unveil a lead off the path he’s beaten within the regional scene. Prior to his recent title defense at WFC 16: King of Sacramento on January 23, 2016, Emmett explored the possibility of entering The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), a reality show that offered contestants who survived the tournament style format a UFC contract.
Personable with a sparkling smile that evaporates at the sound of the bell, the producers of TUF, likely, recognized the diamond in the rough they had with Emmett when he lobbied for a slot on the cast of TUF 22: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber:
“The Ultimate Fighter, TUF 22 tryout came up, and that was going to be the season where McGregor and Faber were coaching the show. I thought, ‘This is my shot; this is finally it!’ I flew out to Vegas. I tried out, and I did really well. I made the final cuts. That was out of hundreds, maybe even thousands of people. I was down to the top fifty.” Close to the finish line, Emmett said, “I stayed out in Vegas all week and did all my medicals.”
Throughout this TUF process, a fight against Ernest Chavez, a recent release of the UFC, lingered at the negotiation table. Collecting notable skins on your wall with wins also acts as a trampoline into MMA’s premier promotion; therefore, operating transparently, Emmett approached the producers with the situation,
“So I was talking to the producers, telling them I have a big fight coming up. Should I take this or not? They were telling me to not take the fight. They were saying, ‘Don’t say anything, but you are most likely going to make the show.’”
Just before Emmett’s comrades at Team Alpha Male shipped off for their coaching duties on the season of TUF, he checked in with the producers to clarify his position in the matter. The producers must have sensed danger on the horizon for the other members of the cast because the butterflies in the pits of their stomachs met the keyboard with considerable nerve,
“Then, I knew the guys were going out there pretty soon, so I emailed the producers to ask what was going on: Where is my itinerary and flight schedule? That’s when they told me, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. We made you an alternate. You didn’t make the show, but if anyone gets hurt, we’ll get you in here.’” Emmett admitted, “That was pretty disappointing.”
Emmett hypothesized the justification for not accepting him,
“I think they were just trying to stack the European team because these Europeans had fifteen to twenty fights, and the U.S. guys were like 4-1.” More confusing than the change of heart, Emmett continued, “One of the guys I previously beat in 2014 for the West Coast Fighting title made the show, and I was his last loss.”
Face-to-face with obstacles, Emmett circumvents problems rather than flicking the hazard lights or shifting into reverse. Emmett, wanting to return to his winning ways, accepted a fight against Rocky Johnson, a veteran with, at the time, close to six times his experience:
“Right after that, I was like: I need a fight, so they [WFC] found me this fight against Rocky Johnson. He’s the only one who would fight me, so they flew him in from Colorado. He was a veteran of the sport and had forty-five pro fights. He was 30-15, and two weeks prior to fighting me, he beat a two-time wrestling Olympian. He had a win over Benson Henderson, and that was his claim to fame. He’s fought tons of guys who have been in the UFC, so I fought him. I won that fight and was 8-0, and Urijah [Faber] was hitting up Dana [White].”
White, President of the UFC, must have been too busy constructing the company’s newest reality series: Lookin’ for A Fight to respond to any of Faber’s messages. Lookin’ for A Fight casts a wider net for the UFC to fish out the elite up-and-comers around the nation. WFC exhausted every ounce of effort to attract the UFC’s watchful eye, layering WFC 16’s card with rich competition. Emmett, in the co-main event, was paired opposite Christos Giagos, a former champion in the regional circuit and whose last match occurred inside the UFC’s Octagon.
Unfortunately, White and the team at Lookin’ for A Fight weren’t in attendance at WFC 16, but the cameras never blinked and captured every moment of this back and forth affair. If this fight had appeared on an episode of TUF, the score would have read one round apiece heading into the third-sudden death.
Rooted in wrestling, Emmett preferred to implement his polished punching power, which royally paid dividends. A feint followed by a well-timed right hand left Giagos crumpling to the canvas. Pumping his fists and screaming out in victory, Emmett not only demonstrated his offense and defense, but he showcased his stranglehold over adversity. Passing an assessment like Giagos with flying colors should validate the reality of Emmett’s placement amongst a long series of contenders in the UFC’s lightweight division, even without a second of screen time on TUF or Lookin’ for A Fight.
Those aware of Emmett wouldn’t be surprised in the least to discover a patented Bruce Buffer introduction inside the Octagon sometime soon:
“It’s crazy. Maybe everything worked out for the best, and I truly believe that.”
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