COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Being released by the UFC has done nothing to shake Angela Hill's confidence.
The former Ultimate Fighter 20 competitor lost two straight last year and was handed her walking papers. But those defeats came to Tecia Torres and Rose Namajunas, both regarded as top-five women's strawweights. Hill isn't sure she got a fair shake and said she was surprised when she was cut.
"I think maybe my matchups were too soon," Hill said Thursday at Invicta FC 15 media day. "But there's definitely a lot of people still in the UFC that I can f*cking destroy. So, I think it's just a matter of me not being one of the people who they wanted to bring up. I had to fight for what I did get, and I was just kind of thrown to the wolves."
Hill will now start anew with Invicta. She faces Alida Gray at Invicta FC 15 on Saturday night here at The Hangar at the Orange County Fair. "Overkill" kind of did things backward. Many female fighters compete on the regional scene, get signed by Invicta and then go onto the UFC. Hill had one pro fight a few days before her TUF tryout and went into the UFC with a not-so-robust record of 1-0.
On the reality show, Hill lost to elite strawweight Carla Esparza in the first round. But she did beat Emily Kagan at The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale in December 2014 in rather dominant fashion. Hill was rewarded with a matchup against former castmate Torres at UFC 188 last June. Torres used wrestling to grind out Hill, a Muay Thai specialist, and win a decision.
Hill (2-2) doesn't regret taking that fight. She still thinks Torres was a favorable matchup. The next one -- against Namajunas -- was the issue. Hill admits she should have used better judgment in accepting that bout at UFC 192 in October, especially given that they trained together on TUF. Namajunas won via first-round submission.
"I didn't mind it at the time," Hill said. "I still will, to this day, fight anyone that anybody puts in front of me just because I'm cocky and I have a huge ego. But it probably wasn't the smartest thing to do. It probably would have been better to fight some of the lower ranked people first, maybe deny a fight with someone I trained with recently."
That said, Hill didn't feel like she had much of a choice given her relative lack of leverage. But she also didn't think the UFC would cut her if she lost to someone as good as Namajunas.
"I think I texted [UFC matchmaker Sean] Shelby something like, 'If I'm fighting top-five girls, I need more experience so I'm not going in there and making stupid mistakes,'" Hill said. "Something like that. I think that might have been part of the reason of them saying, OK get more experience."
Hill, 28, will get the chance to do that in Invicta. Gray has nowhere near the upside of a Namajunas or Torres. She has lost two in a row, albeit against talented strawweights Jessica Aguilar and Alexa Grasso.
"My goal is to make money doing this," said Hill, who trains at Alliance MMA in San Diego. "Whatever avenue I have to take in order to do that, I'll figure it out. We'll see. Right now, hopefully I'll be able to make a good amount of money in Invicta. Get a few more wins, get some more sponsors. That type of thing could really pay off for me in the future."
This week was different for Hill. Her last two bouts were on UFC pay-per-view cards. The one versus Torres got a main card slot. Invicta is more subdued. There will be a packed house at The Hangar, but that's only about 2,000 people or so.
"I don't feel like I'm about to fight," Hill said. "I feel like I'm about to spar at some other, rival gym or something. It's not as big of a stage. It's not as much build up. But it's kind of what I need right now, just getting out of the limelight and focusing on just fighting and being a better fighter and being able to convey how good of a fighter I already was in the cage."