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Jamie Pickett proud to earn UFC contract after third Contender Series appearance but now the real work begins

Dana White’s Contender Series - Pati v Pickett Photo by Chris Unger/DWCS LLC/Zuffa LLC

Jamie Pickett did not have an easy road to travel to earn his UFC contract.

It’s been well documented how the middleweight prospect suffered back-to-back losses on Dana White’s Contender Series and the second defeat had him contemplating retirement. He had worked his whole career for the opportunity to fight in the UFC but after falling to Puna Soriano in 2019, it appeared his dream might never become reality.

But he decided to stick around the fight game to see if another chance to prove himself might arise. Just over a year past his last appearance on the Contender Series, Pickett was asked back again and he knew this was probably do-or-die when it came to joining the UFC.

A blistering second-round knockout answered all of those questions as Pickett demolished Jhonoven Pati and soon after UFC president Dana White welcomed him to the organization with a multi-fight contract.

“It was a tough battle,” Pickett said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Plenty of ups and downs. It was hard for me. Getting through all that stuff and staying positive but I stayed positive. I stayed on my road. I’m a very determined person. I just wasn’t going to take no for an answer.”

At UFC Vegas 17, Pickett will face another Contender Series veteran in Tafon Nchukwi, who actually inked a contract with the promotion in just his fourth professional fight overall. While Pickett certainly doesn’t begrudge Nchukwi for getting into the UFC so early in his career, the 32-year-old veteran knows without a doubt he earned his spot after facing all sorts adversity to get there.

“I had to earn everything,” Pickett said. “My opponent, no offense to him, he’s getting in after only four fights. Well it was three fights. His fourth fight got him in the UFC. I see other fighters with only three fights. My 15th fight, I got here. I had kickboxing bouts and a bunch of jiu-jitsu matches and stuff so I’m been through it. But my 15th fight got me in the UFC. First time I was going to fight in the UFC, it was like my 10th fight or 11th fight, or something like that.

“For people to get in, I don’t want to say easily, but it makes me kind of look like I had to go through all this and you guys didn’t have to go through near what I did. I’m not mad about it but I had to work a lot harder.”

Now that he’s about to make his debut, Pickett promises that what he showed during the Contender Series was only just the start of what he plans to unleash inside the UFC octagon.

While he never necessarily played it safe as he competed on the regional circuit, Pickett expects to showcase a more extreme version of his style starting with his fight on Saturday night.

“My limitations are over now,” Pickett explained. “I want to put on a show. I was fighting to get into the UFC. Now I’m here. Now I want to put on a show. I want people to want to know when I fight next.

“Like Israel Adesanya, they can’t wait to see him fight next. Conor [McGregor], they can’t wait to see him fight. I’m trying to be like that. [Jorge] Masvidal, [Donald] ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, I want to be like that where people are just excited to see me fight cause they know I’m going to do something wild.”

Facing off against an opponent like Nchukwi, who has earned knockouts in all four of his professional fights, makes Pickett believe his UFC career will definitely start with a bang this weekend.

“I plan to use everything that I have,” Pickett said when offering his prediction for the fight. “All my tricks. All my experience. He plans to do the same thing. It’s all going to come down to who plays their game the best. He can play his game better than me, I can play my game better than him.

“We’re going to find out but if I’m a betting man, I’m going to bet on myself.”