Hadley earned a contract on a recent episode of Dana White’s Contender Series with a second-round submission win over Mitch Raposo. The performance was certainly contract-worthy, but Hadley missed weight by a pound, which is typically a no-no for White and the matchmakers. Despite being essentially ordered by Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard to not sign Hadley, White did anyways, which caused Shelby and Maynard to storm out of the APEX, according to the UFC president.
With contract in hand, Hadley is not going to take it for granted.
“I knew this was eventually going to happen,” Hadley told MMA Fighting on We Got Next. “But what makes it more special is, under the circumstances and everything that happened, being the first fighter to miss weight and make it to the UFC through [Contender Series]. I’m not trying to speak as if all that is an accomplishment because obviously I don’t want to be missing weight, but the things that have happened have made this more of a bigger thing, but obviously I knew that one day I would be in the UFC. It’s an amazing feeling to prove a lot of people wrong, prove a lot of people right and it’s a big moment in my life right now.”
When Hadley first stepped on the scale, he was over by more than a pound, but was given an extra hour to cut. However, according to the former Cage Warriors and Extreme Fighting Championship titleholder, he did not end up getting the full 60 minutes. That, along with some other issues during the week, led to “White Kong” missing the mark for the first time in his fighting career.
“It was definitely the hardest weight cut of my career and I don’t want to be giving excuses as to why I missed weight,” Hadley said. “Nobody wants to hear any sh*t like that, all they care about is that you missed the weight. I was meant to fight on the [Contender Series] on the 21st of September but I was told by my manager that I wouldn’t be fighting on the Contender so don’t get [my hopes] up. I was out of camp for a good three-plus weeks. I was still training twice a day, six days a week, but got quite a bit heavier. I came over to the U.S., my weight was on track going down and I was right on track with my other camps.
“All of sudden, I just stopped sweating and going to the toilet so I knew I was already in trouble then because I was water loading and not going to the toilet so obviously I had eaten something, or drank something that was holding on to my water weight and I couldn’t get it off. I was doing extra training sessions with plastics on and stuff like that trying to sweat, but I wasn’t sweating so I started cutting weight early — and I would never cut weight early — and I couldn’t sleep the night before so I cut weight the night before all the way into the next day.
“I would’ve made the weight, but I just ran out of time, so I thought, ‘Let me miss weight the first attempt and go back and cut the weight again,’ because I had enough time to make it. So someone told me, ‘Wait over there, Jake,’ and I was waiting 20 minutes and I was like, ‘What’s happening? Why haven’t they come?’ We’re waiting there and my coach asks someone else and he says, ‘Why are you waiting there? Go cut the weight.’ It ended up being a bit of a mess up, but I don’t want to think about that too much now. It’s the first time I’ve ever missed weight for all of my amateur fights at flyweight, all of my pro fights at flyweight. Now everyone’s saying I can’t make weight. I can, and it’s just one of those things that happened.”
When White awarded Hadley the contract—and during his post-fight media scrum—he mentioned that Hadley was “an asshole” to members of the UFC staff during fight week. Asked specifically what led to those comments, Hadley responded by saying that he wasn’t sure if he could speak on it, and didn’t want to get into any further hot water with the company.
All in all, Hadley is apologetic, but believes there may have been something, perhaps, lost in translation.
“I was in shock,” Hadley explained. “I didn’t mean to upset anyone, that’s not my way. I want to upset fighters but I don’t want to upset the general population. I don’t want to upset staff that works for a company, that ain’t my game. I want to upset fighters and get on their nerves and make them thing this and that about me.
“It was a total misunderstanding. Total misunderstanding.”
Hadley improved his record to 8-0 with the win over Raposo, a contestant — and first overall pick of Alexander Volkanovski — on the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter. He captured the Cage Warriors flyweight title in the fight before, earning a unanimous decision over Luke Shanks at Cage Warriors 117 in December 2020.
Following his mishap on the scale, Hadley was only focused on winning, and felt that the adversity was a test sent to him from the universe to show the world that he could overcome it.
“I expected not to get signed, but when I signed the dotted line in the first place, I expected to get a contract, but also, I’m coming to win. First and foremost, I’m coming to win,” Hadley stated. “I’m an exciting fighter, I put pressure, come forward, I beat people up. I’m entertaining, but if I have to be boring to win a fight, I will. Winner’s win and at the end of the day, I fought well, and the way Mitch fights — no offense to Mitch — he does fight a little boring. He runs around a lot. Some of his fights, even on The Ultimate Fighter, he just stood in front of the guy and he does just enough to win. He’s a boring fighter. I made the fight entertaining by coming after him, I do that to everyone.
“My point being, I didn’t expect to get signed, I’m just gonna go out and smash this geezer but I probably won’t get signed. After I won the fight, I knew it was a good performance. I just ran through this kid that that was good, so what I expected was another Contender’s opportunity, which I would’ve done, but I’m just over the moon I got the contract. Dana sees what I know is there: I’m a special fighter just like he said.”
During the post-fight press conference, White was asked if he thought Shelby and Maynard would put Hadley through the wringer in an attempt to make his stay with the UFC a short one. White wished his matchmakers luck with that since he believes Hadley is a special talent that can give a boost to a rising stock of 125ers.
When asked about that, Hadley welcomed it, but knows that the business side of his career goes through his management team. If he had his wish, Hadley would make his debut in early 2022 against Francisco Figueiredo, the brother of the former world champion Deiveson Figueiredo who is set to try to reclaim his title against Brandon Moreno at UFC 270 in January.
“I don’t know what they can and can’t do, but all I’m saying is I’ll fight anyone,” Hadley said of the matchmakers. “I’m ready for anyone. I’ve already said give me [Francisco] Figueiredo, who has had multiple fights in the UFC. They can fast track me if they want because I’ll just go straight to the top quicker, anyway.
“Look, No. 10 ain’t no better than No. 15, and No. 15 ain’t no better than the unranked guy, in my opinion. I’m looking at the division and I’ve seen unranked fighters who are good, then I’ve seen guys in the top 10, top 15 and think, ‘This guy’s not that good.’ The division is wide open. Brandon Royval had two fights in the UFC and he was f*cking No. 3 in the world, or whatever he was at one stage. He was the LFA champion and LFA and Cage Warriors are probably at the same level, and I’ve got two titles. What’s saying they aren’t gonna stick me with the No. 5 guy? They threw Manel Kape straight to the wolves because he was the RIZIN champion. They have to go through my management first, but if you ask me, bring me whoever.”