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Uriah Hall reflects on first career loss to Chris Weidman ahead of rematch over a decade in the making at UFC 261

More than a decade after his first loss, Uriah Hall has an opportunity to get it back—this time inside of the octagon.

Hall takes on former middleweight champion Chris Weidman this Saturday on the main card of UFC 261. The event takes place at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla.

The bout was originally scheduled to take place at February’s UFC 258 event but was postponed after Weidman tested positive for COVID-19.

The first meeting between Hall and Weidman took place in September 2010 in Atlantic City, N.J., for regional promotion Ring of Combat. Hall was 4-0 with four finishes taking on a 2-0 upstart in Weidman. “The All-American” would pick up his third consecutive first-round finish when he caught Hall with a big left hook, which led to a ground-and-pound stoppage just north of the three minute mark.

Hall enters the rematch on a three-fight winning streak and sees big things for himself in 2021. He admits that when he saw Weidman’s name on the contract that he wasn’t sure how to react to it.

“Listen, I love challenges,” Hall told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck prior to the UFC 258 bout being postponed. “That’s why I’m so creative. If you put a big obstacle in front of me, I will figure it out. If you ever watch Dragon Ball Z, my favorite character is Goku and he’s one of those guys where it’s like, the bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward. But I love that excitement. And for a lot of the fights that didn’t go my way, I wasn’t motivated. I’m not gonna lie to you, I wasn’t. The mind is a big deal in this sport. There were tons of fights I didn’t want to do. I did not want to take those fights, and it was either forced on me, or pressured on me, or whatever. But sh*t happens, I took what I could, and I move forward.

“If I live in the past, I’m gonna get depressed. If I go too far in the future, it brings anxiety. I’m trying to be here and take in what I can. But when I saw the name, it was like, ‘All right, this is cool.’ It was like the Antonio Carlos Junior fight: I didn’t want to fight him. I remember getting that call when I was in Sweden, and my coach Sayif called and was like, ‘Hey, man, this is what we’re gonna do.’ I was like, ‘Ugh, me and Carlos, we’re kind of homies.’ So I had to separate those emotions. You should’ve seen us on fight week, we were hugging each other and my coach was like, ‘What the hell are you doing? Aren’t you fighting this dude tomorrow?’

“So I had to separate that stuff, and seeing Chris’ name, I didn’t really want to fight him, I wanted to fight [Darren] Till because I would be motivated to destroy him but it was like, okay. This was an old thing that I’ve wanted to do, so let’s get it cracking.”

Both fighters moved on from that first encounter to the big stage of the UFC. Weidman got one more win on the regional scene before he got the call, while Hall embraced the grind a bit longer, though he would lose to another fighter that received a call to the UFC shortly thereafter, Costas Philippou. From there, Hall went on a memorable, highlight-filled run on The Ultimate Fighter 27 where he dropped a split decision to Kelvin Gastelum at the finale in April 2013.

The Fortis MMA standout admits that it took some time to even watch the first meeting with Weidman—not just because of the result, but the road to get to it.

“It took me a while to even watch that fight because I had never lost before,” Hall said. “That was my first loss and it was like, shucks.

“Prior to it happening, and there’s a crazy story behind it, the organization I was working for—there’s a corporate place in New Jersey—I might’ve been the front desk guy, this douchebag kept saying to me that he’s a great wrestler, he’s a great wrestler. Like, dude, I don’t give a sh*t. It never bothered me, a fight is a fight. But he kept saying it and I remember one day it just got in my head, ‘Oh sh*t, what if he takes me down?’ So that was the window of that open fear. It was my first window of fear. And I remember going in there thinking, ‘Sh*t, don’t get taken down.’ I focused more on his attributes than my skill set and I got clipped. I wasn’t out, but I got clipped, and the ref was like, ‘He’s done, let me save him,’ and they stopped the fight.”

“Prime Time” had an interesting 2020 where he had four fights on the books against some big names such as Ronaldo Souza and Yoel Romero but was only able to compete once. Hall did take on one of his idols in Anderson Silva in October and finished the former champion in the fourth round.

The matchup with Weidman brings some emotion, and a sense of predictability for Hall as he looks to negate a tough night in 2010.

“I already know what he’s gonna do,” Hall said. “There’s no way this dude will stand with me. I encourage it, but there’s no way he’s gonna do it. So we’re prepared for it. It’s a motivation. I’m training hard, but the main thing is that I’m staying composed and focused. When I have those two, man, I am dangerous.”

While the first loss of his career stung for a bit, Hall realized that he could take lessons from it, which is something he has embraced for many years. The confidence in his free-flowing style was something he’s needed to work on, but in terms of the immediate aftermath of the loss to Weidman, he addressed it.

“I just remember dealing with that loss and it took me a while to get over it,” Hall explained. “I just said I’m going to dedicate myself to wrestling practices, school, whatever and get comfortable with the uncomfortable. I went to Reign with Mark Munoz at the time, Xtreme Couture, I wanted to get so uncomfortable to get rid of that fear. And I’m not gonna lie, man, I welcome it. I know guys like that. I know what they’re going to do.

“Wrestling is very important for the sport for control. Look at Khabib. It’s so important. But it’s not my forte. I’m not gonna go in there and hug you. For what? I want to beat you up the old-fashioned way. But that’s what I love about MMA, you never know what’s gonna happen.”

Since losing the middleweight title to Luke Rockhold at UFC 194, Weidman has gone 2-4 over his last six fights. In his most recent appearance, the former champion picked up a hard fought unanimous decision win over Omari Akhmedov at UFC Vegas 6 in August.

Hall doesn’t see Weidman’s recent stretch as your run-of-the-mill up-and-down run. With the knowledge he has gained over the years, Hall believes Weidman has gained a lot of wisdom along the way that can be just as—if not more—valuable than wins and losses.

“At the end of the day, I’ve got to be the one to go out there and do what I do,” Hall stated. “I can bring my coaches and everybody, but they’re at the end of the octagon. I’ve got to put it all together and it’s a challenge. I love it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

“When I was younger, I wanted to be a businessman. I didn’t know what a businessman was, I thought I saw a guy with a briefcase and a suit, and I thought that was cool. Thank God I don’t do that sh*t, but my office is the octagon. I get to beat people up for a living, legally. It’s fun.”

On April 24, Hall will stand across the octagon looking at the first man to hand him a loss in the sport he loves so much. The 36-year-old is ready to embrace that moment as he continues on the road to a hopeful matchup with current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.

“I’m not good at staying in the future,” Hall said. “I can look at it but I’ve learned to not stay there. I just personally feel that I’m gonna expect a really competitive fight. I know he has to bring his best, and I’m gonna bring my best. It should be good. If it’s not good, he’s probably going to hug me to win. I’m making sure that doesn’t happen.

“I’m going out there to beat him up. That’s my goal, my game plan, my mindset, and I’m sure his mindset is the same too. We’re athletes. I’ve got nothing bad to say about Chris. I’m actually really good friends with Matt Serra so it’s kind of bittersweet. It’s just business. A part of me is like it’s a little bit of payback but he’s just in my way, and I got to get to [Adesanya] over there. I just gotta be like sorry, bro. I gotta do what I gotta do.”

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