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Uriah Hall opens up about finding his identity and training with Lyoto Machida

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This article is a continuation from meeting with Uriah Hall on Monday. I posted the first part on Tuesday, where he talked about being bullied growing up and how it motivated him to get into martial arts. This part will be all about his current state in the UFC. Hall is coming off a dominant victory over Chris Leben at UFC 168. He was in good spirits talking about the win.

Uriah Hall opens up about finding his identity and training with Lyoto Machida

When you look back at that fight, you noticed how he was very controlled and focused. He knew Leben’s game plan was going to be constantly charging forward and throwing rapid hay-makers. That’s why you saw him continuously move around and pick his spots. One thing about the fight that surprised me was how Hall started the fight by throwing a flying knee. I asked him about it right away, when the conversation began.

“Man, Dana was like, 75,000 is on the line tonight. End your fight with a bang. That’s all he needed to say (laughs). I missed it by a little bit, but still happy that I executed my game plan by moving and hitting quickly. A lot of proper footwork was needed to win that fight.”

When he brought up Dana White, he was immediately asked about Dana’s comments from last August. After Hall lost to John Howard by split decision, Dana went to the extent of saying that he’s not a fighter. While he admitted in December that he was purposely sticking it to Hall, it’s still strange for him to go to that extent as a way of motivation. Thankfully for Uriah, he wasn’t offended by those comments.

“His comments didn’t make me mad. You need guys like Dana to give you a wake up call. I have all this talent, now what I’m going to do with it? That was his way of bringing it out and I did well with it. Many reporters kept asking me about Dana calling me out and how can he say that? I had to go through the same stuff over again because of that. That’s what made me reestablish myself in becoming more technical and delivering a great performance.” Hall replied

The focus went back to his victory over Leben, when he was asked about how the fight was stopped. One of the main reasons for Leben’s popularity is his ability to take punishment and how he always kept on fighting. When he decided to quit in the first round, Hall didn’t see it coming.

“I was definitely surprised to see him not come back in. He’s super tough and dangerous, that’s why I kept moving. I didn’t think I hit him that hard; it just came down to good timing. That’s what I did on the Ultimate Fighter. Chris is an awesome guy though, nothing but respect for what he’s done”

Hall had been training at the Reign Training Center in the past. Chael Sonnen and Mark Munoz had been down there in the past, which are clearly excellent guys to train with. I asked Hall about training at Reign recently, which led to a completely different response from what I expected.

“I’m not out there anymore. I’m back in New York trying to make a decision on where to train and live. California may be a place to train; it’s such a relaxing place though. I felt too relaxed in my last training camp. I’m still trying to figure out where to train. Right now I’m still injured though”

“My back has been bothering me a bit, so I’m still trying to recover. I popped my knee, broke my toe, and got the flu a week before the Leben fight. It sounds crazy but at that point, I didn’t care. The fight is what mattered to me most.” Hall said

One thing that has constantly been hovering over Hall is his tendency to be too nice. People have said his kindness has been hindering his career, especially when he lost to Howard. He got into the process of searching for his identity as a fighter and overall person.

“I like the technical aspect of fighting. That’s how I was brought up in training to look for openings and go for the one shot kill. All of my early sessions of training were friendly. We wouldn’t look to hurt one another. I’d apologize for hitting someone too hard if it happened. I wasn’t used to actually fighting and then not apologizing. It was a weird situation. At one point on the show, I felt so powerful and believed that I could literally destroy somebody. Eventually I had to back track and realize who I was.”

“I’ve always been a nice person, but then again I thought I needed to be this hardcore fighter. One of my buddies asked me why do I have to change from who I am? I said because I’m a fighter, yet she said I’m not that kind of fighter where it completely controls me.  It made me realize that I’m trying to be something that I’m not. In the UFC, people believe all of those guys (fighters) would kill you. I don’t have that mindset, yet in the octagon if I don’t pull the trigger then I might lose out. That was the struggle between being a human being and fighter.”

“Chael (Sonnen) has really been a great influence. He came out to Portland in the past to talk and train with me. He still keeps in touch and gives me advice. I’m still stuck in having a different mindset. Once I go red, I’m not coming back. I’ve seen and tap into hurting someone so bad (referencing the brutal knockout of Bubba McDaniel). It scares me because I don’t like feeling that way. Then again, I like the competitive side of fighting so that’s always been something I’ve struggled with. That’s why I enjoy picking you apart and taking you out of your element as a fighter.” Hall said, as he finished explaining his past experiences and mindset.

After the long discussion about finding his identity, eventually he settled down. I’ve always been curious about Hall’s fighting style. From his karate background and to how he fights, his style somewhat emulated Lyoto Machida. The only major difference was that he doesn’t use the unique hand movements in distracting his opponent. Here’s what Hall had to say about Machida.

“I actually was invited to train at Blackhouse. So I go down there in awe realizing that I’m about to go spar with Machida for the first time. I brought my buddy with me to record it thinking this is going to be so cool. I’m sparing with a legend, this is going to be an incredible experience and the world is going to see it. As we were sparring, we were trying to emulate one another. It became that intense, before we looked oddly at one another.”

“After we were done, I found out my friend forgot to record it because he thought it looked like a video game and couldn’t keep his eyes off us. That was the only down part of the experience. Still training with Machida was the coolest thing ever, I still text him sometimes about training. He is always willing to spar with me. We get heavily into it with our karate backgrounds. It’s all about timing, precision, and proper movement. Training with Machida was like being in heaven.”

We could only imagine how unbelievable that training session was. Hall promised Karyn Bryant (the host of the Black History Month tour) that she could record the next time they train together. I could see how much of an influence that Machida had on him. That led to me asking him about an actual fight against him if it was ever offered.

“I’m sure the fight would happen eventually. I wouldn’t turn it down, not saying that in an ego way. I love Machida and his style. When were sparring, it felt good. I’d love the challenge to go up against someone as great as him.“ Hall replied

Hall is unsure when he’ll fight again, but he’s gotten much more attention over the past year from his success on the Ultimate Fighter to his victory over Chris Leben. The attention has surprised him in a way, especially from the black community.

“For the rare black fans I see, they are actually inspired by me. I never realized that I could be an inspiration. Then I realized that I worked my way up to live my dream of fighting in the UFC. It all comes together in the end. I still have to educate some people, who don’t understand the sport fully.  Many people in the black community are still bigger fans of boxing than MMA. It’s a different community compared to Brazil, where they absolutely love their fighters. Still it’s been heart warming to receive the support from the fans, especially from the black community.”

That concluded the hour long conversation with Hall. He was just as polite as he showed on the Ultimate Fighter. He’s still looking to figure out a few things from a career standpoint, such as what gym to train at. Even after the tough start to his UFC career, his upside is unlimited and could be the next big threat at 185 pounds.

You can follow me on twitter at @Allen_Strk

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