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UFC's Uriah Hall on emotional toll of being an elite athlete, conquering self-doubt

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UFC middleweight contender Uriah Hall shares his thoughts on the mental aspect of fighting ahead of his main event showdown with Sean Strickland on Saturday at UFC Vegas 33.

Video Transcript

KEVIN IOLE: Hey, folks. I am Kevin Iole with Yahoo Sports, and welcome back. My guest now is going to be fighting Sean Strickland in the main event of UFC Vegas 33 over at Apex here in Las Vegas. I am talking about Uriah Hall. Uriah, how are you, my friend?

URIAH HALL: Really good. How are you doing?

KEVIN IOLE: I'm doing great. I was looking at your Instagram, and you had an interesting post the other day. And I think with all the stuff that's going on with Simone Biles and the Olympics, I wanted to ask you about what you wrote. You talked about fighting. You said it's the toughest, scariest path in life, not guaranteed money like baseball, no claim to fame like football, and not injury free like golf. You can't just pass the ball like basketball.

And I think that's an interesting thought process. And I think a lot of people feel that way, but not a lot of people come out there and admit that, right? And I'm kind of curious. What is it like for you as you get this close to fights and the emotions start to take over? Does it-- do you have to-- OK, there you are.

URIAH HALL: Oh, sorry.

KEVIN IOLE: No worries.

URIAH HALL: Yeah, go ahead.

KEVIN IOLE: So I guess I was just saying, do the emotions take over as you start getting close to a fight? Is that something that you constantly have to battle?

URIAH HALL: I think for most athlete, you always going to battle those, even the greats because when doubts seep in, you're always going to have those two roads, and you can go to the left or the right. And usually, the left is usually that self-doubt, that negative affirmation, and the right is plan to [? ride ?] [? sea. ?] OK, I have to-- if I do this, do this, do that, then that is the road to victory.

But a lot of times, a lot of athlete, they feel it's not normal to feel that way. Oh, I have to be tough all the time. No, you're a human being. So that's one of the things I had to recognize, that, hey, man, this is normal, and I had a few people reminding me that it's normal to feel that way. It's totally normal, but it's how you give it power.

It's how you handle it. It's how you manage it, and it's what you tell yourself. It's how you counter it when those negative voices are coming in your head as you're walking out saying, oh, [MUTED], I'm actually going to fight this guy, or, oh my god, what if I lose? It's how you counter those. And it's a consistent fight, but it's something you can never defeat. But you can fight it.

KEVIN IOLE: You're a smart guy, which leads to two questions. I mean, I think sometimes when you're a smart guy and you're thoughtful, that those kind of thoughts come in your head more than if you're not, right? I mean, would you agree with that? Like, the fact that somebody thinks about consequences like you do, that that makes that more of a problem.

URIAH HALL: What do you mean? Like--

KEVIN IOLE: Well, like, because you're a thoughtful person and you know the consequences of a loss, you know the consequences of an injury, you know what you're going to face, that that makes the mental game that much bigger of an issue for you going into a fight.

URIAH HALL: I mean, it depends because there are times where I didn't have to fight play out the way it did. Like, when I fought Brunson, I felt like I had an amazing training camp. I felt strong. I felt good. I didn't like him. I felt motivated. I got in there, and I got dropped. And I was like, what the hell?

And I said this earlier, no one's the best fighter. You're the best fighter that night. It was your night. You did things that lined up accordingly, whether the universe, or the sun, or people on Mars are watching you. But something aligned something for you to do something that you were supposed to do, and it happened.

And it's all about a journey. That's the best way I can describe it because you learn from the mistakes, and you learn from the success. But it's how you dwell in those negative places. You don't stay there along. You acknowledge it, and you move forward.

Most people acknowledge it, and they stay there to hang out. Like, if you think of a hard break or break up, you say there, like, oh, man, I feel this way. I miss the person. This sucks. This hurts. And then you dwell in that negative affirmation. It just pulls you lower. But if you don't recognize that, hey, this happened, it happened to you, what can you gain from this, yeah, it's going to suck, but acknowledge that it's going to suck, and still push forward, then you won't get out of it.

KEVIN IOLE: I'm always curious what you guys think, and to me, the walk is the thing. Like, what goes into your mind as you're making that walk? I mean, are you thinking of the fight? Are you-- is your mind blank, or are you going, oh, holy [MUTED]. I'm going to fight Anderson Silva?

URIAH HALL: Holy [MUTED]. I'm going to fight Anderson Silva. That's exactly what's going in my mind. It's either holy [MUTED], or what the [MUTED], or oh my god.

Holy [MUTED]. Why am I doing this? Oh my god. Why am I not home, and what the [MUTED]. Shouldn't I be, like, something else.

But, again, it goes back to those doubts, the negative affirmations, how you feed it. OK, holy [MUTED]. This is happening, but it's something I got to do. I'm here anyways.

But, yeah, I heard Cowboy Cerrone spoke about it, and, again, I thought it was just me. But he's like, man, I'm backstage. People cheering me up. They're like, yeah, you got this, and I'm like, just shut the [MUTED] up. I'm getting weak.

All of this anxiety just pulling energy. Like, I've trained so hard. I'm in shape. Why am I tired so fast? It's the craziest adrenaline rush ever.

And then you walk out there. You get punched. You're like, oh, [MUTED], OK, I'm going to fight. And for a lot of people who do not understand the sport, I really always encourage them to try, even if you don't want to compete, but at least understand that nerve, that feeling of that anxiety, how it takes over, how millions of people are watching you, how just like that, four judges, who don't know anything about you, can take away your whole career.

It sucks, and it's the toughest, hardest, to me, best sport in the world that's underrated. It doesn't get appreciated as it should. These soccer players are getting all these millions of dollar. I'm not hating, but come on, man. I could beat your ass. That's how I look at it.

KEVIN IOLE: I want to ask you this then. Last week was a great example of what you talk about. There were a lot of controversial decisions on the UFC Show at Apex. A lot of people, most people, I think, thought Miranda Maverick beat Macee Barber, Kyler Phillips with Raulian Paiva fight.

And so that-- Din Thomas made the comment-- I want to see if you agree with this. He thinks the MMA community should do away with the winning show and just pay the fighters. You don't have that because if you're on--

URIAH HALL: Yeah.

KEVIN IOLE: Do you agree with him?

URIAH HALL: Yeah. Yeah, I agree with that. If I have guaranteed money, I'll be, like, let's go, [MUTED]. Yeah, I'm going to go in there and let it go. Like, these boxers- take the Logan and what's-his-face fight, you know? If they say, hey, man, we'll give you $5 million to win and $5 million [INAUDIBLE] that, that kind of creates the hesitant, but it makes you a lot calmer to go in there and be like, yeah, I'm going to [MUTED] up, but I'm getting paid.

It's like taking away time limits. You take away time limits and no dumb ass judges or refs stopping fights-- but what I've learned from what's happening is that the fighters now are playing into the judge's favor. It's not about fighting anymore. It's pressure. It's throwing more punches.

It's hold the person for a certain amount of time. It's playing into it and it's taken away from the depth of fighting that chess match. Like, when I fought Anderson Silva, and this is me being brutally honest, it was hard to watch that fight, simply because Michael Bisping's voice. I feel like he was criticizing me the whole time. I'm like, first of all, your ass went in there and survived against Anderson.

You over here talking about, you know, he has to throw more punches. He has to do this, and I'm like, it's Anderson [MUTED] Silva. You serious? You think I'm just going to walk forward at Anderson Silva? It sucks, but that amazing chess match I've ever had of trying to figure him out.

I knew everything he was going to do. Every time I threw a punch, he'd move a certain way. I was like, I know what he's going to do next. I knew everything, and that shut his style down. And that kind of made me a little bit like, OK, here it is. I took the opening.

But for these guys, they want to see a bloodbath. I don't-- I'm not trying to be one of those dudes 50 years from now talking like, [MUMBLES]. I'm not trying to do that.

KEVIN IOLE: No, and I know you're not, but I was-- my next question was going to be-- it's interesting. You're 17 and 9 in your career, so in 26 fights, you have 18 finishes.

URIAH HALL: I'm actually 21. 21 and 9.

KEVIN IOLE: Well, OK.

URIAH HALL: 21 and 9. I'm 21 and 9. I don't know why UFC's not giving me that.

KEVIN IOLE: OK.

URIAH HALL: I'm 21 and 9. Go ahead.

KEVIN IOLE: [INAUDIBLE] exhibition. I agree with you. I'm with you on that.

URIAH HALL: I want that. I want that.

KEVIN IOLE: You have all those-- your fights tend to end in finishes, right? So I didn't add up the Ultimate Fighter fights, so I'll just use the ones that aren't on the Ultimate Fighter.

URIAH HALL: Yes.

KEVIN IOLE: I had--

URIAH HALL: I don't why they called it exhibition. There was nothing exhibition about that. We made weight.

KEVIN IOLE: No, you were--

URIAH HALL: We got paid.

KEVIN IOLE: They were getting kicked, yeah. I'm with you on that, but the-- I guess my question is, you go to a lot of finished as opposed to having a lot of decisions, and do you think that this is a reason why I don't want to leave it in the hands of-- the old Dana White phrase. I don't want to leave it in the hands of the judges? Do you fight a certain way to try to take the judges out of the equation?

URIAH HALL: I try. I try to go out there, cut their throat, and leave them bleeding. That's the mentality because, I mean, again, I'm not going to say anything, but look at this weekend, man. You're like, wait. What fight were these people watching? It's like, who-- I just don't understand the judging.

I don't understand what give these people this criteria or who put these people in charge of my life, my career. And when I'm backstage, I always say this. Whoever is the ref, I say, listen, let me go out. Let me tap. I couldn't give two shits about you thinking about my safety because at the end of the day, it's all about liability for you.

You really don't care. It's liability. I'm out there fighting for my life. I care more, so let me go out like a man or let me tap like whatever.

KEVIN IOLE: How do they respond to you when you say that?

URIAH HALL: They like-- they still go over the, yeah, I understand that, blah, blah, blah, and I say it again. And they're like, all right, I'll do my best. I'm like, please, let me go out. Just let me go out.

KEVIN IOLE: Now speaking of going out, a really unfortunate situation in your last night. Chris Weidman goes out with-- on the first kick of the fight. And just nobody wants to see a fight end that way. Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt, and especially something like that. I wonder with you, was it tough to throw kicks when you got back in the gym? Like, did it take you a while to be willing to do that?

URIAH HALL: Well, it was tough to-- I'll tell you what, after that, I was checking every kick like there was no tomorrow. It was so instinctive. And I'll make some jokes at it, but people were like, yeah, I ain't kicking this dude. But, listen, I'm old school. It's an old way that I know how to block, man.

I'm traditional. I'm like a samurai. I'm a martial artist. I'm a sniper. I know things about the body.

I know how to hit you differently in every area with one foot. I know how to do it, but it's a part of the fight game. People forget that. They forget that [MUTED] happens. Like, it's a fight.

That's like me going out there and talking [MUTED], and someone's like, hey, man, you can't talk [MUTED] when you're fighting. What? It's a fight. Like, I got to be angry and politically correct at the same time? Makes no sense.

KEVIN IOLE: Well, speaking of talking, the guy you're fighting, Sean Strickland, that's a guy that's known for yapping in the ring a little bit. I think he's kind of like Kevin Holland, right? I mean, the two of those guys--

URIAH HALL: That would be a great fight. Can you imagine that fight? They probably wouldn't be throwing any punches.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, exactly. How do you-- when you fight a guy like that-- and he's obviously a terrific striker, is on a roll like you are. You're, what, on a four-five winning streak, five of your last six. How do you block that out? Like, you're in there, and how do you kind of focus on what you're doing and not letting him throw you off by his talking and taunting that he's good at?

URIAH HALL: By understanding what it's for. It's like me listening to people on social media telling me I suck. OK. You're telling me I suck? You don't do what I do.

You probably definitely cannot beat me. You wouldn't last in my shoes for a minute. You don't actually know my life. You don't know what I've been through, but I suck. So if I understand where it's coming from, why would I give it power?

KEVIN IOLE: Right. I wasn't even talking to fans. I was talking about, like, Strickland himself and that--

URIAH HALL: The same thing.

KEVIN IOLE: Same thing.

URIAH HALL: It's the same thing. Why would anyone talk? It's a lack of confidence, man.

KEVIN IOLE: OK, gotcha. And finally, let's just break it down from-- to me, this is an attractive fight because it's two guys that are going to get in there and get after it, and we're going to see a lot of kicks and punches thrown. In your mind, how does this fight go? What's the key for you to beat Sean?

URIAH HALL: To be Uriah Hall because when I'm Uriah Hall, nobody can beat me.

KEVIN IOLE: Very good. Well, you heard it. Uriah Hall. Now I got to ask you this because when I was looking at your Instagram earlier today because I wanted to see if you-- I saw that first post you put that I asked you about earlier, and I wanted to see if you had any other kind of posts like that. And I happened to see that you said you had an OnlyFans page, and I was a little bit shocked by that. Are you still-- do you still have an OnlyFans page, or was that a short-term thing?

URIAH HALL: I don't have an-- you loudmouth, mo-fos, thank you.

- Oh, [MUTED]. Sorry.

- Sorry. We're leaving.

URIAH HALL: God, Black people.

- We're leaving.

URIAH HALL: Black people, man. Anyways--

- Sorry. We're leaving.

URIAH HALL: I don't--

- We're leaving--

URIAH HALL: I [MUTED] got it. Thank you.

- Bye.

KEVIN IOLE: So you don't have an OnlyFans page?

URIAH HALL: I don't have an OnlyFans page. It was a joke to kind of promote any type of photo. I'm--

KEVIN IOLE: Walt Harris seemed to be into it.

URIAH HALL: Who?

KEVIN IOLE: Walt Harris. I saw he said he was looking for a free [INAUDIBLE].

URIAH HALL: Oh. [LAUGHS] No. No. No, listen, I'm crafty. I make jokes all the time. I have a different type of sense of humor. I don't have an OnlyFans account. I don't think I could ever stoop that low.

However, a part of me-- one time when I was talking to my buddy, I was like, bro, we should probably do this. We can get paid for not doing [MUTED]. Why not? It's easy money, but my pride would not allow me to stoop that low to do that.

KEVIN IOLE: There you go.

URIAH HALL: No, I don't have any OnlyFans account.

KEVIN IOLE: All right, brother. Well, good stuff, my man. Hey, Uriah, always good to talk to you. I wish you the best on Saturday against Sean Strickland. All the best. Talk to you soon.

URIAH HALL: Thank you.

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