Jamahal Hill has been told that winning a UFC championship is a life-changing event. The new light heavyweight title holder hasn’t really seen his life changed too dramatically just yet, though his reign is less than a week old.
There is, though, one way Hill is seeing a change: He’s learning that the scrutiny on UFC championship bouts is at another level another from other MMA fights.
Hill, who claimed the vacant title with a dominant performance in a five-round decision win over Glover Teixeira on Saturday inside Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro at UFC 283, had used plenty of the tactics that were successful on Teixeira in previous fights.
But when he used them to great effect against Teixeira, it got an entirely new level of attention.
Hill was favored to beat Teixeira on Saturday, but it wasn’t that he won but how he won, and the dominant nature in which he did it, that raised so many eyebrows.
Hill punched Teixeira repeatedly with a hard, crisp jab and created openings for himself by switching stances when Teixeira wasn’t expecting it.
It looked like Hill had taken his game to another level in the month he had to prepare for the fight. That isn’t the case, though, the champ said after returning home to Grand Rapids, Michigan, from Rio.
“It’s something that’s been in the toolbag and this was just the right time to pull it out,” Hill told Yahoo Sports. “I’ve done it before. I did it against OSP [Ovince Saint Preux]. I hadn’t spoken on it because nobody ever noticed it. I was like, ‘Hey! I got to use it, get the dub with it and put it right back in the bag.’ The next time I pulled it out, it was Johnny Walker. I knocked out Johnny Walker, so my stance switch has been there. I used it as needed or whenever I’ve seen the opening for it.”
Hill is trying to enjoy the fruits of his victory. He went to the ocean on Sunday, only hours after beating Teixeira, a popular local hero. He wore the belt over his shoulder and was warmly approached by many Brazilians who congratulated him and posed for photos with him.
The fans in the arena are brutal to foreigners fighting Brazilians, and it was no different for Hill. But he said those 13,000-plus in the arena don’t represent Brazilians as a whole. His experience was vastly different in Brazil other than on fight night.
“Those weren’t the same people,” Hill said of the people he met at the beach and the people who were in the arena. “The crowd [at Jeunesse Arena] went too far and was kind of disrespectful and disgraceful. The overall experience I had, though, was different. Even though the crowd were Brazilians, don’t mistake them for who Brazilians are because they showed me nothing but love and respect and made me feel comfortable and welcome. I enjoyed my time in their country.”
It’s easier, of course, to enjoy it when one leaves with the gold, as Hill did. And if everything plays out the way he hopes, he’ll face former champion Jiri Prochazka next. Prochazka released a video on Instagram on Saturday after Hill won, and Hill responded to it with a post of his own.
He said his goal is to make his first defense against Prochazka. Prochazka was supposed to rematch Teixeira for the belt in December, but in late November, he suffered a significant shoulder injury. He pulled out of the bout and, so as not to hold up the division, surrendered the belt.
UFC president Dana White said at the time that doctors told him Prochazka’s injury was one of the worst they’d seen. Hill is hopeful he’ll be back before the end of the summer, but isn’t going to wait forever. He said he wants to fight Prochazka by the July-August range.
“He’s got his time to recover and I have my healing to do,” Hill said. “So there’s time, and that’s no doubt the fight I want. I’ve wanted that fight. But if by about two or three months from now, maybe by April, if we don’t have an answer then, well, we’re going to have to move on. But I hope that fight comes together because it’s one I have wanted for a long time.”