After more than a decade of grinding, Jack Jenkins feels validated.
The Australian Eternal MMA featherweight champion was preparing for his fourth title defense when he got the news. He’s getting a shot at punching his ticket to the big leagues, by way of Dana White’s Contender Series on September 27.
Honestly, it was a call that he’d been expecting. After Jenkins’ 5-round shut-out performance in his last defense, the UFC made it known that the 29-year-old was on their radar. “The Contender Series was looking good,” he recalled in an interview with The AllStar recently.
Then the wait started. Season six of the series had already kicked off, and what was a few weeks felt like an eternity. With still no definitive word from the UFC brass, Jenkins became impatient. He wanted to fight.
“Look, we can’t just wait on good intentions,” the proud Bacchus Marsh native recalled of that limbo period. “So we needed to get something booked. I just booked the fight with Justin [Van Heerden], even considering that I was probably gonna get the call-up anyway – and we told Justin that, and the promotion and stuff, so everyone was aware of it.”
“A week after we made the announcement, the UFC called and we ended up getting on there [on] week 10 – the final week of Contender Series – which is turning out to be a big one. It’s Bo Nickal, [he’s] on that card as well, myself, one of the champions from England – so it’s a big card. It will be massive.”
With half of Jenkins’ life being dedicated to mixed martial arts, it was hard for the prospect to fully verbalize his emotions surrounding finally getting his shot. A decade and a half’s work, validated by a single phone call.
“Fuck, you can’t even explain it.”
When he shared the news with his family, Jenkins’ father had a coughing fit due to excitement. “Everyone was wrapped,” he recalled.
“I rang Jimmy Crute pretty quickly as well – we’ve been training together for a long time and we’ve always said we want to get on the same card one day like we used to back in the Hex days, and now it looks like that’s closer to being achieved than it ever has been.”
Back to work
The celebration period was short-lived, however. “Phar” Jack was straight back to work, studying the man that would be standing opposite him, Freddy Emiliano Linares.
“After I called everyone, I had a couple of hours where I was real happy, and then it was just back to business. Started watching his fights, started coming into the gym and talking about it with my coaches straight away.”
There were no drastic changes to be made in the 145-pounders fight camp, regardless of the change in opponent part-way through his preparations. A few small things here and there, he claimed, but Jenkins is more concentrated on himself.
“I’ve got a forward pressure and my style tends to change the way people fight,” he shared.
“… I’m not trying to change too much of what I’m doing. I’m just working on some of my cleanups after my combos in areas we think he might be open and that sort of thing. But until you get out there and actually feel it out, we don’t know.”
Despite leaving his training regime relatively unaltered heading into week ten of the Contender Series, Jenkins has clearly dissected Linares’ tendencies ahead of the bout.
“He’s tough, [a] pressure fighter, walks forward. Throws big one-two’s – not much else. Little bit sloppy on the break, carries his hands pretty low on exit, blades his front foot when he steps across. We’ll see how he goes against someone in a southpaw stance as well because I go both ways, so I’m gonna be testing him from that backhand when I’m in southpaw.”
“…He’s gonna throw [a] one-two, maybe sometimes cleanup with the hook and he’s gonna try and fight in that middle distance range – but that’s where I shine in that mid-range. Like, when I’m standing just in front of you and I can feint and get you to bite, that’s my best range,” he revealed – a tactic similar to that of UFC featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski, who Jenkins has trained with in the past.
“So if he plans on finding comfortability in that range he’s gonna be shocked when he gets in there with me.”
The Aussie intends on making it an early night at the office, then getting on the first flight back to Melbourne to celebrate the win at home.
“I think it’s gonna be a round two TKO.”