top of page

5 Defining Moments: Josh Emmett

Josh Emmett has the look of a man refusing to let an opportunity pass him by.

The 37-year-old Phoenix native currently finds himself on a five-fight winning streak and near the front of the line of contenders that has formed behind current Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight titleholder Alexander Volkanovski. Emmett owns an impressive 9-2 mark inside the Octagon. He last appeared at UFC on ESPN 37, where he eked out a contentious split decision over Calvin Kattar in their five-round June 18 main event.

As Emmett awaits word on his next assignment from UFC matchmakers, a look at five of the moments that have come to define him:

1. First Impression

Emmett moved to 10-0 with a successful Octagon debut, as he escaped with a split decision over Jon Tuck as part of the UFC Fight Night 87 undercard on May 8, 2016 at Ahoy Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands. All three members of the cageside judiciary struck 29-28 scorecards: Ben Cartlidge and Maciej Motylewski for Emmett, Andreas Gruner for Tuck. A short-notice replacement for the injured Nick Hein, Emmett perplexed Tuck with his aggression and movement for the better part of two rounds. The overhand right was his weapon of choice, as he paired it with the occasional leg kick. In the third round, Tuck uncorked a wheel kick that caught the former West Coast Fighting Championship titleholder on his left hand. The impact resulted in a compound fracture to Emmett’s ring finger and forced him to retreat until the final bell, his off-the-charts toughness taking over. Tuck pursued him with head kicks and knees but could not author the finish he needed.

2. A Brush with Adversity

Former Titan Fighting Championship titleholder Desmond Green touched down in the UFC with a split decision over Emmett in a three-round UFC 210 prelim on April 8, 2017 at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. JudgeDave Tirelli scored it 29-28 for Emmett, while Douglas Crosby and Sal D’Amato saw it 30-27 and 29-28 for Green. The previously unbeaten Emmett was effective in spurts, particularly with lunging right hands and leg kicks. Green countered with straight and sharp punching combinations, sprawled out of takedowns and mixed in a clean right jab when the situation called for it. The 27-year-old Henri Hooft protégé did his best work in the second round and then secured a takedown on the overaggressive Emmett in the third, short-circuiting his momentum.

3. Staying Power

Emmett knocked out perennial Top 10 contender Ricardo Lamas in the first round of their UFC on Fox 26 featherweight co-main event on Dec. 16, 2017 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. A substitution for the repurposed Jose Aldo, the Team Alpha Male rep brought it to a close 4:33 into Round 1 and announced his arrival as a major player at 145 pounds. Faced with a size and strength disadvantage, Lamas employed low and high kicks with both legs in a bid to keep the powerful Californian at bay. The upset-minded Emmett had other ideas. He countered a leg kick from Lamas with an errant overhand right and then sent a picture-perfect left hook sweeping behind it. The Chicago native was out cold upon impact, his head bouncing violently off the canvas to add insult to injury.

4. Violent Ends

Jeremy Stephens emerged as a dark horse title contender in the Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight division when he wrecked Emmett with punches and elbows in the second round of their UFC on Fox 28 headliner on Feb. 24, 2018 at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. Emmett, who had never before been finished, met his end 95 seconds into Round 2. Stephens was first to hit the deck. Emmett countered an ill-advised uppercut from “Lil’ Heathen” with a right hook in the first round. It resulted in a knockdown, but Stephens quickly cleared the cobwebs, escaped to his feet and drew the Team Alpha Male export deeper into the fight. Early in Round 2, he sat down Emmett with a left hook, followed with a series of elbows and unsheathed a knee strike that appeared to glance off the grounded Californian’s head. Referee Dan Miragliotta did not flag Stephens for the apparent foul, and the barrage continued. Emmett fell to his back, where a crushing elbow turned out the lights.

5. One-Track Mind

Emmett withstood a catastrophic knee injury and did so in scintillating fashion when he took a unanimous decision from the hyperaggressive Shane Burgos in a UFC on ESPN 11 co-main event that provided non-stop action from start to finish on June 20, 2020 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Scores were 29-28, 29-28 and 29-27. Emmett suffered the knee injury—a left ACL tear would keep him sidelined for more than a year—in the first round, put the pain aside and relied on sweeping hooks from both hands to keep the New York native at bay. He left his mark on the match in Round 3, where he twice floored Burgos with left hands, the second knockdown nearly leading to a finish.

Originally appeared on


bottom of page