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From Sacrifice to Glory, Emmett fights on

UFC fighter Josh Emmett scarified everything to get where he is today. His now wife also went through the sacrifice with him, as he was fighting for his future. 

The couple struggled so much so that they bounced around from one bedroom apartments to his mother’s house. They also lived at a friend’s house, as well. 

Josh Emmett flexing after a weigh in for one of his fights (Photo by Josh Emmett/Facebook)

“It all paid off in the end,” Emmett said. “We got to a point, where it was so hard for me to find fights. Uriah [Faber] was in [UFC President] Dana White’s ear and the matchmaker’s ear. They kept saying have Josh win one more fight and I would do that, then Uriah would be calling them and emailing them. At this time, I was fighting guys with huge records and not those, who were undefeated. I fought one guy, who had 40 pro fights. I was fighting some tough guys. At this point, I was ready to pursue law enforcement or get a job so that I can make a regular income and live. At this time, I was 30 in 2015-16 and I talked to my wife. I thought I was done, but at this point, if I had lost any of my local fights in the regional scene, I was done. If I also lost one of those amateur fights, I was done. In my mind, I’m getting old — and if I lost an amateur fight, not saying there’s anything wrong with that — I wanted to fight at the highest level in the UFC.

“I was thinking I don’t belong [in the amateur scene], and as I was going through and maybe when I was 4-0 as a pro, if I had lost a fight, I was done. When I was talking to my wife in 2016, I was ready to hang it up after I fought Christos Giagos. He had never been knocked out and was a tough guy in the UFC. I gave him his first knockout loss — and I still didn’t get a UFC contract. That’s when they said win one more fight. I thought I was finished with that, as I felt like I was done. My wife said to give it to the end of 2016 — and if nothing happens — we’ll figure it out from there and you can pursue something else. I felt like that was a blessing, as I began training and was going to fight a guy with 30 pro fights, who was one of the top guys in California. On a four-day notice, someone got injured and I got the call from Joe Silva at the time to make my UFC debut, because I was one of the top prospects at lightweight next to go. I hopped on a plane and flew across the world to [Rotterdam] Netherlands to fight Jon Tuck. I had the worst hand injury in the UFC and still came out on top.”

Emmett followed the UFC and mixed martial arts before it was mainstream. He said he began watching it in 1999 when he was in high school. 

As a teenager, he said, he watched the pay-per-views with his best friend Johnny. 

“I was a huge fan of it and I wrestled my entire life — and I played sports and I was an athlete — and I love to compete,” he said. “That’s why I fell in love with the sport, watching it back then — it was the truest form of competition — and back then being young and dumb back in high school, I thought I could beat these guys. There were no way in h*ll that would have ever happened. It was truly humbling when I got into it myself from a wrestling background and shooting in with a double leg — head up and chin up — and people just caught you in a guillotine and choking me — and these people weren’t in the UFC so that’s when it was humbling to me and I thought I would have gotten killed if I stepped in there back then. 

“That’s when I was introduced to it back in 1999. I wrestled back in high school, junior college, and at the four-year level — there was nothing left for me there with wrestling, because it was an individual sport. I had been doing it for so long, and I used wrestling as a tool to pay for my education and to get my degree. When I was going to junior college, Sacramento City College, around 2005, Uriah Faber opened his gym, Ultimate Fitness. He actually came to our meets and was handing out flyers to his new gym. I knew who he was because I was a fan of Uriah’s when he was in WEC. Eventually, I attended his gym and he talked me into attending pro classes. There was only two things in my life that I wanted to be: a police officer or a pro athlete. When I was thinking about being a pro athlete as a little kid, I was thinking baseball, basketball, or football, as I wasn’t into the MMA at the time.”

In his MMA career, he has fought at both featherweight and lightweight. He was a lightweight fighter from 2014 through 2017. 

He transitioned back to featherweight in 2017. Emmett previously fought in the category from 2011 through 2014. 

“It depends,” Emmett said. “On the regional scene, I was fighting at featherweight, then I went up to lightweight, because I cut a lot of weight. My goal was always to be a featherweight once I got into the UFC, but since I was winning at the regional scene at lightweight — and got into the UFC on a four-day notice — and beating guys and doing pretty well, I said, ‘If it’s broke, don’t fix it.’ I just kept at lightweight. I had my first loss ever to Desmond Green, and still to this day, I felt like I won that fight. I was fighting him in his hometown and I felt like I won two rounds and gave him one. 

“I was landing bigger punches and he was landing pesky punches. I felt like I got hometowned. The good thing is, I felt like, ‘why did this happen?’ I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. When I lost that fight via a split decision, the only good thing was I thought maybe it was time to go to featherweight. That was always my plan. I decided to make the cut to featherweight my next fight. I went out and set two records in the UFC in my featherweight debut. I had four knockdowns in a single round. The person, I think, who had the record last was Conor McGregor when he knocked down Eddie Alvarez. I knocked down Felipe Arantes four times — and I set the first 10-7 record with all those knockdowns.”

Emmett fought in the Capitol Fighting Championships, West Coast Fighting Championship, and the King of the Cage before receiving his UFC shot. He was 9-0 before receiving his first UFC fight against Tuck. 

The Sacramento, California native won via a split decision against Tuck at UFC Fight Night 87 on May 8, 2016. 

“It means everything,” he said. “It was a dream of mine that I accomplished by getting into the UFC and I want to be a world champion. Because of the UFC, I’ve met a lot of connections — I just know I’m involved in some business. I know the better I do in the UFC with winning fights, it’s only going to help everything that I’m a part of and without the UFC, it’s helped me get to the point, where I had been struggling and sacrificing and doing everything my entire life until I was 31-years-old. I got to the point where — my wife and I just bought a house last year and I’m now able to travel. I like traveling and when I made my UFC debut, it was the first-time that I actually left the country. It opened my eyes because I didn’t have any money to ever travel. 

“It opened my eyes to experience different cultures and see new things, like how people live. I just fell in love with traveling. I don’t care if we have to plan something big and put it on the credit card and just do it. I think so many people should travel —  I live in the United States and we take it for granted how well we have it made here. When you go to some of these countries, or third-world countries, some people do not have anything. They do not have running water or electricity, but they’re so happy and so grateful — and so humble that I don’t know — I love it. We’re in such a rush here in the States, but over there, it’s something special that I think everyone has to experience. Anytime I fight outside of the country — or even if I fight in the States — we try to stay at least a week or so that we can see the big tourist attractions and have some of the best local food and see a lot of different things. I like to dive into that country or city and experience everything — like what the locals do and what the tourists do.”

Since joining the UFC, three of his fights have come out of the United States. His first fight was in the Netherlands. 

He fought Arantes in Gdańsk, Poland in his return to featherweight. He also fought Ricardo Lamas at a 148.5 catchweight after he missed weight in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. 

“It’s awesome,” Emmett said. “The first fight with Jon Tuck was in the Netherlands. My wife and some of my close friends made it out to the fight a few days before. Then, my wife and I were going to go back home, but then I said, ‘Man, we’re out here in Europe, can you ask your boss, which is my doctor and nutritionist, if you can have some extra time?’ She called and they were all about supporting us and traveling and experiencing things so they said take a week off. From there, we stayed in Rotterdam for a day and we went to the train station and wanted to see something else — but wasn’t sure so we asked the lady at the train station, ‘Do we go here or here? She said Berlin, Germany was really nice so we said, ‘Let’s do it.’ We bought a one-way ticket to Berlin — it was a six-hour train ride — we went there and stayed there for three days. That was amazing. 

“We did everything and we saw all of Berlin in two days, because we were on the go non-stop, doing all these tours and eating at all these good places and eating at beer gardens. Then, we took a train ride all the way back to Amsterdam and we stayed there for two-to-three days then flew home. It was the same thing with Gdańsk, Poland and the same thing in Winnipeg. From fighting in different places with the UFC, my wife and I always wanted to go to Thailand. She loves elephants and wanted to see elephants. Shortly after that, I was able to make a dream of hers come true. We did this two-week Thailand trip all over the country and we went to this elephant sanctuary, where we feed the elephants and bathe them — not ride them, because it kind of hurts them — it was crazy while we were over there. It was surreal and we had to think, ‘We’re actually in Thailand’ and she was in the water bathe those elephants. It was amazing to see how happy she was to be there and to experience all that. I’ve gone to Moscow. I’ve gone to Brazil and I’ve gone to so many other places. My wife and I say it’s our ‘Emmett’s World Tour.’ We’re actually on a little world tour and we’re trying to see as many different countries and cities and things as possible.”

Emmett knocked out Mirsad Bektić on July 13th in his hometown of Sacramento. The fight was ended at 4:25 in the first round. 

His last three wins have come via knockout. 

“I feel Mirsad Bektić is a tough opponent,” he said before the first-round knockout. “Stylistically, we are very similar in styles. We are pretty much the same body type. He’s like an inch taller than me, so we have the same reach and we both come from a wrestling background. We’re both strong, explosive and powerful fighters with great striking. He has great wrestling and so do I. He has good top pressure with jujitsu and so do I. I think the matchmakers set this up, because that’s their job and this is almost going to be like me fighting myself. It’s going to be a puzzle that I’m going to have to figure out and it’s going to be a tough test. I don’t see a lot of holes in his game, but I do know that my power is something else. He hasn’t fought anybody like me. I do know once I hit him, he’s going to know he’s in for a fight.”

He’s 8-0 in fights in Sacramento. Emmett is 2-0 in his hometown as a UFC fighter.

He also defeated Scott Holtzman by unanimous decision on Dec. 17, 2016.

“I would say yes and no,” Emmett said of fighting at home. “In Sacramento, before I got into the UFC, I had pro fights in Sacramento against tough opponents. I was always the co-main event or main event. I was like the face of the West Coast Fighting Championship and I always had the biggest fan base. I fought the toughest opponents. It was at an Air Force base — McClellan Air Force Base at one of their hangers — it was intimate because it was smaller, but they would pack 7-8,000 people in there. It was insane how loud it was, but I loved it, because I feed off the energy and I feed off the crowd. It really helps me and motivates me — and even at the Golden 1 Center two and a half years ago, the entire arena was chanting my name. 

“I was tired, but that really helps me to get through the fight. I pushed harder to fight for them. The only pressure, my biggest fear — I don’t get nervous before fights — I fear losing. That’s my biggest fear and I don’t want to lose in front of my friends and family. I feel like — and I know that’s not the case — I would let them down. It’s embarrassing and I just want to go away. They’re always going to be there for me to support me. I just want to make them extra proud. That’s the only pressure on me — the fear of losing. Two people are going to fight and one person is going to win — and you hope that’s not going to be you every time — but I’m going to go in there and I’ve been preparing for this. It’s my time and I’m going to go out there and do my best.”

Presently, Emmett is ranked No. 10 in the Featherweight Standings, as of August 12th, 2019. Max Holloway is the champion. 

His goal is to win the belt that Holloway presently has.

“It would mean everything,” Emmett said. “I would be the best fighter in the world at 145 pounds. I was close to getting there until I got a blemish and a loss on my record to Jeremy Stevens, but that’s why I took the Michael Johnson fight. I was out for 13 months, as I had a lot of facial fractures and vertigo. I had a lot of things going wrong for me, but I still wanted to get in there with the toughest opponent possible. They offered Michael Johnson — and I know how good he is — and he beat the interim lightweight champion. He’s the only guy to beat Tony Ferguson. He beat [Edson] Barbosa and beat some of the best. That’s why I wanted to fight him. People thought I was crazy. I can beat any of these guys — and I can beat any of these at featherweight, too. Anyone can lose on any given day. I know I can beat anyone. That’s why I made the cut to featherweight, because I really feel like I can make a run at this title. 

“If I can land one clean shot on anyone, that could be the end of the fight. You don’t see that a lot in the Featherweight Division — but everyone I’ve fought in the Featherweight Division in the UFC, I’ve dropped them — some more than others. I have clean, walk off home runs. I know after I hit them, they’re out and I just walk away. I don’t need to follow up. Being a world champion would mean everything to me. It would be the biggest achievement of my life. That’s what I’m working so hard towards. I want to be a world champion and I feel like I possess a lot of the qualities of a champion. I feel like I can be a great role model and leader. I believe I will be a world champion, plus I have everything it takes to be a world champion.”

Emmett is 34-years-old. He will turn 35 on March 4, 2020. He hopes to compete for another four-to-five years. 

“At my age, which I’m 34, I feel like because I got into it later than most, I haven’t been in a lot of crazy wars,” he said. “I’ve only taken damage in one fight in all of my 17 professional fights and even my amateur fights. I feel great. Even though that number is getting up there, I feel like the best I’ve ever felt. I feel super strong, fast, and explosive. I’m super athletic and I’m getting better every day. Plus, every fight, I’m gaining more experience. I feel like I hope to have four-to-five years left in me if I can stay healthy. If you look at some guys in the UFC — who have been in the sport for 10-years — they have been in a lot of back-and-forth crazy wars and have taken a lot of damage, it has aged people. I’ve seen people that I’m older than, but they look way older than me. I think as long as you take care of your body, which I eat right, I work out a ton, and I do everything right when it comes to my nutrition. I am hopeful I have another four-to-five years in me.

“I hope to become a world champion. If you become a champion and defend your belt, you’ll have financial freedom. I want to be able to be smart with my money, of course, and invest it right. I want to be able to get into real estate. I don’t know besides that. I’ll play it by ear. I’m a partner with a Vibe Health Bar in Sacramento, which there is three locations. There’s in Oak Park, Midtown, and Folsom. We’re looking into possibly franchising that. That would be some residual income. I’m part of Sky Naturals CBD and I’m also part of Mastermind Supplement. I have my own supplement and I created this after the Stephens fight. I have some things going on right now. When I’m 38-39, if that’s when I do hang it up, I guess I’ll address it then. Maybe I do want to get into law enforcement — and I have a lot of connections and contacts around Sacramento that I can really go and do whatever I want. I’m all in on the fighting. It’s a love of mine and I’ve wanted to do this. I give it my all, as I’m a 100% into it. I don’t want to have any regrets.”


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