Despite Falling Short In His First Shot At UFC Gold, Josh Emmett Believes He Can Make A Statement At UFC Fight Night: Emmett vs Topuria
BY E. SPENCER KYTE
Josh Emmett had a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year, spending time with family and friends before traveling the two nations, dining on terrific food with his wife and finally meeting the man he was often incorrectly tagged as on social media.
Joshua James Emmett, born March 4, 1985, is a mixed martial artist and top contender in the UFC featherweight division.
Josh Emett, born July 9, 1973, is a world-class chef from New Zealand, and the former was finally able to connect with the latter and sample his culinary offerings earlier this year.
“It was awesome,” the fighter and foodie said of finally meeting his “alter ego” back in February. “We’ve known of each other for a long, long time. I told my wife years ago, ‘One of these days we’re gonna go to New Zealand and meet him, eat at his restaurants,’ and it’s kind of crazy how it actually all came about. We ate at all of his restaurants throughout New Zealand, met him and his wife and kids. It was cool — great food too.”
But it all would have been far more enjoyable if the business portion of Emmett’s business and pleasure trip to the Oceanic region had gone better.
Prior to meeting Chef Emett, the 38-year-old fighter faced off with Yair Rodriguez in a battle for the interim featherweight title at UFC 284 in Perth, losing by submission in the second round. For a fighter that had battled his way back from some serious injuries over the years, it was a massive opportunity a long time coming, but unfortunately for Emmett, it wasn’t meant to be on that particular evening.
“It just wasn’t my night,” he said, reflecting on the loss a few days out from his return to action against Ilia Topuria in this weekend’s UFC on ABC main event. “In camp, everything was going well, I went over there early, but, for whatever reason, I just did not perform on the day that mattered, in the biggest fight of my life.
“I made a mistake,” continued Emmett, whose record now stands at 18-3 overall. “When he threw up that triangle in the first round, I addressed it and passed it by, and he did it again in the second round, and I wasn’t threatened by it, so I kept doing what I was doing, the end of the round was near, and then he adjusted and it was too late.
“Me playing that over and over again in my head when we were out there in Australia and stuff, it was tough — it was a tough, tough pill to swallow, but it is what it is. It wasn’t my night and I have to move on.”
Moving on from the fight was a must, but moving on from the sport never crossed the Team Alpha Male representative’s mind in the wake of the setback.
“There was no thought in my mind about ‘it was a great run’ because all that means nothing to me unless I achieve what I set out to do,” he said, quickly explaining that packing it in was never a consideration because he still believes wholeheartedly that he can reach the very top of the UFC featherweight division. “I know I can get there. I know I can win. I know I can be a world champion, so I have to get past it, move on, figure out what went wrong, and not let it happen again.
“I don’t look and I don’t fight like a 38-year-old. I got into this sport later than a lot of people. I have the best team around me, and I have everything dialed in to a tee; it just wasn’t my night,” he reiterated. "I give it up to Yair. (Alexander) Volkanovski and him are going to fight July 8, I wish them the best — they’re both good people — and I just have to move on, get back to what’s the next task at hand, and that’s June 24.
“With a big statement, a big win, I feel like I’m right back in the mix.”
The task at hand is a sizeable one, as Topuria enters Saturday’s main event pairing with a pristine 13-0 record that includes five straight victories in the UFC and stoppages in each of his last four wins.
After debuting with a unanimous decision victory over Youssef Zalal on short notice in the fall of 2020, the 26-year-old Georgian has worked his way into the Top 10 in the 145-pound weight class by dispatching Damon Jackson, Ryan Hall, Jai Herbert (at lightweight), and Bryce Mitchell without the judges being called upon.
He is one of the top up-and-coming talents on the UFC roster, and Emmett is well aware that collecting a victory on Saturday is not going to be easy, but he’s also buoyed by the fact that he’s treading familiar ground, while Topuria is entering into unfamiliar territory.
“The UFC is looking to build him up, but I’ve fought a lot of guys that are similar to him, his style,” began the veteran, who posted consecutive victories over Mirsad Bektic, Shane Burgos, Dan Ige, and Calvin Kattar prior to losing to Rodriguez in Perth. “He’s really good. He’s a really good fighter — young, confident — but he’s never fought anyone close to me. There is nobody that is even close to my abilities.
“He’s a jiu jitsu black belt; he’s a short, stocky, powerful boxer, and a decent wrestler; he’s just a well-rounded fighter,” continued Emmett, who has a shotgun for a jab and a bazooka for a right hand. “But it’s also easy when you’re the hammer — when you’re just going out there, beating people, and you’ve never been in a fight.
“You learn a lot about yourself when it’s close or going back-and-forth,” he added. “Or maybe you have to come back from behind, and he’s never been to those later rounds, so if we go to the fourth and fifth rounds, I’ve been a champion on the regional scene, I’ve been five rounds in the UFC, I can push the pace, and it’s gonna be new to him.”
Some fighters in Emmett’s current position might bristle at being matched up with the hottest prospect in the division right after challenging for interim gold, feeling as if fighting backwards in the rankings and being paired off with an unbeaten talent like Topuria is disrespectful.
Many would use it as fuel for the fire — an accelerant that adds to the push in the gym, dials in the focus even more, and gives life to an “I’ll show you!” approach that could be a positive or a negative, depending on the individual.
But none of those things matter to Emmett.
He’s been here before and, at 38, he’s only worried about himself, his preparation, his goals, and doing whatever it takes to reach them.
“I’m not trying to prove anybody wrong — I’m just trying to go out there and win,” he said. “I want to be a world champion. I want to wear UFC gold. I was so close, and I know I can get back there, and I know I can win that title. I’m not overlooking anyone — I have a tough, tough test in front of me, and I have to get my hand raised on June 24.
“There is this thing my dietician posted that said, ‘Extraordinary performance requires extraordinary sacrifice,’ and I’ve been doing everything to a tee for so long that it’s going to show on fight day.
“It will be my night.”
Don't miss a moment of UFC Fight Night: Emmett vs Topuria, live from the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. Prelims start at 11:30am ET/8:30am PT, while the main card kicks off on ABC at 3pm ET/12pm PT.