The career of featherweight prospect Jamall Emmers has existed to this point solely on the regional scene, centered mostly in Texas and California. Emmers will take a huge step in his mixed martial arts journey on Week 3 of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, as he locks horns with Julian Erosa. While Emmers sports an impressive 13-3 record, Erosa is among the most experienced competitors the Miami native will have faced.
A spotlight appearance in an Ultimate Fighting Championship feeder promotion, an opponent who has been on the big stage, a trip to Las Vegas’ famed “Ultimate Fighter” gym and the opportunity to make a career defining statement? His approach to handling the pressure seems simple enough: Act like you have been there before. Emmers cool demeanor does not point to anything other than a workmanlike attitude towards his upcoming challenge. A showcase on UFC Fight Pass is a big deal, but being televised live on AXS-TV is nothing at which to sneeze, either. Is what could be a make-or-break fight for the 28-year-old causing any additional butterflies? “I don’t feel too much pressure regarding that,” Emmers said. “I feel a pressure but not like I’ve had in some past fights.”
As a veteran of Tachi Palace Fights and the Legacy Fighting Alliance, he has seen tough challengers. Erosa is not the sole UFC vet he will have stared down, as last year he scored a definitive decision win over another big show alum in Chris Avila. Just months prior to that signature win, Emmers also took a unanimous nod against Cody Sandhagen. The promising Sandhagen later impressed with a second-round knockout win at UFC on Fox 27 over Austin Arnett in his Octagon debut. The confidence boost is apparent. “It gives me a good source of pride,” Emmers said. “It makes me feel good to accomplish that.”
While this is indeed the biggest opportunity of Emmers’ career, it all feels familiar to the Pinnacle MMA product. He is not overlooking the challenges posed by Erosa, a 26-fight veteran with a 21-5 record and a slight reach and height advantage. Aside from the normal preparations in camp -- coaches doing the film study and pairing him with similarly built fighters to mimic Erosa -- this training camp has had a business-as-usual feel to it. “[He is] most definitely a notch up in competition; he’s been to the UFC and experienced all that before,” Emmers said. “It’s a good fight for me to test my skills.”
Without an unusual amount of nerves heading into his DWTNCS appearance, all that is left is dealing with the changes that come from stepping closer to the biggest stage in MMA. Instead of his normal road trip into an event city, Emmers is looking forward to a relaxing flight into the fight capital of the world. The normal search for food that will not derail his weight management will no longer include driving around a strange town looking for a quality grocery store. He plans on taking advantage of the meals provided by the UFC Performance Institute. “Everything is more organized,” Emmers said. “Not to say the other promotions aren’t organized, but this is just a tighter ship.” Those are accommodations that should be much easier to adjust to.
When the Octagon door closes on Tuesday, Erosa will know what it all feels like. After all, the UFC Training Center was home away from home during Season 22 of “The Ultimate Fighter” when he went 3-1 in that same cage. However, the mental approach that Emmers is taking -- keeping focused on the tough test ahead -- will even things out if all goes according to plan.
The self-identified nerd is looking forward to enjoying a bacon and mushroom pizza and sitting down to enjoy Season 2 of “Luke Cage” after it is all said and done. Emmers hopes that treating his next fight as if he has done it all before will propel him to places he has never been.