UFC Austin: Josh Emmett 1-on-1 with Kevin Iole

No. 7-ranked featherweight Josh Emmett joins Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole to preview his matchup versus Calvin Kattar, which headlines Saturday's UFC Austin. The 37-year-old says a featherweight belt is still in his future and believes he can overcome any challenge Kattar brings to the Octagon.

Video transcript


KEVIN IOLE: Hey, everybody. I am Kevin Iole. Welcome to Yahoo Sports. And, you know, I interviewed a lot of fighters over the years. And a lot of the fighters talk about overcoming adversity. I don't know that I know too many people that have overcome more adversity than this young man, Josh Emmett.

He fights Calvin Kattar on Saturday in Austin, Texas, in the main event of UFC "Fight Night." And I'll tell you what, Josh, when I hear your list of injuries and the things you've overcome, I just shake my head. It has really been a rocky road. How are you pulling this off one serious injury after another?

JOSH EMMETT: You know, I feel like it was-- that's all in the past. I feel like I needed to get a-- I just needed to get it fixed so it can get me to this moment, you know what I mean? So I don't have any of those injuries in these huge fights that mean so much to me. And I truly believe everything happens for a reason. It's just-- it's part of my story.

I've had a tough, tough go as far as overcoming so much adversity and obstacles and things like that in my MMA career, in my life, all these type of things. But I wouldn't have it any other way, because it molded me into the person I am today. And it's going to be so much sweeter when I do get to the top, because I've had no handouts and I haven't had anything come to me easy.

KEVIN IOLE: You know, a lot of people know about the face injury you suffered when you fought Jeremy Stephens. I think the-- and they also know about your knee injury against Shane Burgos. What was it, the first round of a five-round fight that you tore your knee up?

JOSH EMMETT: Yeah, first 19 seconds to the first round. I tore my ACL, had all these things going on. But that's just my will to win, my mentality. There's nothing that's going to stop me. I had a compound fracture in my UFC debut. And I had to hide it from the ref in order to get my hand raised, because I know they would have stopped that as well.

KEVIN IOLE: Look up compound fracture if you don't know what it is. It's not pretty, believe me. Josh, I want to talk about that Burgos fight for a second before we get into Kattar, because I think this talks about your mindset a lot, right?

So you said, 19 seconds into the fight, you tear up your knee. I'm sure you're in incredible pain. You know, how do you pivot, how do you move? Shane's a great striker. How do you get out of the way of his strikes? What was your mindset as that was-- as you're in the middle of that fight and you know you're compromised? What do you tell yourself to be able to keep rolling?

JOSH EMMETT: It's just one of my-- it's either just incredibly stupid or, you know what I mean? It's just my mind mentality. So I work with a mind coach. We've worked almost my entire UFC career. I go into these states, and I'm willing to endure whatever it takes to get my hand raised. And even the pain I sustained and felt in that fight, it was something different, no stability.

But it is what it is. I was getting my hand raised. I had one goal, and that was to win. And so no matter what, I'm doing that. You don't see that in football. There's a reason people don't finish their set of downs. They don't finish the quarter. They get carted off.

So, yeah. I was talking to myself, having these conversations in the first 20 seconds, obviously. But then, I just kind of took over. I'm like, what are you here for? You're here to win. Go get the job done. We'll figure out what the issue is and take care of it after.

And that's always my mentality. I have one job on Saturday night, and that's to win. Doesn't matter how it happens. It is to go out there and be the most dominant version of myself. And I sure will do that on Saturday night.

KEVIN IOLE: You know, Josh, I think that's what separates you from a lot of guys, because we've all seen fights where guys have been injured and they just want to get to the finish. They don't want to get stopped. They want to make it to the finish and be there.

But you're not just making it to the finish, you know? You're really-- that Burgos fight was one of the best fights of the year. That's what's really amazing. Did they-- was the adrenaline enough that you weren't really throbbing in pain? Or did you feel it that whole time during the fight?

JOSH EMMETT: Yeah, no, it hurt like hell. Like, you can see it if you watch the fight, even when it first happened-- it was so painful, it was excruciating. I had so many things going on. I had no stability in that knee.

But then again, I had one job. Why am I here? To win. So no matter what, every strike I throw still has bad intentions behind it. I'm going out there to finish the fight and be entertaining, be exciting, and get my hand raised, because I also have an ultimate goal that I'm trying to achieve. And Calvin Kattar is the only person standing in front of me to achieving that.

KEVIN IOLE: I talked to Calvin Kattar yesterday. And, you know, I mentioned to him, I said, in one way, the two of you remind me of each other. Because you look at his fight with Max Holloway and the abuse he took, and then even, you look at the picture of him that he took at the hospital with Giga Chikadze after the fight, and their faces looked like they were in a high-speed car wreck or something. I mean, so it's gonna be tough to finish the two of you. So maybe the play here is to bet the over in this fight.

JOSH EMMETT: Yeah, right? Yeah, no, I see a lot of similarities. And Kattar and I also-- like I say, he's a great fighter. He's one of the best in the world. He comes from a great camp, teammates, coaches, everything about him.

So I feel like we're similar in that we also just put our head down and work. And then we know success or we just let successes like our noise. And that's how I can kind of express myself.

It's like, I've been preparing. I'm working so hard. My entire career, my life, this camp-- like, everything has led me here. And I won't disappoint. I feel like it's our time. And that's everybody behind me, from my wife, my family, coaches, teammates, everybody-- it's our time, and they've invested a lot into me. And I think that's going to pay dividends on Saturday.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, your wife must be a saint, because putting up with all that you've been through is like, she must really be something else.

JOSH EMMETT: No, she really is, yeah. And she's one of the main reasons why I'm still here. You know, when I thought I was going to get in the UFC and on "The Ultimate Fighter" twice and almost got into the UFC twice, yeah, I was [INAUDIBLE] one of the top prospects in the country to get called. They kept saying win one more, win one more. I never thought it was going to happen.

So I was like, I'm done. And then she's the one that said, just give it another year. If you don't get there, then we'll revisit things and-- yeah. So she-- otherwise, I felt bad. We were living in a one-bedroom room at our friend's house, my mom's house. We're living in a studio so I can pursue this dream. And she's along for the ride. And I was like, man, I need to get a job and contribute to society.

But she's the one that stuck it out and kept me in the game and doing this. And I got the call two months later. And, yeah, she's been there for everything. And she keeps all of my schedule, my diet, my food, my literally everything. I couldn't do it without her.

KEVIN IOLE: You know, that answer tells me that not only do you need to be physically talented and mentally tough and everything to be a successful UFC fighter, but I also think you have to be patient, right? Because you know, maybe here, you've had to wait through a lot of different stuff. And some people-- you could have said, hey, I'm done. I'm going to move on. And that patience has led you to-- and you're ranked number 7 now, going up against number 4 on Saturday.

JOSH EMMETT: Yeah, no, totally. It's like, what I tell a lot of younger athletes and fighters, they get in there 2 and 0, 3 and 0. They're like, I want to get on "The Contender" series. I want to get in the UFC. They're like-- and they're young. They started way younger than me.

I'm like, you guys are lucky. You have time to develop. You have time. Like I said, OK, patience is key. And I said, you don't want to rush things, because you don't want to get to the UFC, and then you get into a fight, and you're like, whoa, I've never seen this. You need to progress.

And that is-- it's literally patience. You have to be in this for the long haul. You have to be all in. There is no half-assing it. You have to be all in. This is not a hobby. You can get seriously injured if you just want to get in there and do MMA.

KEVIN IOLE: So one thing where you're opposite of Calvin, you know, Calvin's number 4. And he's having to fight somebody lower ranked than him because everybody above him has it. This is an opportunity for you. You beat number 4, and I assume you at least move up one or two spots, if not all the way up to number 4. So do you look at this as the fight of your life, given this is the highest-ranked opponent you'll have been in with and how close he is to the top of the rankings right now?

JOSH EMMETT: Yeah, no. No, I don't look at it as-- I just think it's another fight for me. He's another opponent in front of me. It's just another fight, even though it's the main event. It potentially could go two more rounds.

This is the second person that I've fought that's ranked higher than me. The only person I ever fought that was ranked higher than me was Ricardo Lamas when he was ranked third in the world. I took it on a three-week notice, finished him. That's when José Aldo and him were supposed to fight, and then they got the title fight. But there were some injuries.

So I went out there. And that was a huge fight, but every fight is my biggest fight. But this means so much to me. It's such a huge opportunity, and I'm going to seize the day on the 18th.

KEVIN IOLE: Well, how do you overcome-- he has a little bit of a length advantage on you, and reach, and leg length, and all that type of stuff. How do you overcome that? I'm sure you've got to get to your distance to win the fight. You know, what kind of problems does it present when you're fighting a guy that has that kind of length advantage?

JOSH EMMETT: Yeah, it's nothing new to me. Everyone's taller than me. And then everyone I fought, I've fought people-- the majority of the people I fought are, like, 5' 10", 5' 11". On the regional scene, I fought someone as tall as 6' 4".


JOSH EMMETT: Kattar only has a 2-- yeah, it was crazy. He was a welterweight, and-- yeah, last-minute fight. So I was like, I'll take it, because I needed to make some money. So, yeah, it's not new to me.

Kattar has a 2-inch reach on me. I fought-- Michael Johnson had a longer reach. Desmond Green had a longer reach. Shane Burgos had a longer reach. I train with Andre Fili, one of my friends and main training partners. He has a 74-inch reach. He's long, like, same style.

Yeah, so it's-- I can close the gap, and I can get inside really fast. The only thing with someone having the reach on you, I have to be the one to put myself in danger, into the fire. But I feel like I can use my feints. I can use my head movement like Mike Tyson to get inside and land big shots, big, violent shots. And that's exactly what I'm going to do.

KEVIN IOLE: Does the fact that you have that wrestling background maybe make that a little bit easier, because you're used to taking the shots and trying to get somebody to the ground? Now, the fact that if you're fighting a taller opponent, then, you know, wrestling, maybe it becomes a bigger factor.

JOSH EMMETT: Yeah, not really. It's like, yeah, I come from a wrestling background. I'm a mixed martial artist. I train everything year-round. I've always trained for five, six-round fights because I knew this was inevitable.

But, yeah, I wouldn't be in the position that I am today if I didn't stand there and throw big bombs and try to entertain the crowd, you know what I mean? I know exactly what the fans want to see. I know what Dana White and the UFC wants to see. And, yeah, that's just kind of-- I love boxing, too, I love striking, and I have the power to finish the fight or change the outcome of the fight with every strike I throw.

KEVIN IOLE: I think you've won several bonuses in your last couple of fights. He's been fighting to the nine for the last two fights, I know for sure. So it should be a fun fight. I want to ask you this, though. When you get into those kind of fights, how much is the crowd a factor? Like, when the crowd gets roaring and you hear that, does that pump you up more? And do you push even a little bit more because of the emotion you get from the crowd?

JOSH EMMETT: It does. I love the crowd. That's the one thing with me, like, I love the crowd. And I'm so happy to be fighting in front of-- it's going to be a wild crowd here in Austin at a brand-new arena, the Moody Center. So, man, it definitely fuels the fire.

And when they're roaring, and the louder they are, it's just going to-- man, it does make me fight harder. It does make me dig deep and push even harder, because I want to be exciting. I want people-- any time I'm on a card, I want people to be excited and want to tune in because they know that I'm going to put on a fight of a lifetime. And I'm aiming to please everybody. And I will on the 18th.

KEVIN IOLE: Probably something you can't really spend a lot of time thinking about, but I always wonder this-- and it's the same thing with football players who play a long time and their knees and whatever-- how do you think, when you fight this violent style that you fight and you sacrifice your body, what you're going to be like when you're 50 years old? I mean, I got to imagine getting out of chairs is going to be rough, right?

JOSH EMMETT: I know. Possibly. I haven't really thought about it. But like I said, I'm willing to put my body and just put myself through the fire and through hell in order to achieve greatness. And I'm so close to doing so.

KEVIN IOLE: For you, Josh, is greatness in the UFC being the featherweight champion, or is it just reaching what you believe is your potential?

JOSH EMMETT: Yeah, being a featherweight champion. So my ultimate goal, once I got to the UFC, was to be a UFC champion. And I was-- I'm so close. So I'm right there. I just have to go out there and beat a tough, dangerous Calvin Kattar.

And it'll come. Everything is going to-- everything has led me to this moment. Everything happens for a reason. I truly believe I'm the best fighter on this planet in this division. And I just have to go out there and perform. And if the best me shows up, nobody can beat me.

KEVIN IOLE: Well, it is going to be an unbelievable fight. I know that when it was booked, it was one I put a star next to. Can't miss that one now. Josh, appreciate you, best of luck on Saturday, and thanks as always for your time.

JOSH EMMETT: Right, cool. Thank you, Kevin. Nice talking to you.


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