Jamahal Hill’s 13-year journey to UFC champion is the product of three generations. Fighting — for all the coaches and training partners involved — is often a selfish and lonely pursuit. For Hill, defeating Glover Teixeira at UFC 283 to capture the UFC light heavyweight championship was the culmination of a family project.
Hill was quite literally floored after defeating Teixeira in Rio de Janeiro last Saturday, dropping to the canvas and weeping after the final horn sounded. A cathartic release after 25 minutes of composure and precision, it was the realization of a dream come true.
“A lifetime of work,” Hill told CBS Sports of his post-fight emotions. “All the work I’ve done over the last 13 years coming true. A promise that I made 13 years ago to my city come true.”
Check out the full interview with Jamahal Hill below.
That work often necessitated time away from his children. Hill’s first phone call after winning his division’s crown was to his six kids — or at least the ones who were awake.
“One of my daughters was crying,” Hill said. “She was more worried about my face. My face didn’t look that great at the time. She wasn’t too happy about that. That’s pretty much where her focus was. My son was good. He said, ‘Congratulations, dad. I’m glad you’re alright.'”
Hill returned to his home in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a belated Christmas present for the family.
“They love the belt,” Hill said. “I put it on my youngest son and he was trying to hold it. It was heavy, heavy as shit. It was awesome.”
Hill’s success is as much a gift to those who invested in him as it is to those whom he supports. His father, mother, brothers and teammates were all instrumental in shaping Hill. The person perhaps most responsible for instilling Hill’s strong sense of self-belief is his late aunt, Natalie Hill. The new UFC champ sadly learned of his aunt’s passing just hours after he arrived home from Brazil.
“My aunt who I just lost was one of the closest people in the world to me,” Hill said. “That’s one of the things I’ve been dealing with since I got home. My auntie Nat was an O.G. man.
“She believed in me. She allowed me to be who I am at all times. She instilled in me and demanded that I be myself and be unapologetic about being myself. She loved me and accepted me all the way for that.”
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Hill anticipates his first title defense to be against former champion Jiri Prochazka, the latter of whom vacated the title in December due to a shoulder injury. Hill would ideally face Prochazka at UFC International Fight Week in July, but is willing to wait until August for Prochazka to recover. Beyond that, Hill will be waiting for new title challengers to emerge in the light heavyweight division.