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Get to know TUF Cast: Kyler Phillips


Everything was coming up roses for Kyler Phillips. Unbeaten in four pro fights, the 2012 IBJJF world champion made it five straight without a loss last August, using his striking game to finish James Gray Jr. in 46 seconds. And though he didn’t get a UFC contract that night, he was expected to be stepping into the Octagon sooner rather than later at just 22 years old.

But when the cast of The Ultimate Fighter: Undefeated was revealed, there he was, willing to put the fast track ticket to the UFC aside to leave friends, family and teammates for six weeks and roll the dice against seven other featherweights fighting for that same UFC opportunity.

Why?

“Because TUF is tough,” laughs Phillips.

Sure, it sounds catchy, but the Torrance, California native means every word of it. The way he sees it, going through the TUF gauntlet, facing off with a bunch of hungry prospects, learning from new coaches and training with new teammates isn’t just a means to an end. It’s experience that will be invaluable once he makes it to the UFC.

“I’m still young and still growing, and I need something like this,” the Team Miocic member said, his maturity evident with that point of view and his decision.

That doesn’t mean there haven’t been some doubters. He chuckles when he points out that ten folks have specifically voiced their surprise at him choosing TUF. But Phillips has no intention of simply going to the big show for the sake of it, to say that he fought in the Octagon. He’s got championship aspirations, a dream he may have been chasing since before he even knew he was chasing it as he first hit the jiu-jitsu mats at the age of three.

And while 19 years is a long time to do anything, Phillips has yet to get burned out on combat sports, whether it’s jiu-jitsu, judo, wrestling or MMA, all of which he’s made his mark in at one point or another.

His explanation is simple.


The way he sees his chosen path, it’s not like a fistfight with gloves on. Instead, it’s like math or science, a complex puzzle that he will never figure out completely but will keep him engaged for as long as he wants to be involved with it. That continuous quest for knowledge keeps it fresh for him, and when you think of the falling code numbers that advertised the film series “The Matrix,” perhaps it’s the most appropriate nickname for Phillips, who was actually given that moniker by his dad because of his ability to pick things up faster than most and be two steps ahead of his opponents and training partners.

That talent is evident in Phillips, who turned pro in March 2016 with a first-round TKO of Taylor Alfaro, and with the gang of killers at the MMA Lab in Arizona now sharpening those tools, he is on the verge of making a lot of noise in the coming years.

“I’m ‘The Matrix,’” he said after his DWTNCS win over Gray. “This is the system, I control it, I control their thoughts, their actions. They’re stepping into my world and I’m gonna unplug them from the Matrix, every person that steps across the cage from me. Stay tuned, I’m gonna give you guys a helluva show.”
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