Jamahal Hill is the 15th ranked contender in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. He’s also unbeaten as a pro, a stretch that includes Octagon victories over Darko Stosic and Ovince Saint Preux. And this Saturday at UFC 263, he will fight on his first pay-per-view main card against Paul Craig.
All impressive facts about the man dubbed “Sweet Dreams.” But what may be the most impressive tidbit about Mr. Hill is that he is the father of six children.
Yes, six, ranging in age from two to 14. And he still has a full head of hair, which is the most shocking part of the whole thing.
“For some reason, my hair got longer,” laughs Hill, who is one of the rising stars in the sport. But to his kids, he’s just dad, and as such, it’s safe to say that they’re not exactly treating him any differently than they did before he made his UFC debut in January 2020.
UFC Vegas 16: Jamahal Hill TKOs OSP
UFC Vegas 16: Jamahal Hill TKOs OSP
“Honestly, they don't really care,” he laughs. “I tell other people all the time - I'll be out and everybody's like, 'Oh, UFC,' all this and that, and my kids are just like, 'I want something to drink; can you get me some juice or something?' They bring me back to reality real quick.”
So no clamoring for him to be added to the EA UFC 4 video game?
“No, they don't care,” he said. “My son plays video games, and he don't care if I'm in it or not.”
You know what, that’s probably a good thing, because it allows Hill to separate his work life from home life, while he’s teaching his children that you don’t treat someone differently because they’re a celebrity. That’s a mindset Hill carries with him as he grows into his own stardom, and it’s something that may just be in the blood of the Grand Rapids product.
“It comes from how I was raised and it's who I am,” he said. “A lot of my people that are still with me have been people that's been with me since day one. I feel, especially with the connection I have with my coaches, that they're family. And I like to feel like I'm around family.”
So even though many fighters reach the UFC level and then decide to leave their original team to go work with one of the sport’s bigger camps, Hill has kept his circle tight as he works with the coaches that helped get him here - Chad Pomeroy and Johnny Grigware.
“That's what it is - they got me here,” said Hill. “I'm the type of person where I ain't looking for all these extra little fixes that's not there. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. There's been guys that were doing well on our team, they left and now they can't catch a win to save their life. I'm gonna stick with the people that know me, that know what I like, that know what I like to do, and I know they have my best interests at heart. I feel like you grow with the people that know you.”
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And Hill is growing, faster than most. Just three fights into his UFC run and nine fights overall since turning pro in 2017, the 30-year-old is already in the Top 15 and about to fight Craig on the main card of one of the biggest events of the year. But he’s not putting more on this than he needs to. For him, a fight is a fight.
“It feels the same,” he said. “I've been waiting for these moments. And now that it's here, I'm just focused on the task at hand because that's what's got me to where I'm at - focusing on the task and not getting into too many things that don't matter. To me, as long as I take care of the things that I can control - my performance, the work that I put in, and things like that - the rest will take care of itself. And now it just means a bigger reward whenever I'm successful.”
The biggest reward would be a gold championship belt to bring home to Grand Rapids. It’s a thought that crossed his mind even before he began fighting with “UFC” on his gloves.
“It's always been that, and it's all been a slow, step by step process,” Hill said. “I think about it, but I don’t put too much in it. I just need to keep working and I'm gonna get there.”
Will the kids finally be on board with dad the champ, then?
“We'll see,” Hill laughs. “They'll probably be like, 'Cool story, can you go get us some pizza.'”