Life can throw some odd coincidences in your direction sometimes, but this had to be one of the oddest.
As Jack Hermansson readied to take on Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in Sunrise, Florida on April 27, your humble scribe was heading to Staten Island on an express bus from New York City and just happened to be on the same bus as an older couple from Norway, the place “Jack the Joker” calls home.
On vacation and seeing the sights, the couple were friendly to everyone on board, a shocker to be sure for snarky New Yorkers. In the midst of conversation, I figured I’d take a chance, expecting some puzzled glances in response to my question.
“Did you ever hear of Jack Hermansson?” I asked.
Yes, the fighter, and suddenly, I knew just how wide the middleweight contender’s reach was back at home. I relayed the story to Hermansson a couple weeks out from his Saturday main event against Jared Cannonier in Denmark and he was pleasantly surprised that he has become a well-known sportsman in Europe, the type of star even non-UFC fans have come to know in a positive way.
“It’s been great, actually,” he said. “I feel like the attention that I get is positive and it’s really a good thing. I’m enjoying it and I’m happy with the situation.”
Of course, no fighter who has achieved anything in this sport started this just to be famous or be noticed on the street. That goes for Hermansson, as well, as his goals are much greater, and they involve a world championship. But for now, he embraces his popularity and the idea that now, he can make his passion a career.
“The attention is great, but it’s also about the life that I’ve created for myself, and to live this lifestyle of a fighter is something that I really enjoy,” he said. “I feel truly blessed that I found my passion, and not only found it, but that I’m able to make a living out of it. I’m really looking forward to climbing the last bit that I can to reach the top of the top. I’m super happy with the situation.”
That’s no surprise, as he’s parlayed a four-fight winning streak into his second consecutive headlining gig, this one coming relatively close to home in Copenhagen. Some might look at that as pressure, but the 31-year-old sees it as an opportunity to shine in front of his fans and move even closer to a world title shot.
“It’s absolutely one of the things that I’m really looking forward to about my fight, to be the main event close to home and to have everybody in the crowd on my side,” Hermansson said. “To have all the eyes on you, you’re the main event, the one that people are coming to see, I love to be in that situation because that’s when your performance really matters.
Sounds like this No. 5-ranked contender has got the next year all figured out, and that 2020 involves some gold.
“I believe that I’m going to fight for the title in the next year,” he said. “That’s in my vision. If they give (No. 2-ranked) Paulo Costa the next one, then I will be the next one after that. If they want to, we can make a fight out of it – me and Costa to decide who really deserves it. But no matter how the UFC is gonna play it, I really believe I will be fighting for the title in the next year. Somehow I’m gonna make that happen.”