In his bout with AJ Dobson at UFC 271 in February, it appeared middleweight Jacob Malkoun and his opponent had a bit to say to each other inside the Octagon, which is surprising because the Australian is normally a man of few words.
Asked about it afterwards, he vaguely recalled telling Dobson, “I’m stronger than you thought.” Indeed, Malkoun was strong enough to achieve a unanimous decision against the American, moving to 2-1 in the UFC and 6-1 overall.
The Sydneysider later explained, “I don’t really know what I was saying in there, to be honest. But I was always a very strong kid growing up. And with all of the training I do now, I’ve been getting stronger.”
And it’s not the type of specialized strength that comes from just lifting weights and drinking protein shakes.
“It’s mostly from grappling,” explains Malkoun. “Sure, I do a lot of running and other stuff, but the strength is from lots of rounds of hard grappling.”
Malkoun’s second fight in the UFC – against Ghanaian Abdul Razak Alhassan – also demonstrated this strength, when he dominated over three gruelling rounds. It’s a feat he’ll be hoping to repeat against U.S. fighter Brendan Allen at UFC 275 in Singapore Indoor Stadium.
“It’s been a good camp so far,” reports the Aussie, who both trains and teaches BJJ at former UFC middleweight champ Robert Whittaker’s gym, Gracie Jiu Jitsu Smeaton Grange. “I’m leaving no stone unturned and getting in some really good rounds. It’s great having Rob around – he’s still at the top of the sport and having him there gives you more belief that you are doing all the right things.”
Asked about the downside of hard training, the 26-year-old admits the strict diet he needs to follow during fight camp can be tough, noting that he gets cravings for a different food each time. “This time, it’s waffles, bacon and maple syrup. I don’t know why, but it’s killing me!” he says with a laugh.
Malkoun credits some of his development as a fighter to the many hours a week he spends on the mats teaching. It’s not just Joe Public he’s coaching, either – the 185er has also been working with the Penrith Panthers, Australia’s reigning #1 rugby league football team.
“As athletes they are at the highest level,” he enthuses. “It’s great seeing their approach to learning, and the mindset they have. They obviously come from a different sport, but the mindset is very similar.
“It’s great teaching people, too. Sometimes, I’ll show somebody a move I haven’t used in a few years and that will remind me of how good it is. It really helps with keeping your mind in the game.”
In his own interviews, Rob Whittaker has praised Malkoun’s dedication as an athlete. So where does this Spartan mentality come from?
The man known as “Mamba” (in honor of the late basketball legend Kobe Bryant) puts it simply:
“From a love of getting better. I like seeing how far I can go competitively. I want to improve every single day. I know this is a very hard sport in which to reach the top, so I don’t want to have any regrets when I’m done.”
Malkoun goes on to add that because everyone in the UFC is highly skilled, mentality and work ethic can make all the difference. “You’ve got to keep turning up and working hard, then you’ve got to focus and perform when you’re out there. That’s how it works.”
The fighter he’ll be sharing the Octagon with at UFC 275 in Singapore is the up-and-comer’s biggest challenge to date. Allen already has wins over the likes of Kevin Holland and Sam Alvey, and will surely be looking to break into the middleweight rankings as quickly as possible.
True to form, Malkoun is staying humble about his chances.
“I’ve seen Allen fight. He’ll be a tough test for me. I’m not sure what will happen on the night, but I am sure it will be entertaining. He’s good everywhere, I’m good everywhere…It’s gonna be a really good one, that’s for sure.”
“I’ll probablyhave some of those waffles with bacon and maple syrup. Might chuck in some fried chicken, too!” he laughs.
UFC 275: Teixeira vs Procházka took place on Saturday, June 11, 2022, live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!