Before making his professional debut in 2017, UFC middleweight Jacob Malkoun was offered a position to coach mixed martial arts classes at Gracie Smeaton Grange in New South Wales, Australia.
At the same time, the Sydney native was starting his own competitive career, fighting on the regional scene. These two paths worked in tandem, keeping Malkoun in the gym training or learning, but always developing into the UFC-caliber athlete he is now.
“It’s just something I fell into [when] I was a bit younger and it helped me with my career, working in the gym and keep training full-time,” Malkoun said.
“I love being on the mats, I love training. I got an opportunity from my coach Alex Prates to coach at Gracie Smeaton Grange and I started helping out in the classes and it just grew from there and I started to love the art of coaching and learning from different people, meeting different people.”
Being on the mat, teaching aspiring martial artists his own techniques has since improved Malkoun’s own understanding of the sport and keeps his brain constantly working when he’s not in fight camp.
And that’s what he attributes to his success so far in his career. Before he began teaching, mixed martial arts was closer to a hobby than a profession, but with more hours gone by in the gym, the more improvement Malkoun saw in his own skill set.
“When you’re coaching, your brain is in the [technical side] of the sport,” Malkoun said. “It gives you another view of how to learn when you’re training, as well. What’s going to work for you, what’s not gonna work.
“[This wasn’t] going to be a career until I started coaching. I never thought about it too much, to be honest, I just thought about getting better all the time. Once I got better, I won a few fights on the local scene and I was like, ‘Maybe I can get to the big leagues and make a career out of it.’”
The 27-year-old is still very new to the sport, only competing eight times professionally since his debut five years ago. At UFC 275: Teixeira vs Prochazka, Malkoun faced Brendan Allen, a very well-rounded athlete with a slick submission game.
Despite his lack of experience, Malkoun showed no hesitation in executing his gameplan. Dragging Allen to the mat seven times over the course of the 15-minute bout, Malkoun amassed over seven minutes of control time. This wasn’t enough to impress the judges, however, with all three scoring the bout 29-28 for Allen.
No, you never hope to lose a bout, but for someone so new to the sport, there’s only positives to take away from the loss, which is why he’s turned back around four months later to fight Nick Maximov at UFC Fight Night: Grasso vs Araujo.
“I haven’t had that many fights, I’m learning on the job,” Malkoun said. “With each fight, you’re just going to get more comfortable, more relaxed and it’s just going to get easier and easier.”
“It’s good to be active, keep going early on in the career,” Malkoun said. “I got to get the experience. Just got to keep building and get better.”
Maximov is on a similar trajectory to Malkoun, only fighting nine times professionally while coming off a loss in his last outing. So, this matchup should be a perfect tell for how talented Malkoun is, and what he still may need to improve on. And although he isn’t fighting someone on the cusp of the middleweight Top 15, he still expects this fight to be as difficult as any other.
“It’s going to be a hard fight,” Malkoun said. “[Maximov] is a good grappler, he’s a grinder, good cardio. It’s going to be a war of attrition and we’ll see what happens from there.
“I just got to perform to the best of my ability to what I do in the gym. The way I perform in the gym, if I put that in the Octagon, I’m going to be hard to beat. I think I just got to get in there, be in the zone and not worry about the result too much. If I perform my best, the result will take care of itself.”
UFC Fight Night: Grasso vs Araujo took place live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 15, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!