At some point in our lives, most of us have stepped onto a skateboard, kicked, pushed, and coasted like Lupe Fiasco, and had one of two likely thoughts come to mind: either “this is easy” as you glided down rock-less roads and empty parking lots or “this isn’t for me” as you picked yourself up off the concrete, checking for cuts, abrasions, and to see if anyone saw you eat it.
Given that the act of staying upright on a skateboard can be challenging for some people, think about the time, effort, pain, and frustration that goes into mastering a trick?
Whether it’s a basic ollie or a creatively named, rotating aerial spectacle invented and executed by the pros, both can take countless hours and literally thousands of attempts to land.
“Learning how to master a trick is one of the most frustrating things you could ever do in your life, and it literally takes years to master something,” said Jalin Turner, the Top 15 UFC lightweight who is also an avid and accomplished skateboarder, speaking with UFC.com on Wednesday afternoon ahead of his co-main event clash with Bobby Green on Saturday evening in Austin. “You repeat it over and over and over again, and you hurt yourself — you fall, sometimes you break bones — and that perseverance translates over to fighting well.
“I already had pre-conditioned shins from getting boards to the legs over the years,” he added with a smile, happy to think about the crossovers and similarities that exist between the two sports he’s passionate about. “I’ve accomplished more in fighting than I have in skateboarding, in the same amount of time, which shows how good the top skateboarders in the world are because they’re dedicated to it.”
To be fair, it also underscores how talented Turner is as a mixed martial artist, as well.
While there may be legions of skaters that have achieved more than him, there are few competitors that are currently positioned ahead of him in the UFC lightweight division, as the tall, dangerous Turner presently resides at No. 12 in the divisional rankings.
He reached the Top 10 last fall, but has slid back two spots over the last 13 months following consecutive split decision losses to Mateusz Gamrot and Dan Hooker.
Both fights were ultra-competitive affairs — the former taking place at UFC 285, with Gamrot filling in for an injured Hooker, and the latter coming four months later at UFC 290 once the New Zealander was healed up and ready to go — and the type of efforts that did not diminish Turner’s stock one bit, even if his place in the hierarchy happened to change.
“A loss is a loss; as long as you learn something from it, it shouldn’t sting too much,” he said when asked if those types of narrow defeats sting a little more than clear, one-sided outcomes.
And for Turner, there were obvious lessons that he took from his first two appearances of 2023.
“It shows me that I’m right where I need to be, and even more that I could be levels above because I’m still young in the game,” offered the 28-year-old, who carries a deceiving 13-7 record into the weekend.
Turner isn’t someone that moved into the professional ranks following an extended amateur run where he worked through mistakes and new scenarios, nor did he transition to a career inside the cage after several years as a collegiate wrestler or having practiced another martial arts discipline.
He turned pro at 20, having begun his journey into mixed martial arts with zero experience and little more in terms of resources. Over his first seven fights, he cobbled together a 4-3 record, and a rapid knockout win over current UFC welterweight Gabe Green that was an early glimpse of the dynamic potential he carried.
Two more first-round stoppage wins pushed his record to 6-3 and landed him an opportunity to compete on the second season of Dana White’s Contender Series, where he busted up, dropped, and hurt Max Mustaki repeatedly over the opening five minutes before the bout was halted between rounds as a result of Mustaki dealing with a foot injury.
While he didn’t earn a contract, the performance put Turner on the UFC’s radar, which quickly translated into a call to the Octagon for a short notice matchup with Vicente Luque up a division at welterweight. He landed on the wrong end of things there, and again two fights later opposite Matt Frevola, settling him at 8-5 through the first three starts of his UFC career before Turner rattled off five straight stoppage victories to crack the rankings and show further glimpses of the potential he carries.
“I take a lot of pride in (being where I’m at right now) because I was 17, training in my backyard, looking at YouTube videos, didn’t know what direction my life was gonna go,” said Turner. “But I just (saw) a glimpse of hope through fighting and grabbed on to it.
“Now I’m here, so I want to stay (committed to that), follow that path, and give thanks to The Most High for everything that happened.”
MORE TURNER: View "The Tarantula's" Athlete Profile
Growing up in California’s Inland Empire, one person he saw forging a path in fighting ahead of him was Green, who, like Turner, was born in San Bernardino and proudly represents for the entire region.
Those common bonds and the respect he has for the 37-year-old veteran, who enters on a two-fight winning streak and fresh off a 33-second knockout win over Grant Dawson, initially made Turner hesitant to step in and replace Hooker when he was forced out of this date with Green.
But after initially declining, he accepted the assignment, viewing it as a business engagement he needs to handle and a chance to inspire others watching back home.
“It’s just business, it’s just work; I’ve got to separate the two,” he said of sharing the Octagon with Green on Saturday. “That’s something you’ve gotta do when you look up to somebody. It’s part of my journey, part of my path, and I just gotta go do what I gotta do.
“It sends a big message back home,” he added. “We both came from the same area, we’re both successful in our fields. It’s bittersweet having to face someone else successful like you when we could have lifted each other up a little more, but, like I said, at the end of the day, it’s business, and I have to go handle business.”
As we spoke about the pairing and the connection between he and Green, it was clear there was something there, but the short-notice addition to this weekend’s playbill wasn’t in the mood to get into things further.
Rather than press the issue, I simply asked him what it means to share the Octagon with someone he looked up to at the outset of his career, and what it would mean to get things moving in the right direction again with a victory over Green on Saturday.
“It’ll be an honor – that’s the only way I could look at it,” he said of standing opposite Green.
As for the second piece?
“To me it means nothing, but I think to everybody else it means a lot, if that makes sense,” he answered, and in a way, it does.
Everyone watching knows what it means to beat a guy like Bobby Green, what it takes to beat a guy like Bobby Green, which is why his fight with Dawson in October carried as much weight as it did for the previously unbeaten prospect. It’s also why folks are keen to see how things play out between them on Saturday night, because you’ve gotta be a somebody to beat Bobby Green.
And as far as it carrying no meaning goes, that feels like something Turner needs to tell himself in order to stay focused on the task at hand and get himself back into the win column this weekend.
UFC Fight Night: Dariush vs Tsarukyan took place live from Moody Center in Austin, Texas on December 2, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!