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Jeff Molina at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, June 2022 (Photo by Connor Thomas/Zuffa LLC)
Athletes

Jeff Molina Excels At Adapting, Overcoming

After An Emphatic Win Last Time Out, Jeff Molina Believes He Has The "Sauce" To Stick In Fans' Minds

A few weeks out from his Saturday bout with Zhalgas Zhumagulov, Jeff Molina is usually getting into the mindset where he takes himself to a self-described “dark place” to get ready for battle.

But not on May 11.

“I'm good today,” he laughed. “It's sunny and it's pretty nice out.”

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No dark place?

“I try to keep that for fight night.”

Highlight: Jeff Molina TKOs Da Silva | UFC Fight Night: Costa vs Vettori
Highlight: Jeff Molina TKOs Da Silva | UFC Fight Night: Costa vs Vettori
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Hearing that the affable 24-year-old needs to get into a different frame of mind to get into a fistfight comes as no surprise, as you wouldn’t paint him with the stereotypical fighter brush if you ran into him outside of his day job. But when he gets into the Octagon, yeah, “dark place” might be an apt phrase to describe it.

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That’s made “El Jefe” quite a popular lad among UFC fans after just two fights in the promotion. Of course, those two were a Fight of the Night win over Aoriqileng and a second-round TKO of Daniel da Silva, so he’s got the lead on most flyweight prospects. But if you ask him if he’s noticed that people are excited to see him for the first time since last October, it’s not something he’s thought about.

“To be honest, I don't put much thought into it at all,” he said. “I guess with my fighting style, it's something I expect and people are drawn to it. Whether they like me as a person or not, they're gonna like me when I'm fighting. I feel like I'm a pretty easy-going guy and that's the reaction I get a lot of times when I meet fans and the people who enjoy watching me fight. But I try to let my fight do the talking. Whether they want to be a part of my storyline or not, people are gonna enjoy watching me fight. I'm not in there to have boring fights; I'm in there to win, first and foremost, but with that comes my fighting style, which is kinda violent, and I think that's what people enjoy in the sport.”

A violent fighting style, getting to a dark place to get ready to produce that style? It’s a complete 180 from the fighter showing off his wit on social media or the one with a self-effacing sense of humor that has him bragging about the “El Hefty” nickname he got from his Glory MMA teammates when he put on some pounds between fights. Then again, that may be the secret to why he’s not only a rising star in the Octagon, but outside of it.

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“I think you do need some sauce, I think you do need to know your way around the mic, I think you need to have some social media presence,” Molina admits. “It's not just about your style of fighting. The guy I'm fighting, I think he's very exciting and the UFC matched us up for a reason. He has some big wins on his resume, but not many people are talking about him unless you're from Kazakhstan.” 

It's true, because while everyone at the UFC level can fight, only a select few become stars. Molina has that potential, even if he doesn’t see it yet. That day may be coming soon.

“I did feel like after my debut, I didn't have the right to talk,” he said. “I felt like that was a pretty piss poor performance and I felt like I hadn't earned that. I still didn't think I was in the UFC. I felt like I had a s**tty performance and didn't earn that right to talk some s**t. After my last fight, I thought, okay, it's time. I had that performance I wanted. It was kind of a clean kill. So you might see a different Jeff Molina on the mic after this fight, but first things first, and I gotta beat this dude up

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That is a formidable task, as Zhumagulov is a lot better than his 1-3 UFC record might indicate, but the important thing is that Molina knows what’s in front of him, and if his opponent does force him out of his comfort zone in Las Vegas this weekend, he’s ready for it. 

All of it.

“The ability to adapt and overcome is part of the game, whether that's a mid-fight adjustment that you see some of the greats doing - just in the middle of chaos being able to adjust - or some of the curveballs fighting throws at you, like a last-minute opponent switch, a rough weight cut, traveling to Abu Dhabi for 20-plus hours,” Molina said. “That's a life thing, it's not just a fighting thing, but you see it a lot in this sport, These adjustments have to be made, and it's just your ability to adapt and overcome. If you don't adapt, you're gonna get eaten. If something's happening in your personal life or outside of the sport, you gotta figure it out. And it's the same thing in the sport.”
 

UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs Rozenstruik, took place on Saturday, June 4, 2022, live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!