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Julian Erosa reacts after his submission victory over Charles Jourdain of Canada in their fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on September 04, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Checking In With Julian Erosa

"Juicy J" Making Waves At Featherweight In His Return To The Big Show

Labor Day, 2021. Julian Erosa is two days removed from a grueling third-round submission win over Charles Jourdain in a fight he took on less than two weeks’ notice, but he was still back in the gym for 9am practice with the Xtreme Couture squad.

“It's a holiday today, but the gym was still open - people still got fights coming up regardless of what holidays are coming up, so we have our striking / drilling in the morning with Eddie Barraco, and at 11am we have open mat until one, but I passed on the open mat because my body's a little too beat up,” said Erosa. “I can go in and drill and get a little sweat in, but hard grappling was going to be a little too much.”

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That’s the difference between the 32-year-old and a lot of his peers. For many, fight night is the culmination of a long and grueling process full of sacrifice and more than a little blood, sweat, and tears. And when it’s over, the last thing most fighters want to see two days after a bout is the inside of a gym. Erosa likely has those feelings, too, but he also knows that there are eyes on him, not just as a UFC fighter, but as an example.

“The people that don't understand it from the fighters' point of view just probably think that's normal,” he said of returning to the gym so soon. “But a lot of fighters realize that after fights, people like to take time off and let their bodies heal up. And it's not even just the physical healing, it's the mental and emotional toll that it takes on you, as well. For me, I took this fight short notice and I have a lot of people that kind of look up to me in the gym and they look to me for inspiration, so I can't claim to be a so-called gangster if I don't do gangster stuff from time to time. (Laughs) And so, taking the fight short notice and being able to come out on top within ten days and then be back at the gym on Monday is, for lack of a better word, kinda gangster to these guys. I just want them to understand that even somebody that's in the UFC, making decent money and making a career out of this, is still the first one at the gym. The only reason why I was able to take that fight on ten days' notice is because I'm the one in the gym all the time. I can't contradict myself and be a hypocrite about things like that.”

Highlight: Julian Erosa Locks Up A 3rd-Round Submission | UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs Till
Highlight: Julian Erosa Locks Up A 3rd-Round Submission | UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs Till

If you didn’t have enough reasons to like Erosa already, there’s another one for the list, and it just confirms that it’s more than okay to root for “Juicy J” in and out of the Octagon. Let’s face it, he didn’t have the easiest road to the UFC, then after going 1-1 in his first stint with the promotion and getting cut, he returns two years later, only to go 0-3 and get cut again. When the Washington state native was given a third shot in 2020, though, he’s been making the most of it, going 3-1 with three finishes, and in beating Jourdain, he showed exactly why he’s a serious threat to anyone in the featherweight division by using his experience, Fight IQ and endless gas tank to outlast the Canadian prospect, then finish him.

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“I think regardless of how much experience you have, you get those nervous jitters, you get that little bit of anxiety and those little frustrations going on, but once I get comfortable in a fight, I really start seeing those little things that give me the edge,” Erosa said. “A couple minutes into the first round, I really started getting comfortable and was realizing that he was kind of going for the home run, almost in a desperate kind of way. I knew from the second minute on, and even through the first couple exchanges too, I felt like the fight was eventually gonna be finished and be in my favor.”

Julian Erosa Post-Fight Interview | UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs Till
Julian Erosa Post-Fight Interview | UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs Till

Jourdain landed with some of those swings, nearly scoring a triple to the gap with a knockdown of Erosa, and entering the final round, the bout was dead even on all three judges’ scorecards.

“My coaches told me, ‘We might need this round; it's possible that it's 1-1,’” said Erosa. “But no matter what the coaches see and what everybody else sees, there's a certain kind of tension in the fight that's going on that nobody sees and feels except for me and Charles Jourdain. Regardless of what the scorecards said, me and him were already at an understanding that I was going to win this fight. He didn't have to say anything, I didn't have to say anything, but the pressure I was putting on him, he was kind of wilting underneath that pressure a little bit. Not to say that he wasn't still going for it, because when the third round came, he was swinging. But he was doing it out of desperation; I was pressuring him, knowing that the fight was still going my way and that I would eventually get the finish or eventually break him down so badly that I would win a decision that way.”

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Not bad for 10 days’ notice, but as Erosa explains, he didn’t go into the fight with 10-day cardio, and he knew that was going to be the difference in this fight and in practically all his fights that go that deep.

Julian Erosa Delivers a Flying Knee To End It | UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs Lewis
Julian Erosa Delivers a Flying Knee To End It | UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs Lewis

“My biggest asset is my cardio,” he said. “And usually that tension comes from the cardio. I feel my pressure was just breaking him down and I knew that he was starting to get worried about my ability to keep the pressure on him because his cardio is pretty good, too. He's a young, spry kid, and you watch his fights and he's never out of it. He's always chucking and he's throwing all the way to the end, and he doesn't hold back on his gas tank. So, I could feel my ability to pressure him and my cardio was second to none and he started realizing that, and that's when that tension comes in there. He starts to realize that it doesn't matter what he does, if he doesn't put me to sleep, it's over for him.”

Fatigue is the great equalizer in all sports, but especially in a fight, where the scariest moment isn’t facing someone who can knock you out with one punch, but someone who keeps on moving forward from the first minute to the last. Erosa is happy to have that in his back pocket, but to get there takes plenty of hard work.

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“It's that drowning sensation,” he said of dealing with fatigue during training camp. “But I enjoy doing that in the gym because then I know in the fight, nothing can happen to me that I haven't already been through.”

That’s why he was back in the gym two days after a fight, and why the next time his name is called, his opponent will know that if he doesn’t end matters early, it’s going to be a long, painful night in some deep waters. Just the way Julian Erosa likes it.