As soon as Justin Jaynes woke up on the morning of June 21, he didn’t know what happened the night before.
That could mean any number of things, most of them bad, but in this case, a mix of pent-up exhaustion and a whirlwind of emotions over the previous few days meant that the 30-year-old had a tough time coming to grips with a spectacular UFC debut win over Frank Camacho the night before.
“I’m looking around, ‘Where am I,’ and I didn’t even go out and party afterwards,” he laughs. “I was so tired because we fought so early. I basically went and got my son for dinner, then I went out and had a couple beers and I think I was in bed by midnight. I woke up and I’m like, ‘No way this is happening.’ I look at my phone, 500 text messages, a thousand messages on Instagram, I’m like what the f**k just happened.”
What happened is that the veteran of more than seven years in the pro MMA game took a fight on the previous Wednesday night to replace Camacho’s previous opponent, Matt Frevola, got his medicals done on Thursday, weighed in Friday and then took just 41 seconds to beat Camacho at his own game.
UFC Vegas 3: Justin Jaynes def Camacho by TKO
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UFC Vegas 3: Justin Jaynes def Camacho by TKO
“It’s a dream come true,” said the Michigan native. “I worked for this exact moment and I just wrote a storybook. To have a first-round knockout against a seven-fight (UFC) veteran like Frank Camacho in the UFC on short-notice, that just doesn’t happen. And to say that I’m tied with Charles Oliveira for the second fastest debut finish in lightweight history, my name’s in the books forever, and that’s really exciting.”
Jaynes brought the excitement for as long as the fight lasted, apparently intent on making sure that cardio wouldn’t be an issue by taking aim at Camacho and opening fire. And once he caught and hurt his foe, he got him out of there, a feather in his cap considering that a toe-to-toe brawl is right in the wheelhouse of “Frank the Crank.”
“He’s as tough as they come,” said Jaynes of Camacho. “I hit him as hard as I could as many times as I could before (referee) Herb (Dean) stopped it. That guy would not go down. That guy had so much heart and so much perseverance, he would have kept fighting if Herb didn’t stop it. He was like a brick building.”
But Jaynes was swinging a wrecking ball of a left hook, the exact punch he always figured he would end his UFC debut with.
“I’ve visualized this moment for years,” Jaynes said. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional wrestler. I always liked being under the lights, I always liked the pressure, I always liked the banter, and when I started doing MMA in 2007, I always wanted to be under the lights. And the funniest thing, you might not even believe this, but if you look through any of my highlights, it’s always the left hook. And when I land that, people just go to sleep.”
It’s one of those feel-good sports stories that are always welcome, especially in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and if anyone paid his dues to get his shot in the big show, it was Jaynes, who compiled a 15-4 record on the regional scene heading into the fight he had watched countless others get while he kept his nose to the grindstone.
“Lately especially there’s been a lot of low points and battling with a little bit of depression just because of it,” he said. “I have 20 pro fights and I see all these guys with less fights and with losses too. It’s not like they’re 8-0, 9-0, 10-0. We got 5-2, 6-3 and they’re getting a shot. I’m a seasoned vet and I started to take it personal after a while. Did I do something wrong? Am I too old? And I started questioning myself.”
Through it all, Jaynes kept working for his son and family, and kept getting the push from his Xtreme Couture coaches and teammates.
“I’ve got the best coaching staff that I could ever ask for,” he said. “They stay on top of me, they make sure I’m in training. Even when I don’t want to train, Andrew Jacob, my strength and conditioning coach, he’s calling me, ‘What are you eating?’ It’s not just me and I want everyone to know that. Yeah, I might have thrown the punches in there and knocked Frank out, but it was Andrew Jacob, Dennis Davis, Roman Isbell keeping me diligent and keeping me in the gym.”
“It’s f**king hot in Vegas. It’s 150 degrees, I don’t want to go to the gym if I don’t have a fight coming up.”
But he went anyway, and when the call came, he was ready and he delivered. Now Justin Jaynes is a UFC fighter and ready for the next step after he serves a 45-day suspension due to a cut suffered from a clash of heads with Camacho.
“I’m gonna take the suspension, re-gather my thoughts, re-gather my goals,” he said. “Up to this point, when it comes to fighting, I’ve achieved everything I ever set out for as of right now. So I’m gonna ride this wave out, get back to training and I’m hoping to carry the momentum of this win into my next fight and knock somebody else out. Hopefully it’s (fellow prospect) Austin Hubbard.”