Though he’s only 26 years old, Kyler Phillips is as comfortable as anyone under the bright lights of a UFC pay-per-view main card.
“I've always dealt with it,” said Phillips, who battles Marcelo Rojo on this Saturday’s UFC 271 event in Houston. “I've been competing since I was a little kid in all types of areas, so it's nothing new to me.”
Comfortable is one thing. Liking it is another.
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“You know I like it,” laughs Phillips, who has been a member of the UFC roster for two years, this coming after a stint on The Ultimate Fighter and an appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series. So as far as being in high-profile situations, that’s second nature for “The Matrix.” But the secret to being successful in those situations is getting the work done when no one is watching.
“I do it without anybody watching all the time and that's what I prepare for,” he said. “It's cool having people (in the arena) and stuff, but whether people praise you or put you down and criticize you, it doesn't really matter. I know myself and I know how to perform and that's just what I'm gonna do and it just so happens to be my job and I love what I do, so let's just get the ball rolling.”
This weekend’s bout, one many consider to be a strong Fight of the Night candidate, is Phillips’ first since last July, when he lost for the first time as a member of the UFC roster against Raulian Paiva. It was a close bout, won by majority decision by the Brazilian, and one that earned the pair Fight of the Night honors, so it was no surprise that the promotion trusted Phillips with that coveted main card spot to deliver the goods once more.
“It could be considered that to some people, but I'm just doing me,” Phillips said. :It's literally just me being myself. I'm not trying to get any type of performance bonus or anything, I'm just being myself authentically, and that's what happens. I'm 26 now and I'm starting to settle into being that young lion that's getting prepared to be the champ. And I'm always winning. The fact that they're giving me other fights and me waking up every day, I'm winning just being right here.”
That’s a lot of maturity for a 26-year-old. As for the origin of it, Phillips laughs, “You already know. It comes from soul searching.”
The Arizonan is one of the more intriguing fighters in the bantamweight division, both in fighting style and personality. And when you throw in his trio of UFC wins over Gabriel Silva, Cameron Else and Song Yadong, it’s clear that keeping that eye on Phillips would be a wise move for fight fans and his peers. And apparently Phillips is making sure he’s always watching the man in the mirror.
“My advice, and not just to other people but to myself, is that I don't see anybody else or compare myself with anybody,” he said. “I just look in the mirror and that's the dude I'm dealing with. It's not me versus anybody else; it's just me versus me and it's always been that way. I'm trying to be better every day and I'm enjoying the process.”
Who wins that fight?
“I know if I fought myself, even from a couple months ago, I would beat that dude up,” he said. “That's all it is - continuing to hone the skills, have fun and just kill it like a rockstar.”
As for the rockstar’s 2022 campaign, Phillips keeps it mysterious.
UFC 271: Adesanya vs Whittaker 2 took place on Saturday, February 12, 2022, live from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive all of the action on UFC Fight Pass.