How do you capture the feeling of reaching a goal more than seven years in the making? A look at Jason Witt’s face after his first UFC win over Cole Williams is a good starting point.
“It's really an indescribable feeling,” said Witt, who earned that October victory after a long journey on the local circuit followed by a short-notice loss to Takashi Sato last June. Four months later, Witt hit paydirt. “You saw my face, you've seen the pictures. I couldn't control my emotions. It was just validation that I had done what I said I was gonna do.
“I took the long road to get to the UFC, I really did,” he continues. “I'd be on a five-fight win streak and lose a fight, I'd get a four-fight win streak and lose a fight, and it was a long road. So you could see the emotion come out of my face, and it's one of the best feelings. I'll never be able to recreate that. The first win in the UFC, that's a win nobody can take away from me, and that's something I can't recreate in my own life ever again.”
Victories like that are hard-earned and even more well-deserved. Entering the Octagon for the first time with 22 fights already under his belt, Witt had seen those with a quarter of that experience get the call in the past, and while he knew key losses at pivotal times hurt his chances in the past, he always knew he belonged among the elite of the sport.
“Honestly, I thought I'd be in the UFC five years ago,” said Witt, who was coming off a decision win over Zak Bucia a little over a year ago, hoping that was the victory to cause his phone to ring with a call from the 702 area code. “I'm glad it didn't happen that way because I definitely wasn't prepared. But I knew the fight last year was a fight that I need to win and was going to put me in the running for the UFC. I didn't get the finish in that fight and I really wish I would have, so maybe it would have helped me get in the UFC even more. But I believed I could make it to the UFC for years.”
And though the first fight with Sato didn’t have the Hollywood ending, as in all the ups and downs of his career, he had his team from Glory MMA to back him up and keep him focused.
“You've really gotta lean on your team and that pays dividends in the long run,” he said. “I've been in this game a long time, so I've been fortunate enough to have those guys in my corner, but I know a lot of people don't. It definitely helps out in life.”
On the second go-round, Witt was firing on all cylinders, dominating the fight with Williams until he scored a submission in round two. On Saturday, he makes his third walk to face up and comer Matthew Semelsberger, but if you think the 34-year-old is taking his foot off the gas after finally getting his hand raised in the UFC, think again.
“I truly believe timing is everything and everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I won the fight (against Williams) and I wanted to get right back in the gym. I wanted to get better and push myself harder.”
The 170-pound veteran has plenty of teammates to help him do just that, and while he admits he’s not the same fighter physically as he was when he first put on the gloves, he’s made up for that in other areas of his game.
“I used to get up at 5am, work all day, go train, go drinking and then go back and do it all again,” Witt said. “I don't even want to think about drinking (Laughs), let alone training three times a day plus working. So I don't think I'm in my prime, but I'm definitely in my prime of learning and getting better. So my body's not in its prime, but I'm definitely pushing and I've definitely gotten better.”
And with that first UFC win under his belt, “The Vanilla Gorilla” feels like we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
“I feel like I'm just getting started,” he said. “Those two fights were just the beginning. I'm here. As far as motivation, that guy who just signed on the dotted line, that's all the motivation I need. He's coming for me and I'm coming for him. So I don't need any more motivation, I don't need any reason to get up in the morning. I'm waking up and I'm ready to go.”