Jalin Turner has always been a young man in a hurry, so when he halted Max Mustaki during the second season of Dana White’s Contender Series last July, he was hoping a UFC contract was the next natural step.
It wasn’t. But the Californian, disappointed but not discouraged, went right back to the gym in case a short-notice call came from the UFC. The soundtrack to this process was Nipsey Hussle’s “Dedication.”
“I didn't get my contract after the Contender Series, and I just remember listening to the song 'Dedication' and it told me to stay dedicated and everything will play out,” said Turner. “That's what I did and I ended up getting the call a couple months later.”
Now 1-1 in the UFC and getting ready for a bout against Matt Frevola on April 13, Turner is an established prospect in the lightweight division and on his way to big things, but he doesn’t downplay the role the music of Hussle, who was tragically murdered in Los Angeles last Sunday, had on him.
“He had a huge influence on my life,” said Turner. “When I was fighting, when I took my losses, when I was working a 9 to 5 and trying to train full-time, there were times when I was second-guessing things and I didn't know if it was gonna go through and I would just listen to his music and it kept me motivated and kept me grounded. He helped a lot. I never met him, I don't know him personally, but it's crazy how much of an impact a person can have on your life. It helped me to get to where I wanted to be now.”
Turner talks of putting his headphones on his fiancé’s belly when she was pregnant with their son, and the day after the rapper’s death, the wounds were still raw with one of his biggest fans.
“It's crazy because you don't think about these things until they're gone, and it's like, he impacted my life so much,” said Turner. “I took it really hard, and his death really affected me, and I'm still dealing with it right now.”
It’s a tragic situation, for sure, but there are good things going on for Turner, most notably the arrival of a second child whose gender was revealed by a pretty impressive kick on a balloon that he pulled off like an action movie hero.
“First take, first try,” he laughed of the Instagram gender reveal, which let the world know that he’s going to be a father to a girl.
And then, of course, there’s his fight career, which took off when he knocked out Callan Potter in 53 seconds in February.
“It felt like it was the start of something big but, at the same time, I feel like the way it played out was meant to be,” he said of his first Octagon victory. And while he made it look easy, getting to this point was not a smooth ride, especially considering that he started his pro MMA career at 2-2.
“I knew I was gonna turn it around, but after my first loss, I called my manager Jason (House) and I was like, ‘No, how much of a setback is this? How many more fights do I have to win until I get to the UFC?’ That was my whole mindset. I took that loss and I was in such a rush to get back into the cage.”
After that first loss to Ronnie Borja in July 2016, he took a fight less than two months later, and he lost that one to Andrew Lagdaan, a move he calls “an amateur mistake.” But he wasn’t deterred from his path.
“I've dealt with adversity my whole life,” he said. “I grew up in Fontana and San Bernardino my whole life, I come from negative areas, so that never really affected me too much. The only way I could go was up.”
I’m more impressed that he was thinking about the UFC at the time of his third pro fight.
“I was thinking about the UFC since I started this.”
That ambition is to be respected, but nothing happens in this sport before its time. And that .500 start taught him patience.
“It taught me a lot of patience, actually,” Turner said. “I was training at Jackson's and I got a little big-headed because I was training with professionals and UFC fighters out there and I was doing really good with them. And I was in a rush to be somewhere I wasn't ready for. And that's kind of what messed me up. Then I had to sit back a little bit and be a little bit more patient and take everything step by step and it all played out.”
Yet while he was impatient to get to the Octagon, now that he’s here and on the rise, he’s taking things step by step.
“I've got a family, so I just want to be able to provide for them and do the best I can,” he said. “It's also timing. With the next child coming, I didn't want to be in a training camp around the time she's due and having our daughter, so this is perfect timing. I stayed ready, I kept training just in case I got the call because I wanted to fight in April anyway, and it all played out. I just thank God for everything that's happened.”
And he’s ready to give to a new generation the same thing Nipsey Hussle gave him.
“A lot of fighters said they're not role models, but I just want to be someone that people can look up to because I know I needed that at times,” Turner said. “Nipsey was that for me at times, and we can all look at someone as inspiration and motivation to get out of bad situations and tough times that we're going through.”