UFC welterweight Alan Jouban knows he’s got a marketable face, the kind that belongs on magazine covers and makes women swoon. He also knows his real moneymaker is his fists.
Jouban’s good looks have helped him forge a promising modeling career, including a recent spread in Vogue Italia, but fighting is his first love. Now, he’s finally making them work together.
Wednesday night, he’ll be on the main card of Fight Night San Diego, facing Matt Dwyer (8-2) in a scheduled three-rounder. With a 11-3 record and 10 wins in his past 12 fights, Jouban is hopeful a victory will edge him closer to a top-15 ranking by early next year.
If it means absorbing a few cuts and bruises along the way, he’s OK with it.
“Fighting in general is an occupational hazard,” Jouban said. “But at this point in my career, I consider myself a UFC fighter who also models. Five years ago, modeling paid the bills and fighting was something I was passionate about. Now that I’m able to flip-flop them, I’m just happier.”
Richard Walsh in their welterweight bout during the UFC 184 event at Staples Center on February 28, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)" align="right" />Jouban, 33, has been modeling for 10 years, but his career has actually been boosted because of his MMA career. His management company, London-based EPOK Agency, last year partnered with Soul Artist Management to find modeling opportunities for Jouban and other fighters, even those without previous experience.
“I know the public perception is that the two worlds almost contradict each other, but I think that’s what’s so unique about Alan’s story,” said Ajay Chander, who owns EPOK.
“As an example, David Beckham is a pro athlete who’s been able to cross over into high-end fashion. But this is a little more unique just because of the nature of being involved in a combat sport. So it’s something we’re excited about.”
Vogue Italia used Jouban in a three-part campaign that included an online photo gallery, a video and the magazine spread, shot by renowned fashion photographer Peter Lindberg. He also did his first cover shoot and was the subject of a story in At Large magazine.
It’s not just his pretty face that’s getting him jobs. It’s his fighting background.
“I’m getting booked in modeling jobs as a UFC fighter,” Jouban said. “They’ll say, ‘Alan just had a fight, let’s book him a month after, and if he has a black eye it doesn’t matter because we’re booking him as a fighter.’ They’re able to play off one another now.
“As far as worrying about getting messed up, it is what it is. You get cauliflower ears, you drain them. You get cut, you get stitches. And if you have a photo shoot, you put some makeup on.”
Jouban was born in Lafayette, La., but now lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son so he’s readily available when jobs come up. But the work is not always easy.
“Modeling is hard work,” he said. “This is coming from a professional fighter. I’m used to pushing myself so hard that there’s different levels of how exhausted I am. I’m used to pushing myself to exhaustion and then going another level. With that said, I can still say that modeling is tough work; it’s just a different type of work.”
When he began his MMA career, Jouban hated hearing the pretty boy talk. But he’s used to it now and figures he can use it to his advantage to separate himself from other fighters looking to make names in the business.
“Love it or hate it, if you’ve got a guy coming into the cage and they’re saying, ‘This guy has shot with some of the best photographers in the world,’ or ‘This guy is a male model and he’s fighting in the UFC and he’s going to be a ranked fighter by the end of the year,’ you’re going to take note, you’re going to watch," Jouban said. "Love me or hate me, you’re going to remember me.
“If you hate me, hopefully your wife loves me and she makes you watch.”
Michael Martinez is a longtime sports journalist and former staff writer at The New York Times, the San Jose Mercury News and FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @ByMMartinez