Jamahal Hill reflects on lessons from career-threatening injury: ‘It could have all been over’

Jamahal Hill isn’t taking his second UFC title fight for granted.

The 32-year-old returns to action on Saturday to face champion Alex Pereira in the main event of UFC 300 in Las Vegas. Having spent much of the past year on the sidelines, Hill enters the octagon with a fresh perspective.

“Appreciate the moments,” Hill said. “It could have all been over. It really could have all been over for me.”

Fifteen months ago at UFC 283, Hill completed a rapid rise to stardom, defeating Glover Teixeira to claim a vacant light heavyweight title. Six months later, he ruptured his achilles during a game of pickup basketball. And just like that, his reign was over.

“There are people, there are athletes who have suffered this same injury who had to call it quits on their hopes and their dreams, and I’m fortunate enough to now be in a time and in a position where the best medicine available was available to me,” he continued. “I was able to take advantage of that and use the resources to make my way back and come back in a time that people really just can’t seem to believe.”

The news that Pereira and Hill would headline the UFC’s landmark event came as a surprise to some, given the severity of Hill’s injury. There were plenty of seeds planted for the matchup, as they’ve frequently spoken of each other in interviews. The timetable for Hill’s return was not known until the UFC 300 main event was announced, however.

For Hill, self-belief was key to preparing for this opportunity, as it has been since his youth.

“If somebody told me [three years ago] I’d be headlining UFC 300, I’d believe it,” he said. “I’d believe it because I know myself, and I know the belief I’ve always held in myself. But it would have gotten me hype. It would have definitely had me excited. I don’t know. I just always planned on being in these moments and being in this situation ever since I was a kid.

“You can even ask my dad, my dad is here right now. Just from the time I was a kid, I just always believed that whatever I did I was going to be one of the best at it. For a time, it was football. For a time, it was basketball. Whenever I set in on fighting, I knew I would be here in moments like this, fighting for championships and able to have an opportunity to put myself up there with the greatest names to ever do it.”

Hill, who was signed to the UFC from Dana White’s Contender Series in 2019, has lost just once in 14 pro bouts and is currently on a four-fight winning streak. After he relinquished the title due to injury, it remained vacant until this past November, when Pereira defeated Jiri Prochazka to bring a modicum of order to the light heavyweight division.

Since then, Hill has eyed a chance to fight Pereira and regain the belt. But despite the professional tension between them, they still found time to share a moment of respect during fight week.

“I just took away the fact that I appreciate him taking the time out to sign that for me,” Hill said when asked about his friendly encounter with Pereira. “It’s something that I wanted to get from this week. I’m just enjoying the time. It’s my time. Life is but a vapor, so I’m going to enjoy it. This is one of the very special moments, very special cards, very special week and fight, and I just want to take it in as much as possible.”

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