Three months after his stunning victory over Chris Weidman at UFC 261, Uriah Hall returns to action in the main event of UFC Vegas 33 against Sean Strickland on Saturday.
Hall, ranked eighth on the middleweight roster, said he expected a higher-ranked opponent for his next bout in the lead-up to a potential title clash against champion Israel Adesanya.
However, the 37-year-old cited UFC politics as the reason behind the match-up against the 11th-ranked Strickland and nevertheless conceded it to be crucial in his bid to climb up the ladder.
“I’ve been trying to get a crack at the top five, but there’s politics in the sport. I think most of the people were booked, and he might have been the only one that is left. I mean, on paper, it didn’t make sense, he’s ranked behind me. But this is business, man, you know, it’s business," the 'Prime Time' said in a media interaction on Friday.
Hall, a former Ultimate Fighter runner-up, has seen a late revival of sorts after losing three successive bouts between UFC 193 and Fight Night 99 in late 2016.
Since then, Hall has posted a 5-1 (win-loss) record while matching his best streak with four successive wins. Hall credited the turnaround for the work done with the Dallas-based gym Fortis MMA and head coach Sayif Saood.
"It's just focus (on turnaround). For a while, I have been gym-hopping and I was trying to find my place since leaving Ultimate Fighter. I felt like I needed a home and after taking a chance to go to Dallas and train with Fortis... I sat down with Sayif and it was good camaraderie where we found each other's rhythm," he said.
Hall is aware of the challenge that his next opponent Strickland will bring, including a slew of unusual tricks and tactics. Strickland enters the bout with four wins on the trot - three of which came in the last nine months.
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"We used to train back in the day (together). But it was always a fight with Sean. He says weird stuff that makes no sense. That’s his style. People love it. It translates to his awkward style. The key factor is to stay calm and stay composed and do what you need to do to finish a guy like that."
Hall reaffirmed that his main objective is a shot at the champion Adesanya - fresh from a title defence against Marvin Vettori at UFC 263 - adding that both of them are fighters of similar styles.
"I am looking forward to the champ. I am excited because he came onto the platform and has an exciting style. I think my style is perfectly matched up for his. But, you know, you got to play the game. There are a few dudes ahead of me, so I have to take them out and get to him.
But he is the motivation because I like that style. He got where he had to get to. He played his role. He did his job, and I just want a crack at it. That’s it," said Hall who is on the lookout for a fifth consecutive win.
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