Bellator lightweight Bubba Jenkins
Young champions with big expectations are the type Bellator’s Bubba Jenkins crosses paths with and gets compared to, so bring on the bright lights and let’s get it poppin’.
Jenkins (Twitter: @2sinsurrJenkins), who is undefeated with a 3-0 record, makes his Bellator debut against Mike Barrares at Bellator 97 on July 31 at the Santa Ana Star Center in Albuquerque, N.M. After just three professional MMA bouts, the 2011 NCAA Division I wrestling champion is prepared to put his skills on display in one the sport’s biggest promotions.
With all the hype surrounding Jenkins since he announced he was embarking on an MMA career, it’s not surprising to see him arrive in Bellator so quickly. The American Top Team combatant’s intentions from the beginning have been to compete in the UFC or Bellator, and those plans came into effect just 19 months ago when he debuted at TPF 11. Jenkins said he is excited to have accomplished this goal such a short amount of time, but seeking advice from those he respects was vital in his meteoric rise.
“It kind of came out of the blue and it kind of came from me trying to achieve something with by myself,” Jenkins told Jason Kelly and Corey Charron on MMA Cypher Radio on the MMA DieHards Radio Network. “A lot of the guys in the game come out of whatever profession they’re in, or whatever discipline their in, and they don’t know much management or much leadership, things like that. I just talked to a lot of people I know in the game, Phil Davis and (Jon) “Bones” (Jones) and all my friends and the people I look up to, I just try to get as much advice as I can. One of the opportunities that presented itself was going out to talk to Tito Ortiz inCalifornia.
“While being out there I got connected with Dave Thomas, he used to manage Tito Ortiz, and after talking to Dave Thomas and getting him as my manager, he presented the Bellator deal. I was out there with Tiki (Ghosn) and (Bellator CEO) Bjorn (Rebney) came out. Me and Bjorn talked and he said things like, ‘We’re going to take it slow and give you every opportunity you need to build. We really want the best for you.’ It was a good deal, a good opportunity and something I needed to jump on.”
Making the correct career choice, being able to advance for his own benefit and have continued success is something Jenkins proved he is capable of. There’s evidence in that from when he vacated Penn State due to disagreements with the coach midway through his collegiate wrestling days, only to join Arizona State University and win a national championship.
Jenkins uses adversity as a catalyst to conquer opponents and goals. In college, after the University of Missouri offered the wrestling standout a walk-on spot, as opposed to a scholarship during recruiting, Jenkins had a chance to get revenge when Penn State’s wrestling team met them on the mats.
The irony of it all today is that the wrestler on Missouri’s team, who Jenkins defeated, is currently the Bellator lightweight champion.
“It really wasn’t nothing against Michael Chandler, I held a vendetta against the school for not recruiting me,” Jenkins said. “You hear stories like that all the time from different athletes not getting recruited and then they roll with a chip on their shoulder. That’s what I had in college and Michael Chandler just happened to be the guy I was wrestling in the Missouri singlet.”
Jenkins said he is a big fan of Chandler and what the champ has accomplished since trading the wrestling mats for the canvassed cage. Like Chandler, Jenkins prides himself on being a blue-collar wrestler that transferred from an NCAA All-American collegiate athlete to a professional mixed martial artist.
The big difference betweenChandlerand Jenkins, or almost any new mixed martial artist on the scene, is that “The Highlight Kid” is expected to be a superstar. The hype surrounding Jenkins is seldom seen in this young sport of MMA, and when a competitor is expected to shine, they usually come from the kickboxing or jiu-jitsu realm.
When trying to compare Jenkins’ expected potential to an athlete of another sport, his brother likens it to a basketball sensation that shot out of high school to the NBA in 2003.
“I was talking to my brother the other day and he said that he Google’d me,” Jenkins said. “I don’t Google myself, and he doesn’t Google too hard on me. I always talk to him about things I’m working on, and my brother is around my age so we’re really close. I was talking to him, and he’s like, ‘You know, you kind of got some hype going on. You’re going to be like Lebron (James) was when they were expecting him to come out of high school.’ And that is what everyone wants to see. They want to see how I perform in Bellator on July 31.”
When speaking with Jenkins it is immediately observed that he is a positive young man, chalked full of intelligence with a strong desire to compete and be victorious. There is not doubt employing that attitude assists when dealing with the pressures of others’ expectations, however, greatness is something Jenkins feels he was placed on this earth for.
“That’s my thing,” Jenkins said. “I really do live up bright lights type situation. Once the lights are bright I really do perform and that’s the way I like it. Leading up to it I’m nervous as heck, don’t get me wrong, my heart is beating fast, my hands are sweating, but once the referee tells me it’s going, I just get it poppin’”