JAI HERBERT had the weight of the world on his shoulders when he returned to London’s O2 Arena this summer – but he performed like a man free of any fear.
The Black Country Banger’s back was well and truly up against the octagon going into his UFC London clash with Kyle Nelson in July following consecutive losses.
But despite his UFC career potentially being on the line, Herbert turned in a virtuoso performance to have his hand raised via unanimous decision.
More impressively, however, he managed to put the memory of his brutal stoppage loss to Ilia Topuria three months earlier to bed.
He told SunSport: "This time I went there and I was more focused. I just went in there and I thought, 'I'm gonna win this fight.'
"'It doesn't matter how, I'm going to win the fight in three rounds.' That was the mentality I had.
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"So I wasn't looking at the crowd and I wasn't looking cageside and seeing all the famous people sitting around. I wasn't even looking at Kyle, I just looked through him.
"I just saw a body there. And I thought to myself, 'It's me against me.'
"And I knew if I do everything right, I'm winning the fight. And that's what I did."
Herbert’s remarkable ability to compartmentalise arguably the worst moment of his career and perform under pressure was in part instilled in him by his father.
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The former Cage Warriors lightweight champion said: "I've had ups and downs in my career and that [the Topuria loss] was a big thing.
"And a lot of people probably couldn't have done that.
"Two or three months later after having a devastating loss in your home town, UFC London, the biggest show in the world, coming to your country and you're fighting there.
"I think it's just how I've been brought up and the circumstances I've had in my life [that have helped me].
"You can't let these things bother you. You've just got to keep on going and pressing forward.
"Worse things happen in life than losing a fight. I think I've had a strong mindset from going up in the rough areas of Wolverhampton and strong parents like my dad.
"My dad not letting me be a little p***hole, to be honest."
Fatherhood has also played a role in Herbert's shift in mindset.
I didn't want my son growing up and seeing what happened and that I flopped in the UFC
He said: "Ever since the losses I've had and coming back – especially the last one – I wanted to get the win and come back.
"Because I didn't want my son growing up and seeing what happened and that I flopped in the UFC. In a way, he's given me a big boost.
"I want him to say that, 'My dad, he went through some hard times but he came back and was strong.' And hopefully, that sets a good example for him when he grows up and becomes a man."
Now that he’s back in the win column, Herbert’s next goal is to put together his first win streak in mixed martial arts' premier promotion.
He said: "I want a win streak, man. To have a win streak in the UFC is a very hard thing to do. I just want to win my next fight.
"When I came to the UFC, I thought, 'I'll do this and do that and get in the top 15 in the next two years.'
"I feel like I've just got to concentrate on the task at hand. So that's all I want to do.
"My next opponent, I want to go in there with the same mentality I had with my last fight and just get the win. Let's try to get a win streak going."
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Squeezing another fight in before the end of the year was a priority for slick striker Herbert.
But he'll have to make do with a spot on the UFC's next card in the UK, which SunSport understands is slated for March 18.
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