1-on-1 with Josh Emmett: Sacramento’s own seeks redemption inside the octagon

Jun 23, 2023, 9:30 AM | Updated: May 21, 2024, 10:36 pm

Josh Emmett prepares to fight Yair Rodriguez of Mexico in the UFC interim featherweight championshi...

Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Entering the octagon for his 12th UFC fight last February in Perth, Australia, Sacramento native Josh Emmett was aware of the opportunity in front of him.

The featherweight contender had a chance to reach the mountaintop, fighting Yair Rodriguez for the interim title at UFC 284. While it was a tough task in front of him, Emmett wasn’t worried, entering the night on a five-year win streak.

Unfortunately, it just wasn’t meant to be, getting submitted in the second round by Rodriguez.

After years of hard work, the moment has passed in the blink of an eye, leaving the Sacramento native searching for answers.

“Man, biggest fight of my life. It was just, it wasn’t my night,” Josh Emmett said candidly on a Zoom call with Sactown Sports. “The unfortunate thing about MMA is when we fight, it doesn’t matter if you put a six-week [fight] camp in, a 10 or 12-week camp, you have to be on in that moment. Otherwise, nothing matters. I was not on it and it showed.”

Previously declaring that he’ll fight anywhere, anytime, Emmett has pushed back on the sentiment since. Maybe it’s just the reality of losing a title shot, or maybe it’s just a preference.

Either way, Emmett hopes to be staying closer to home for the foreseeable future, partially attributing the travel to a poor fight outing.

“I felt like it was tough. I would have went anywhere in the world and I said that I will fight anyone in the world, anytime, anything, just for that opportunity to touch UFC gold. Do I wish I could have fought Yair, in [Las] Vegas the following week or March? 100%. No excuses.

“I will say, I will not be fighting any big fights where I have to travel a lot. It was tough, biggest fight and worse I’ve ever felt in a fight,” he explained.

The Sacramento native also prefers to fight three-round bouts instead of five, able to apply the pressure earlier in fights. But he also knows that fighting for the title means longer contests, constantly pushing himself as hard as he can with his training.

“I would rather fight just a three-round fight over a five-round fight, but I have to be prepared. So I’m prepared to go six fives. I always go above and beyond. So when I’m fighting through three-round fights, I can push hard for four hard rounds. When I fight five rounds, I can push hard for six rounds. And with all the preparation and just the hard training, I put so much effort into this and I get myself tired. And I put myself in uncomfortable positions,” Emmett stated.

That wherewithal should come in handy with his next opponent, set to face the undefeated Ilia Topuria on Saturday, June 24, in Jacksonville, Fla.

Topuria has been on a rampage, going 13-0 in his MMA career. He’s been excellent in his four UFC bouts as well, scoring finishes in each one.

None of that has impressed Emmett though, seeing a one-trick pony that has minimal experience against top-ranked competition.

“Look at our resumes, he was fighting a lot of people on the regional scene with padded records,” Emmett said. “He’s only beaten four guys in the UFC. Nothing against them, they’re all good. That’s the thing, he’s really well rounded, he’s good. He’s in this position because the UFC is trying to build them up. He’s young, he’s hungry. He’s confident. I remember when I was young and undefeated. So I feel like I know how he feels and what he’s thinking.”

Jumping from an unranked opponent to #5 in the world is a big leap indeed for the Georgian. And while he’s looked impressive, it’s nothing his opponent hasn’t seen already.

“It’s easy to be the hammer all the time,” Emmett said. “When you’re just going in there and beating guys up. He’s never been in a [real] fight. So when him and I are locked in the octagon cage like he’s gonna learn, ‘Oh man, I’ve never seen this before.’ I fought so many guys that are similar to his style he’s never fought anyone even close to my style.”

After losing his best shot at UFC gold this year, he knew the company would be looking to promote other fights in the division. That leaves Emmett on the outside looking in, something he’s okay with, looking to come back with a bang this month.

“I knew early on we would fight eventually, just because they’re trying to build him up and do all these things. And so I asked to fight on July 8, international fight week and they already had different plans for me,” Josh Emmett revealed. “So they offered me him and I said ‘Sign me up.'”

International Fight Week is one of the biggest events on MMA’s calendar year. The hall-of-fame ceremony occurs then, bringing all walks of MMA life to Las Vegas for one summer weekend.

Translation: More eyes, bigger payday.

But there’s a double meaning here for Emmett, wanting to be closer to home as he enters the final stages of his career. And while he would have preferred to fight at the Apex in Vegas, he’ll take a fight in front of a national audience any day of the week.

“I wanted to fight in Vegas for one, because I want to stay really close to California. So I was like I’ll just start fighting in Vegas. Originally, Ilia and I were supposed to fight in Vegas at the Apex [last] weekend. We were gonna be the main event,” he explained. “And then they switched up the date and location on me. But they did it just because it’s a huge card on ABC. So I think even though International Fight Week will be a huge card, Pay-Per-View wise. There’s gonna be way more eyes on our fight because we’re headlining an ABC card.”

While chasing UFC gold is still his No. 1 priority, Emmett hopes to have a few more fights on the West Coast before his career is up.

Undefeated, 2-0, when fighting for the UFC in Sacramento, the 145-pound fighter hopes to see the promotion back at Golden One Center in the near future.

Predicting that he’d be fighting there one day, Emmett sees it as his home arena. Yes, his favorite team the Sacramento Kings also plays there. But he feels the hometown love when he’s in the 916, soaking it in every chance he gets.

“I like the fans, especially the Sacramento fans,” Josh Emmett said smiling. “I feed off the energy, it kind of gets me hyped up a little bit. And then if I’m going in for the kill, and they’re just cheering me on, it really does help me push a little bit harder…

“…Never lost at the Golden 1 Center. I’ve never even lost a fight in Sacramento. And so, I’m hoping the UFC comes back to Sacramento sometime soon. Maybe the end of the year, maybe next year. But if that’s the case, you better believe I’ll be headlining that card.”


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And maybe one day he’ll come home as champion of the UFC. Because after all, winning the belt should be the only thing that matters to fighters, at least according to Emmett.

“The main goal is to be a UFC champion. That’s why I started fighting a long time ago, I only wanted to fight in the UFC. I got here, I want to be a world champion,” Emmett said. “I feel like that’s why most people should be doing this. If you don’t have belief in yourself, it’s like, why are you even doing this?”

But for now, Emmett will continue to tune out the noise, looking to make a statement this Saturday in Jacksonville. If he can do that, another title eliminator bout is in the cards for him.

However, despite his dedication to preparation, Josh Emmett knows he isn’t getting any younger. Already turning age 38, time is not on his side in the fight game, making this run the most important of them all.

“I feel good. This is the best I’ve ever felt I have like the team is dialed in now. I feel better than I did five years ago. I don’t fight and I don’t look like I’m 38,” Josh Emmett said chuckling. “I think I have a good four or five years left in me if I really want to just keep it going. Because I’m so good to my body. I take care of my body, with the diet, rest, recovery, everything like that. But I probably have, to be honest and realistic, who knows, a year and a half, I could make a run at the title at that elite level.”

Only time will tell what transpires, but the 5’6″ Menlo College alum still has that dog in him entering his 22nd professional fight. And thanks to unrelenting determination, and an abrasive right hand, this could be the start of another run for “CC0”.

Click here for the full interview with Team Alpha Male’s Josh Emmett.

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1-on-1 with Josh Emmett: Sacramento’s own seeks redemption inside the octagon