UFC 254: Despite Early Career Setbacks, It Was “UFC or Bust” for Phil Hawes

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Abu Dhabi, UAE — Phil Hawes was expecting a tough three-round war against Jacob Malkoun at UFC 254. Instead, he spent all of 18 seconds in the cage on Saturday. At least in terms of official fight time. That’s the second-fastest middleweight debut in UFC history.

Realistically, Hawes spent more time in the octagon for the pre-fight introductions and post-fight interview than he did actually fighting. Which isn’t actually a bad thing. No damage incurred, a quick knockout, and a very memorable debut.

The win for Hawes (9-2) came after a couple of setbacks earlier in his career, including a failed bid to win a UFC deal on the Contender Series in 2017. “I think the setbacks set me to be where I’m at right now, getting 18 second knockouts, and the Contender Series, whatever that was, that was like 20 seconds or something like that. So just having those setbacks catapulted me to where I’m at right now. And I’m just gonna keep climbing.”

Hawes’ second Contender Series performance, which got him to the UFC at long last, was actually just over a minute. Still, a five fight win streak with an equal number of finishes is nothing to scoff at.

As far as a return date goes, “is there any spots open on Saturday?” Hawes quipped. “Let’s do it.” Maybe he wasn’t joking.

Between his two Contender Series performances, Hawes spent some time fighting in some other big promotions — Bellator, and Brave CF. Despite having an opportunity to make a living elsewhere, “it was definitely UFC or bust for me, because this is the pinnacle of the sport,” he said. “I want to thank Brave for giving me an awesome opportunity. But this is the pinnacle of the sport. And this is where the killers are, and I want to sit at the table with those guys. The best.”

Watch the full UFC 254 post-fight press scrum with Phil Hawes above.

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