Skateboarding, Tarantulas, and Fighting, Oh My: Jalin Turner Loves Extreme Things

UFC athlete Jalin Turner
Jalin Turner Credit: Jon Lilly

When an aspiring MMA fighter grows up and turns pro, fighting is usually what they have always wanted to do. Not so for Jalin Turner, as his first love was skateboarding. Fighting came later.

“I got my first board at eight years old. I stopped and started a bunch, but it was my first true love when it came to sports. It was my first dream, it was my passion, I wanted to become a pro skateboarder,” Jalin “The Tarantula” Turner told Cageside Press in an exclusive interview recently.

Ultimately, being a pro skateboarder wasn’t in the cards for Turner for a multitude of reasons. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still love it.

“Being in a relationship really halted my dreams of being a pro, you know how that goes,” Turner laughed. “I also broke so many bones over the years; it got kind of old. I am also afraid of heights, and that doesn’t help when I have to go down tall ass half pipes. I guess what it came down to was, I had too many reasons not to pursue skateboarding; it is what it is. It all worked out in the end.”

Turner went from one extreme sport to another, mixed martial arts, making it to the highest level at just 22 years old.

As is well-known by now, Turner also loves Tarantulas, which can also be called an extreme pet. There is a misconception out there that he was afraid of spiders growing up. That’s not the case..

“Everyone thinks I was deathly afraid of spiders growing up or something like that; it’s just not true. Remember Steve Irwin? He was one of my idols, and I loved spiders. I used to play with black widows, crazy shit.” Turner said. “What happened was, I had some friends who hated spiders, I was hanging out with them often. Every time they saw a spider, they would freak out, which then made me freak out. So for a minute, I became afraid of spiders; I even said I would never own a tarantula.”

“During that short period of my life, it made me think ‘what the f*ck? What happened?’ That isn’t me. So, I decided to get over it, and I went to a pet store and bought my first tarantula. It’s been history ever since.”

Turner has owned tarantulas ever since that day. He had over 300 tarantulas at one point— babies, adults, juveniles.

“The tarantula game is wild. There are so many species, which is why I am obsessed with them. The thing about being a collector is that they come and go. People might think I’m heartless or something, but I have sold my entire collection before and then picked it back up and got more tarantulas. It just comes with the hobby,” Turner said. “I will always have at least one, but how many I have, fluctuates with what’s going on in my life.”

Turner just felt it was right to have his fight nickname as “The Tarantula.”

After losing his first two UFC fights, Turner reevaluated his career and retooled. He took a year off after losing to Matt Frevola at UFC 236.

“I had to reset my mindset. I had to reset how I trained and looked at the fight game. I’m 26, but I don’t want to fight past 33, so I had to reassess my entire game plan and the opportunity I have. If I want to become a champion, I have to give this my all. I have to train smart and fight smart. This is something I cannot do when I get to my late 30’s so I must take advantage of it right now. I have to seize it right now, and that gave me a lot of mental clarity,” Turner said.

The 26-year old has found his stride and is currently riding a three-fight win streak.

In his last outing, he fought undefeated prospect Uros Medic at UFC 266. Going into the fight, he felt like most of the fans were doubting him. Once again, he proved them wrong.

“Everyone loves the undefeated fighter. Uros got a couple of good finishes, and everyone was hyping him crazily. It was perfect for me; I loved it. As soon as they offered him to me, I jumped at it. I felt like I would beat him anywhere in the fight. I was stronger, tougher, faster, smarter; you know, name it. I felt like I was more technical if it stayed standing. I was ready to steal his hype,” Turner said. “I was out for a year, and he was the hot fighter. It made perfect sense. He just made the mistake of choosing to fight me. I know for a fact his camp thought they would run through me.”

Credit: Jon Lilly

Turner kept his 100% finish rate and tapped Medic in the first round, spoiling his undefeated record in the process. “It felt good, and I feel I put my name back in people’s minds.”

“The Tarantula” returns to action at UFC 272 in Las Vegas against someone he has been training for and has been linked to for two years: Jamie Mullarkey. The pair of lightweights were first scheduled to fight at UFC Fight Night: Felder vs. Hooker in New Zealand; however, Mullarkey had to pull out with an injury. Turner would stay on that card and finish Joshua Culibao via TKO.

Turner and Mullarkey headline the UFC 272 prelims in what should be a candidate for Fight of the Night, or perhaps a Performance of the Night.

“This guy has been on my radar for so long already. To be honest, I want it to be over already. I have studied him for two years. I feel like I have the tools to get it done,” Turner said. “Has he gotten better since we were supposed to fight in 2020? Yes. Have I gotten better? Hell yeah. I have more ways to win than he does, and that’s just a fact. He relies on his toughness too much, and I love to fight tough fighters. They are going to sit there and come forward and eat punches. Come on; I love that.”

“Don’t get it twisted, though, I respect him, and I’m not looking past him whatsoever. He is tough and has never been finished in the UFC. Ultimately, I will be the one to finish him.”

Jalin Turner faces Jamie Mullarkey on Saturday, March 5, 2022 at UFC 272 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.