In 2019, Jamal Pogues went on the Contender Series to fight Marcos Brigagão. He finished the fight with a unanimous decision victory on the heels of a seven takedown performance. When Dana White didn’t extend the contract offer, it was back to the regional circuit for Pogues.
While Pogues eventually got another shot in 2022, his 2021 would have not led you to expect that. He spent most of the year away from the sport and was not quite in fight shape entering the New Year.
“I was out for a year, on and off for that year dealing with family and personal things. At the beginning of last year, I finally got back into training,” Pogues explained. “When I got back into training I was like 285lbs – mind you, I used to fight at light heavyweight.”
As 2022 kicked off, he started working back into shape. He was back training regularly and was working off some of that extra weight. As he progressed through trainging, he circled the end of the year for a return, but fate had it’s own plan.
“I wasn’t expecting to fight until, I told everyone, the end of last year – around December or November,” he said. “Six months in, I’m training and they call me. ‘Hey, we have a fight in four and a half weeks. I know you said you didn’t want to fight yet, but it’s Contender Series.”
After whipping himself into fight shape a little quicker than intended, Pogues put on another top notch performance. While sitting in those notorious Contender Series chairs, he felt surprisingly calm about the whole thing.
“The second time, honestly, it didn’t bother me no more. Whether the result was, I got the contract or not, I just wanted to get back out there and give a good performance,” Pogues said. “[It was always] keep my head down, keep working, and let the stuff work itself out.”
Although the nerves weren’t there at first, Dana calling for the contract lifted a huge weight off his shoulders.
“It was a big release. It’s one of those things that I waited my whole life for and it finally happened,” he said. “I don’t think I had a reaction at that moment, I can just tell you my mindset was ‘it’s about f*cking time.”
Since then, Pogues has been working out with the UFC’s Performance Institute and building himself into a true heavyweight. He hopes to showcase what that looks like when he takes on Josh Parisian this weekend at UFC Vegas 69.
You can hear the entire audio of this interview at 50:09.