If you didn’t know Jack Hermansson was genuinely one of the nice guys of mixed martial arts, you might get unnerved by the ever-present smile of “The Joker.” But it’s not done for effect; he’s generally a pretty happy middleweight contender.
“I’ve been fortunate to have very nice opponents who almost always had a good tone,” he laughs. “I’m not sure about their feelings, but I know my feelings are legit. I love this game and I’m gonna keep smiling because I love what I do. I think a good smile and also being calm and collected, that’s confidence for me. If somebody’s yelling at me or trying to act too tough, I see that as a weakness. That’s how I feel.”
It’s worked to the tune of 19 wins in 23 fights, with three of those wins compiling the streak that put him in the top 10 at 185 pounds. It’s been a long time coming for the Norway-based Swede, whose decision to smile and not scowl has put him on a different path than many of his peers.
“I’ve always been a better fighter than a talker, so I knew I was going to have to go that way, and I need to win the fights.”
He’s doing his part, stopping Thales Leites and submitting Gerald Meerschaert and David Branch to punch his ticket into the rankings, and the way he’s been winning these fights have only added to his appeal among UFC fans, who were thrilled when he followed up his 49-second finish of Branch last month by accepting a short-notice Saturday main event against Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
“It feels great,” said Hermansson, who replaced Yoel Romero in Florida’s headliner. “I like to fight often, so it’s perfect.”
So perfect that you can hear the confidence in his voice that despite taking on one of the most dangerous middleweights in the world in Souza, Hermansson thinks that he’s hitting his stride at precisely the right time.
“I feel so,” he said. “Finally, the best of me is coming out in the Octagon and I feel like the experience that I’ve gained has led me to this point where I’m able to perform closer to my best abilities. So I think that’s what we’re seeing and that’s how I’m feeling. I know how tough it is out there, but I’m very confident that I can beat these guys as well.”
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And if he wins and the UFC calls him up to step in on short notice again next month? Is he in?
“I probably am,” laughs Hermansson. “But it depends on the fight. I want big fights. I think if I win this fight, it would definitely have to be a very big fight for short notice like that. That’s basically what it comes down to. I like to fight often, but now if I take this win, I think I deserve the best, so we’ll see what they will come up with.”
It’s the perfect place for Hermansson to be in, physically, mentally and career wise. And at 30, he’s mature enough to handle it all while being in his physical prime. Yeah, “The Joker” has arrived.
“I think all the experience through all these years makes you a better fighter,” he said. “I came into the fighting business at a good time and at 30 years old, I should be able to be in my physical prime. I made my life around it just to be as good as I can in MMA and all the experience has prepared me for this moment to handle everything else.”
“Everything else” is comprised of more media attention, more time in the spotlight, and more pulls on his time. He’s all-in because if he gets to “everything else,” it means he’s reached the place he’s been fighting to get to over the last nine years.
“The wins and what comes with the wins, that’s what motivates me,” Hermansson said. “I’m comfortable thinking about that title shot. That’s my goal. Everything else is just things that lead up to that point. That’s what will make me happy, to get that title shot and to win that title. That’s my dream and that’s always my motivation. I know that’s how the UFC works – if you are good enough, you will get the chance eventually. You just have to continue to win and have good performances and it will come to you. That’s in my mind all the time.”