ORLANDO, Fla. — Josh Emmett knew as a child he either wanted to pursue a career either in law enforcement or as a professional athlete.
He nearly abandoned one dream to settle for the other.
The Sacramento, California, resident had been grinding on the regional circuit for nearly five years when he gave himself an ultimatum to reach the UFC by the end of 2016 or put his college degree to work as an officer.
“I was going to retire,” he said Thursday. “I was going to walk away from mixed martial arts undefeated.”
One phone call in May 2016 altered those plans. He got an offer to fight on a UFC card in Netherlands on less than a week’s notice.
Emmett immediately accepted, nearly forgetting to even ask the name of his opponent.
“I would have fought anyone to get my foot in the door,” he said. “I realized it was just my time and I knew I could go on a run.”
He has gone 4-1 in the UFC, with the lone loss coming by controversial split-decision to Desmond Green in April.
Emmett, 32, will compete in his first main event on Saturday when he takes on veteran Jeremy Stephens in the headliner of the UFC on Fox 28 card at Amway Center.
“I got into this later than most, but when I got that opportunity to extend my career, I knew what it would do for me,” the Team Alpha Male member said. “It’s been a quick rise as far as my time in the UFC, but I’ve been training with the best guys in the world for over a decade. I’ve been there since the beginning. Everyone coming through there is a champion or a world-class competitor or even a Hall of Famer. I know how I stack up. I’ve been the main training partner of all of these people for so long. Now it’s my time and I will get that title very soon.”
He could be on the verge of such an opportunity with an impressive win over Stephens.
Emmett has been on a good run since dropping to featherweight following the loss to Green, winning back-to-back fights in October and December to immediately make a mark in the division.
The December victory over former title challenger Ricardo Lamas was by far the biggest of his career. He took the fight on short notice after several contenders declined.
Emmett knocked Lamas out in the first round.
“I’m truly grateful for everyone in the division for turning that fight down and allowing me the opportunity,” he said.
A collegiate wrestler at Menlo College, Emmett trusts in the power he has developed as a striker. He knows his style also presents a challenge for opponents.
“Relentless,” Emmett said of himself in the cage. “A powerhouse. A wrecking ball. The white Mike Tyson. I put bad intentions behind every punch thrown and I’m always looking to finish fights. That’s my style in a nutshell.”
He hopes that adds up to a chance to fight for a UFC title in the near future. A win over Stephens would go a long way in helping his cause.
He hasn’t yet let go of his other dream.
Emmett still thinks he may go into law enforcement when he’s done fighting.
“I’ll dabble in that world in the future,” he said. “I just want to help Sacramento and my community. I also want to start a foundation. I just have to keep winning fights to build my platform.”
The bout headlines a card that also includes a women’s strawweight contender between Jessica Andrade and Tecia Torres and breakout welterweight star Mike Perry taking on Max Griffin.
UFC on Fox 28
Main card bouts Saturday at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.
Josh Emmett (13-1) vs. Jeremy Stephens (26-14), featherweights
Jessica Andrade (17-6) vs. Tecia Torres (10-1), women’s strawweights
Ovince Saint Preux (22-10) vs. Ilir Latifi (14-5, 1 No Contest), light heavyweights
Mike Perry (11-2) vs. Max Griffin (13-4), welterweights