LAS VEGAS — The toughest battle for the vast majority of fighters, even the best of the best, is the one within. Fighting for a living is like doing little else. Each time out, you know you’re facing an opponent who trained specifically for you and to inflict punishment and damage upon you.
There are some of us — many of us — who neither could nor would put themselves into that situation.
And even those who do it at the highest level sometimes need a bit of prodding.
Uriah Hall is one of those. On Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+), he’ll face UFC legend Anderson Silva at Apex in a bout that could be the final of Silva’s illustrious career.
As a -225 favorite on BetMGM, Hall is better than a 2-1 favorite to defeat the former middleweight champion.
That Hall is ranked 10th in the UFC’s middleweight division is a testament not only to his unique physical skills, but of his ability to control his mind and, yes, bravery.
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, the definition of bravery is “the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty.”
That was what faced Hall more than 15 years ago. He was at a gym working out when his Sensei told him he had a fight. Those weren’t the words Hall wanted to hear at the time.
“I never wanted to be a fighter. Ever,” Hall said. “I wanted to train. My Sensei made me step outside of my comfort zone by getting me to do something I didn’t want to do. For years, it was a thing I didn’t enjoy. It was like public speaking. A lot of people don’t like public speaking because it’s uncomfortable. Over the course of the years, it was just stepping in there and not allowing those fears to take over you.
“My first four pro fights, I didn’t care. It was like, whatever. When you allow that fear to get into your head, it kind of hinders you and then you start to doubt and then there’s negative affirmation and negative people.”
For a thoughtful, introspective person like Hall, it was a huge leap to take, even though his physical skills are readily apparent if you just watch him for 30 seconds in the cage.
But for a guy who is battling his demons and doing a difficult job in a very public place, the world can be tough.
“The problem we have right now is with social media and it’s easy to access people’s opinions without repercussions,” Hall said. “Personally, me being from New York, you say something I don’t like, I’ll flat out punch you in the face. Of course, I can’t do that. I would do that, but my coaches talk me out of it all the time because that’s how I am. I don’t believe in disrespect.
“I’ll never disrespect anyone, so why are you disrespecting me? You don’t know me. But it’s easy and MMA fans, they take a toll. Me being sensitive because I come from a different background where I never experienced bullying. Then it happened to me. I never experienced trolling and it happened to me. The fame, I didn’t know how to handle that. There were no guiding principles. I had to learn all of this over the course of the years by myself.”
Hall said he got over his fears because he knew that to get where he wanted to be, he needed to take a risk. He put it in very simple terms.
He could have succumbed to his fears and learned so much about himself. But he took a risk and found a new path for himself in life.
“Life is about risks,” Hall said. “Risks meaning to take chances to get to where you’ve never been before. If someone didn’t take a risk to fly a plane, we wouldn’t have planes.”
Hall is taking a risk by agreeing to fight Silva. Two fights that he’d trained for earlier this year were canceled. He was supposed to fight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in May, but after the weigh-in, Souza tested positive for COVID-19 and was yanked from the card with no one available to fight Hall.
Then, he was supposed to fight Yoel Romero in August, but Romero was injured.
He lost out on two paydays and now he’s fighting a 45-year-old legend who says this could be his final fight in the UFC. The risk is that if a ranked fighter such as Hall loses to an unranked fighter like Silva, it will hurt him much more than if he’d lost to someone ahead of him, like Souza or Romero.
Silva is still dangerous and could surprise despite the odds, but Hall feels he made the right choice by taking the fight. Fighting Silva, he said, is more meaningful.
“For me, a win over Anderson is more personal than a win over Jacare or any of these other guys,” Hall said.
“Anderson isn’t ranked right now, but as much as it’s a great opportunity because he has a name, it will establish me. But for me, it’s a personal thing to go against one of the best.”
More from Yahoo Sports: