As beautiful as New Zealand is, the prospect of flying there for a prizefight is enough to make even the toughest men in the world shudder.
Yet Jalin Turner isn’t bothered by it at all.
“This opportunity opened up for me, I took it and I didn’t complain,” said Turner of his Saturday meeting with Joshua Culibao in Auckland. “I always thought being in mixed martial arts would be my means to travel the world anyway, so that doesn’t bother me.”
Maybe it doesn’t bother the 24-year-old lightweight prospect because he’s made the trip down under before and not only won, but knocked out Australia’s Callan Potter in Melbourne in 53 seconds. So if he’s a superstitious man, it’s a damn good superstition.
“I get into those vibes,” said Turner. “Before I got into the UFC, I fought for Bellator like once every year, and it was always in January. And I always got a good finish every time I fought there. It’s the same thing now – February, same time as last year, fighting a local guy again, fighting somebody debuting again, so I feel like history will repeat itself in my favor.”
The unbeaten Culibao, a native of Sydney, is making the short flight to New Zealand for his Octagon debut to replace the injured Jamie Mullarkey, and while anytime an opponent is switched it’s an inconvenience, it’s not a concern for Turner, who is making his first start since knee surgery following his April loss to Matt Frevola.
“That’s going to be the biggest factor,” said Turner of the experience gap between himself and Culibao. “There are levels to this game and I feel like I’m gonna show him that there’s a whole other level, especially coming into the UFC.”
If you’re getting the impression that Turner doesn’t get rattled by too much, if anything, just take a look at the Twitter post where he lets a tarantula walk up his arm while his son watches, equally unbothered. Yeah, “Tarantula” is a nickname that has nothing to do with his jiu-jitsu game.
“We grow up seeing people get freaked out by certain things and it makes us be accustomed to being afraid of those things,” Turner said. “It’s just a spider, it’s no problem and his mom doesn’t get too freaked out by them, either, so he’s not fearful of it.”
Fair enough, but of course you have to wonder how Turner developed such an affection for these spiders. Oddly, it’s because he was just as antsy around them as most of us are.
“I started acquiring a fear of them and I was like, ‘Why am I like this?’” he explains. “That fear bugged me. So I said, ‘You know what, I’m gonna get a tarantula, get over the fear,’ and I got one, and it was a really cool pet. I watched it drink water, I fed it, I got a whole bunch more after that and I ended up with a 200-plus collection. I was breeding them, training them, selling them. It was crazy.”
And he’s never been bitten.
“As long as you really know their temperament, you get an idea,” said Turner. “They’ll let you know long before they’re going to bite you or not.”
If you’re wondering, the collection is down from over 200 to just four because, hey, Mr. Turner has a fight career to worry about.
“All those spiders take a lot of time,” laughs Turner, who feels good heading into his fourth UFC bout.
“I don’t have a knee injury this time, I don’t have anything stopping me, and I don’t have any hindrances,” he said. “Mentally, I’m prepared, and physically I feel like I’m where I need to be. So I feel I can start showcasing what I can do. My mindset is to start cracking the top 15, top 10 and make my way up to that title because that’s what I want, that’s the goal.”
So no, he’s not one of those fighters that needs conflict in his life to stay motivated. If things are going fine outside the Octagon, that translates into a good night inside it.
“I don’t want chaos going on in my life if I’ve got a fight,” he laughs. “I’m already focused on the fight; I don’t need any other distractions. Some people, that works for them, but it doesn’t work for me. I feel like the most suffering I need to go through before a fight is cutting weight.”
That suffering is coming, far away from his home in southern California. But that’s okay, once that’s done, he gets back to doing what he loves.
“I feel like I’ve gotten so much better since my last performance,” he said. “I’ve been training ten months straight, just getting better, focusing on myself and all my attributes and it is scary that in two or three more years I will be at my peak performance. So I feel like the sky’s the limit from here. 2020, I’m gonna make it happen and start it with a big bang.”
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