Jeff Hougland pounds on Donny Walker at UFC 132. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Jeff Hougland's mixed martial arts career has been quite the journey.
After starting his career 1-4, Hougland took nearly two years off and got back to basics. He switched schools and started training exclusively in a gi at Ralph Gracie's school in Modesto, Calif., and patching what he called the "main hole" in his game. He won four straight fights before taking four years off to return to Washington and get his life in order. Since, he's reeled off five straight wins, including most recently on short notice in his UFC debut where he knocked off Donny Walker by decision at UFC 132.
"It's been quite a ride, I can tell you that," Hougland said earlier this week on Bloody Elbow Radio. "I got that call on a short notice fight, but I've been waiting for that call forever. That's a call everybody hopes to get if you're fighting. Just going out there and being apart of UFC 132 and being out there with the best bantamweights in the world and legends like Tito (Ortiz) and Wanderlei (Silva), that was an awesome experience for me. I look up to all those guys and to be sharing a stage with them was an amazing feeling."
Hougland said he tried out for the upcoming season of "The Ultimate Fighter," the first to feature featherweights and bantamweights, but did not make it through Spike TV after clearing the UFC's cuts. Needing an additional bout to fill out the UFC 132 card, the UFC announced the Hougland and Walker fight nine days prior to the show.
"My manager was kind of talking to them, he had given them a call and they just called back and offered the fight," Hougland said. "Of course I'm not going to say no to the UFC."
Prior to his UFC debut, Hougland fought in May and picked up a submission win in 66 seconds. He went into that fight with a back injury, though, and gave himself three weeks to heal after, meaning he essentially had a crash course of a training camp to prepare for such a big fight.
"To be honest, I didn't have anything, really," Hougland said.
"I was just back to getting in everyday and I was basically just rolling in a gi and I got the phone call and stopped what I was doing. I started running, hit some pads, got in a few rounds of sparring in, but I didn't want to do too much and go in there all banged up, so I did what I could and just had to stay mentally strong and know I've been training a long time and this was the opportunity that was given and I had to make the most of it."
Hougland said he was going to find a way to beat Walker, whether on the ground or on the feet, but it wasn't easy, as he got a case of the dreaded Octagon jitters.
"I was nervous," he said. "It was like betting my life savings on one roll of the dice or something. This is what I wanted and there's no guarantees that if I would've went out there and gotten knocked out or submitted, I might not have been brought back. So I was really nervous about that, but you just have to embrace it. I just accepted the fact that this is how it is and I gotta do what I gotta do to win. I was able to keep it under wraps, but I broke down a little bit after it was over because it was definitely an emotional rollercoaster."
Hougland said the UFC has been in touch with his management about a return to the Octagon at one of the two scheduled events in October.
You can hear the entire interview with Hougland on Tuesday's edition of Bloody Elbow Radio.