At The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale in July, Angela Hill (7-3) took a unanimous decision victory over Ashley Yoder. The win was Hill’s first since rejoining the UFC earlier this year, having won and defended the Invicta FC strawweight title during 2016.
Now Hill heads to UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Pettis in Norfolk, VA, hoping to put together the first win streak of her UFC career. Seeking to prevent her is Nina Ansaroff (7-3) who is coming off a win of her own over Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger at UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs. Penn in January.
Prior to facing Yoder, Hill won Fight of the Night honors thanks to a thrilling brawl with Jessica Andrade. Coming off that slugfest, Hill is a little disappointed in how her fight with Yoder panned out.
“The Yoder fight was kind of a weird one,” said Hill to Bloody Elbow. “I knew everybody expected me to win, and I did, but I wasn’t totally happy with it. I wanted it to be more exciting.”
Hill cites Yoder’s defensive style and awkward frame as the main reason why she was unable to put on more of a show in the Octagon. Despite this, Hill believes she succeeded in demonstrating that her game has continued to improve since she her first run in the UFC (where she went 1-2 before being let go).
“I did a lot of good things in there,” she said. “Like, I got a takedown; which is kind of funny because right when I was about to do it, I heard my corner screaming, ‘NOOO!’ because they saw her wrapping her arm around my neck as I was going for it. But I was just like; ‘F--k it,’ and I went for it.
“So I was pretty happy about mixing it up a bit and showing I could hold my own on the ground. That I could get up. I could defend takedowns and I can land a lot of leg kicks, apparently.”
In Ansaroff, Hill sees an opponent who may be more willing to trade punches in the center of the cage. “It seems like she likes to throw a bit and she likes to throw spinning stuff,” said Hill, who believes that Ansaroff will likely resort to trying to take her down to the canvas at some point in the fight.
Ansaroff’s fighting style aside, Hill revealed she is excited for the match-up. She called it a “conventional step-up” in competition, especially compared to her first time in the UFC — where a win over Emily Kagan resulted in back-to-back fights with an undefeated Tecia Torres and current UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas.
Though Hill doesn’t believe Ansaroff is an elite-level fighter in the UFC, she does think the American Top Team member has plenty of name value.
“Even though she’s not ranked, I think people hold her in high regards; because of her association with Amanda Nunes and that she trains at ATT with a lot of the higher ranked girls. So I think, by association, people think she’s a legit competitor. And I think this is a good fight for me. And it’s going to be a good chance for me to show improvement once more.”
Despite joining the UFC in 2014, Ansaroff has only fought for the promotion three times. Her first fight in the Octagon was a loss to Juliana Lima, and it was well over a year until she had her second fight, a loss to Justine Kish. During this period Hill has had all of her 10 professional MMA fights plus an exhibition bout in the The Ultimate Fighter house.
Hill wondered whether the perception of Ansaroff as a more experienced and battle-tested fighter than her was fitting with reality. Hill said she believed she was the owner of more “high pressure experiences” than Ansaroff, despite becoming a pro much more recently than her opponent.
“When you look at girls who have records before the UFC started bringing women in, it was a lot easier to get easy match-ups,” added Hill. “You get a lot of people who don’t have Sherdogs (a fight record page) or have losing records, and it was a little easier back then if you had a little bit of talent to have a winning record. But I think nowadays, for someone like me, whose second fight ever was in the UFC, I’ve definitely been tested against really talented people. I’m not fighting anyone who shouldn’t have a career in MMA. I feel like I’ve fought a lot of good people and I’ve only lost to the best of the UFC.”
Outside the UFC, Hill is undefeated. While competing in Invicta, she saw her fan base swell. This was partly due to her knockout victories, but also because she was able to convey her passion for video games and science fiction; through cosplay.
In the Andrade fight, Hill brought these calling cards with her; dressing as Street Fighter character Sagat for the ceremonial weigh-ins. For the Yoder fight Hill had hoped to wear a Black Panther mask on stage, but this was nixed by the UFC.
“I had a whole routine planned out,” laughed Hill. “I was going to do the Jacare crawl to the scale, and just kind of come up like Batman. And be super dramatic with it, and then point at her with my claw gloves and just be really ridiculous, but then when they said I couldn’t do It I said, ‘F—k it, I’ll just stare at her and look mean.’”
Hill was hoping to give a nod to Marvel’s forthcoming Black Panther movie, based on the comic book character of the same name, because it’s a film she is especially excited for. Hill even auditioned for a small role in the film, but was not able to get the part.
“I can’t wait, it’s going to be so good,” said Hill of the movie slated for release on February 9th, 2018. “It’s going to be great for everyone; for the comic book community and especially for the black community.”
“Afro-futurism is a movement because there’s a demand for it. Black people want to see themselves in the future doing cool things in some kind of fantasy world. And they can go, ‘Oh that’s cool, they look like me and their saving the world, that’s awesome.’ So I think it’s something a ton of people will be excited for.”
Asked if she would try and pull off another Black Panther style stunt in Norfolk, Hill was coy. “Maybe I’ll see if I can pull something off this time, but it’s not as big of a deal as pulling off a nasty finish. That’s what I really want. Some kind of nasty knockout. I feel like that’s what’s going to skyrocket my popularity — more than any shenanigan I do before the fight.”
Hill said she also hoped an impressive stoppage would get the attention of the Black Panther producers. “I’ve got my fingers crossed that they see me fighting one day and they give me a call and say, ‘Hey you don’t need to audition, just show up and kick people.’”
Hill’s opportunity to impress fans, the UFC, and movie execs comes on Saturday night, during the FS1 prelim portion of UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Pettis. Hers is the first fight of the card, scheduled for 8:00pm EST.