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Phil Hawes was viewed as a can’t-miss prospect when he threw his hat in the mixed martial arts ring some seven years ago, and it appears as though he now has the necessary tools and requisite experience to finally meet those lofty expectations.
“Megatron” will put a five-fight winning streak on the line when he confronts Nassourdine Imavov in a UFC Fight Night 185 middleweight showcase on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Hawes dazzled in his long-awaited Ultimate Fighting Championship debut in October, when he needed just 18 seconds to punch out Jacob Malkoun at UFC 254. The 32-year-old New Jersey native has finished all five of his opponents during his current tear and carries the look of a fighter who could progress quickly in the 185-pound weight class.
As Hawes prepares for his three-round battle with the twice-beaten Imavov, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. He rose from small-town roots.
Hawes was born in Little Ferry, New Jersey, a borough of some 10,000 people in the northeastern corner of The Garden State. The city was once home to New York Yankees outfielder Oscar Gamble, the man with perhaps the greatest afro in the history of professional sports.
2. The singlet shaped him.
“Megatron” enjoyed a decorated amateur wrestling career before transitioning to mixed martial arts. He won a National Junior College Athletic Association title at Iowa Central Community College—the same two-year institution that Jon Jones, Colby Covington and Cain Velasquez once called home—and went on to compete at Iowa State University, graduating with a degree in sociology.
3. He does not waste time.
Hawes has finished all nine of his wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission, seven of them inside one round. In fact, he has never seen a third round in his 11-fight career. Hawes’ two losses—he submitted to a guillotine choke from Louis Taylor at World Series of Fighting 32 and succumbed to a head kick from Julian Marquez on Season 1 of Dana White’s Contender Series—also concluded within the first 10 minutes.
4. Skills like his are in high demand.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Hawes has competed in seven different promotions during his 11-fight career. Legacy Fighting Championship, Global Knockout, World Series of Fighting, Dana White’s Contender Series, Bellator MMA, Brave Combat Federation and the UFC have all played host to his talents.
5. He surrounded himself with the right people.
Hawes operates out of the star-studded Sanford MMA camp fronted by trainer Henri Hooft. There, he has trained alongside many of the sport’s most accomplished stars, from Kamaru Usman, Michael Chandler and Robbie Lawler to Gilbert Burns, Derek Brunson and Vitor Belfort.