Jake Hadley: Fulfilling a Childhood Dream

By: Tudor Leonte
Oct 20, 2021

Jake Hadley is ready to take the Ultimate Fighting Championship 125-pound division by storm.

After making a reputation for himself as one of the most exciting fighters outside the UFC, the 25-year old Englishman finally gets his chance in the big league. “White Kong” shone in his appearance on Dana White's Contender Series last week, submitting Mitch Raposo with a rear-naked choke in Round 2 and earning a much-coveted UFC contract just three years after turning professional. While his 8-0 tally has come against opponents sporting a not-so-brilliant 45-63-2 combined record, Hadley has earned a chance to prove himself on the biggest stage.

On several occasions, Hadley told the press that he dreamt of becoming a mixed martial arts fighter since he was a little child. He pursued that dream by making his pro debut at 22 when he took on Daryl Grant at GTFP Fight Night 8. The fight lasted only 58 seconds. Hadley had extensive experience as an amateur, and didn’t shy away when it came to fighting for keeps, as he stopped his opponent with some deadly body punches in the first frame. It is still the fastest finish of Hadley’s career to date.

The TKO victory came as a bit of a surprise, considering Hadley’s natural predisposition for grappling and submissions. His second bout showed how lethal he could be on the canvas when he submitted Adrian Molenda at the 2:45 mark of Round 1 in their flyweight encounter at GTFP Fight Night 9. After overwhelming his opponent on the canvas, Hadley ended up in high mount, pouring ground-and-pound. To escape from the sticky situation, Molenda gave up his back. In a split second, Hadley captured his opponent’s neck and locked in the rear-naked choke, forcing the tap a few seconds later.

His third opponent is the one dragging down the winning percentage for the rest. In what seems almost a rite of passage for almost every English fighter below 170 pounds, Hadley was matched with Reece Street, who is the embodiment of a journeyman, then as now, when his record stands at 0-42. When they met in September 2018, Streel lasted for 1 minute and 38 seconds before tapping to a rear-naked choke.

The first real test of Hadley’s career was his journey in South Africa, where he competed under the Extreme Championship Fighting banner. After putting together three consecutive wins, Hadley was offered the chance to lock horns with promotional 125-pound kingpin Nkazimulo Zulu in the EFC 78 co-headliner. The contenders put on a show for the fans that night as “Zulu Boy” dropped the challenger right out of the gate. Hadley recomposed himself and resorted to his world-class grappling skills, capturing his opponent’s back and forcing him to defend a rear-naked choke attempt almost for four minutes. The Englishman tested Zulu’s submission defense thoroughly that night, and even though the South African fighter survived to hear the judges’ scorecards, the decision went unanimously to Hadley.

His reign as EFC flyweight championship didn’t last long, as Hadley’s dominant performances across the world earned him a call to Bellator MMA’s European Series. On the Bellator 227 preliminary card, Hadley faced another highly-touted prospect at the time, SBG Ireland’s Blaine O’Driscoll, who was both older and more experienced than his English opponent. Hadley waved off O’Driscoll’s initiative in Round 1, forcing an extended wrestling battle against the fence. While he never reached a dominant position, Hadley forced O’Driscoll to spend a lot of energy in defending himself from relentless takedown attempts. In the second stanza, the Irishman had more success with his offense on the feet and the canvas, where he attempted a guillotine choke. Hadley looked tested from his previous efforts and he offered less initiative than in the first frame. The fight was even going into the last stanza, and that’s when Hadley decided not to require the judges’ assistance. In the first 30 seconds of Round 3, the Englishman jumped on his opponent’s back, forcing O’Driscoll to carry him for more than two minutes before submitting him with a flashy rear-naked choke.

The Birmingham-born athlete opted to sign with Cage Warriors Fighting Championship for his subsequent battles. In his promotional debut, he ran through Shaj Haque, who capitulated to a violent head kick followed by a barrage of punches 17 seconds before the end of Round 1 at CW 114. Hadley’s dominant performance and impressive winning streak opened the doors for a crack at the flyweight championship, which was in Luke Shanks’ hands at the time.

Both Hadley and Shanks were listed among the brightest flyweight talents in Europe and everybody was expecting a real war when they collided in the cage. However, nobody predicted that Hadley would completely annul “The Apocalypse.” After an action-packed first round, takedowns, dominion on the mat, and several submission attempts spurred “White Kong” to a unanimous decision victory with 50-42, 50-45 and 50-44 nods from the judges, recording one of the most one-sided victories in Cage Warriors history.

Next, Hadley vacated his belt to fight for a UFC contract at DWCS. His first attempt was supposed to go down on Sept. 21 against Kleydson Rodrigues, but visa issues prevented Hadley from facing the Brazilian. Destiny would offer him another chance when he took on Raposo on short notice on Oct. 12. Even though he missed weight by one pound, Hadley’s fourth rear-naked finish impressed Dana White so much that he offered him a contract nevertheless.

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