STREET TEAM MEMBER SET TO FIGHT FOR UFC CONTRACT JULY 9
Article by Idris Garcia | Cover photo by Mike “The Truth” Jackson
Prodigy Street Teamer Jesse James Wallace will put the gloves on with a chance to secure a professional contract in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the largest mixed martial arts company in the world.
Wallace has trekked from his home in Horn Lake, Miss., to the bright lights of Las Vegas, Nev., where he will square off with Joe Solecki Tuesday, July 9. The fight will be the fifth bout and main event for episode three of the third season in Dana White’s Contender Series. The episode will air live starting at 8 p.m. eastern on ESPN+. While ESPN+ is subscription based, there are free trials available.
Wallace has started his MMA pro career with a 9-2 record and nine stoppages, including submissions in his last four fights. A win on Tuesday could represent the next step in his budding career.
“It's not a win and you're in,” he said. “You have to win and look impressive and they'll give you a contract.”
Wallace started MMA at age 15 thanks to a family friend in Mississippi. He was always there watching fights and eventually wanted to give it a try for himself.
“He took me to the local gym up the street, and I fell in love with it immediately and never stopped,” Wallace said. “Once I started one class, that was it. I knew it's what I wanted to do.”
Unlike many who step into the MMA realm, Wallace had no experience with any sort of wrestling or martial art. He was a baseball player with his eyes set on playing college and later pro ball.
He started playing baseball at a local Junior College while dominating the local MMA scene, too. Wallace collected several wins in a row and five regional titles in the ring. MMA turned from a good way to stay in shape during baseball’s offseason into a viable career path on its own—although it didn’t necessarily start as planned.
“I was still an amateur fighter when I decided to do that full-time, and not six months after I quit baseball, I had lost three fights in a row and had one no contest so it went horribly wrong right after I quit baseball,” he said. “I thought maybe I had quit baseball too soon, but I changed gyms, I changed my mindset, and I committed to it.”
“I won 6 in a row right after that and then lost one and won another 7 in a row after that so I chained it together but I had to change my mindset after losing back-to-back-to-back.”
From there, Wallace signed his first pro contract and got picked up by First Round Management to be managed by his best friend Matt Weibel, who works for the company.
“I was able to fight for Bellator at the FedEx Forum and LFA (Legacy Fighting Alliance) on national TV in Dallas,” Wallace said. “When this season of the Contender Series was coming along, they threw my name in there as one of the most exciting lightweights in the country and obviously UFC agreed because they put me on as the main event of my episode.”
Getting ready for the main event has included a grueling schedule which spans five days a week and includes conditioning, jiujutsu, wrestling, kickboxing, and other various techniques. That’s all without the additional mental preparation.
Wallace uses disc golf as an escape from all of that. He started playing with friends in high school and it has stayed with him as a way to relax and stay loose.
“I play because it helps me turn my brain off about the fight,” he said. “I'll go play and be able not to think about it for a few hours. If I want, I can go play by myself, too, where no one is asking about the fight. It's a relaxing time for me.”
It won’t be time to relax Tuesday when the bell tolls, as Wallace hopes to earn the first of many wins in the famed Octagon.
“I'm not just here to hang around and say I was a fighter. I'm looking to win and be a household name for a really long time.”