LAS VEGAS -- How much, exactly, is Uriah Hall ready for?
"The Ultimate Fighter" reality series has never seen anything like this. A relative unknown before the season aired, Hall is already the next big thing at 185 pounds -- and he hasn’t even won the show yet.
This weekend’s TUF Finale between Hall and Kelvin Gastelum is nothing but a formality to some. UFC president Dana White says he’s actually received requests via Twitter that he book Hall to a middleweight title fight against Anderson Silva.
Repeat: White is receiving requests for a fight between the most dominant champion in UFC history and a current contestant on TUF.
“I don’t know if that’s ever happened,” White told ESPN.com. “[Saturday] is the most talked about, anticipated UFC debut from The Ultimate Fighter since Forrest Griffin.”
Even if Hall (7-2) blows Gastelum out of the Octagon on Saturday -- obviously Gastelum has plans of his own that don’t coincide with this -- a title fight is out of the question. The UFC wouldn’t book it, and Hall correctly doesn’t want it.
How crazy should the UFC get with him, though? Here’s a list of opponents the past seven TUF champions faced in their next fight (U.S. edition only): Robert Whittaker, Anton Kuivanen, Tim Elliott, Darren Elkins, Aaron Riley, Erik Koch, Ryan Jensen.
A middleweight name befitting that list wouldn’t match the hype behind Hall. White, who comes across as a huge fan of Hall, would only say that if he wins this weekend, he’d face “a test” in his next bout.
After a contemplative pause, White added that Hall is “ready.” Ready for what, exactly, remains vague.
“That’s a good question,” White said when asked what he thinks Hall is ready for. “This guy is 28 years old. He’s got a lot of experience, and if you look at his two losses, Costa Philippou and Chris Weidman, the guy who’s fighting Anderson Silva for the title [in July], it’s not too shabby.
“I just think, I think this kid is ready. You never know, but if there is one guy [from TUF] that I had to say that about ... yeah, it could be him.”
For the record, Hall and his team don’t want Anderson Silva. They want a ladder to climb.
Hall cringed during an open workout on Thursday when a particular moment of the TUF season was brought up. In it, coach Chael Sonnen specifically tells him he has what it takes to defeat Silva.
“I was shocked,” Hall said. “I was like, ‘What? Give me time to build up.’ I guess as a coach people see things in yourself that you don’t see.
“Maybe down the line it’s something that will happen, but it’s nothing I’m pushing.”
Gastelum (5-0), who admitted he’s tired of the “hype” behind Hall, laughed when he talked about the Internet forums behind a Hall-Silva title fight, calling it “ridiculous.”
Tiger Schulmann, Hall’s trainer for 12 years, happens to agree with him.
“Anderson is the best ever, and to just say something like, ‘Oh, Uriah can beat him,’ is kind of stupidity,” Schulmann said. “I’ve been in the game for a long time. I think Uriah has a lot of talent. I don’t want to push him too quick. I think he needs to work his way up and get experience.”
That’s the downside, though, if there is one, of sending four consecutive TUF opponents to the hospital -- it sets awfully high expectations.
Then again, it was only September 2010 when Hall met Weidman in a fight promoted by Ring of Combat. Weidman (9-0) was only 2-0 when he fought Hall that night, meaning he was actually the less experienced of the two -- and he fights Silva next.
Sometimes in this sport, whether you’re really ready or not doesn’t matter.
“I feel as a martial artist I’m still growing. There are still things I need to work on,” Hall said. "[But] I’m accepting whatever they give me. What am I going to do [if they offer me a top-10 fight]? I’ve got to take it.”