Bubba Jenkins admits he has always gotten by on his pure athleticism.
But now, as he prepares for his 10th Bellator fight this Friday night at Bellator 151 against Goiti Yamauchi, the 28-year-old has an understanding of the sport he calls home.
“I grew up in Bellator,” said Jenkins, during a recent interview with FightLine. “I am now starting to come into my own as a mixed martial artists. I am starting to understand why I am doing things and how they are going to help me later in a fight.
“I am starting to understand why setting things up in the first round will pay off in the third. I see fighters for what they are doing and who they are, striking angles, where to put my arms, my head. You gain knowledge with experience and become better, and that’s not just in MMA.
“You can be writing letters to the Pope. You write more and more letters and you become good at it. You understand the ins and the outs. I have definitely grown and become a more mature man and a better mixed martial artists.”
Following three pro fights, and no matches at the amateur ranks, Jenkins (10-2) signed with Bellator in 2013. He scored a second round TKO victory over Mike Barreras, but suffered his first pro loss later that year to veteran LaRue Bentley.
“If I had taken some amateur fights, I truly believe I would have one less loss and that’s the Bentley loss,” Jenkins said. “I had two fractured ribs, but I thought I could get in there and get out as quick as possible. But against a decent fighter and a professional, you can’t do that. Being a wrestler, I would go into matches hurt all the time. I was hardly ever at 100-percent, but I had seven minutes to get it done. I was accustom to getting off the couch and getting the work done.
“I think amateur experience would have shown me that you can’t just hop into a fight against a professional. Looking back, if I had gone through the amateur ranks, I think I would have known that.”
Jenkins competed for both Penn State University and Arizona State University in college, winning the 2011 157-pound title for the Sun Devils. He was also a runner-up in 2008 for the Nittany Lions at 149 pounds.
He jumped right into MMA the same year as his NCAA winning performance, scoring a first round submission win over Josh Williams. A few months later and Jenkins added another first round win with a stoppage.
“It’s crazy to think about (how many fights since turning pro),” he said. “Coming straight into pro MMA without any amateur experience, being this beast wrestler trying to deal with people who train and know the ins and outs, I’ve had to grow and close that gap.
“As we get better, coming up on my 13th pro fight and 10th with Bellator, I see self-growth and understand what I need to become a champion. Once I become a champion, then I can become legendary.”
Jenkins has scored seven finishes among his 10 pro wins, recording four via knockout and three by submission. After going the distance with Jordan Parsons last November, he doesn’t believe this fight reaches that point.
“Third round knockout,” Jenkins said, of how he sees it ending. “I am looking for it however I can get it. I’m not Conor McGregor when it comes to predicting the way it is going down, but in the third round, I will put him away whether it is with a knee, elbow or a fingertip.
“I am going to try to get him out of there because I don’t want it to go to a decision.”