Jake Matthews has been in the UFC since he was a kid, and now Australia’s youngest MMA veteran is ready to really get started.
- Welterweight Jake Matthews is Australia’s most experienced UFC fighter who is yet to fight for a title
- The 28-year-old believes he is still just scratching the surface of what he’s capable of
- Matthews faces American Matthew Semelsberger on Sunday AEST
It’s eight years since the 28-year-old made his Octagon debut so despite only entering his prime fighting years now, he’s already had a career’s worth of ups and downs.
Through 16 bouts — the most of any Australian without fighting for a UFC title — Matthews has had his share of trials, tribulations and triumphs.
Now preparing to face American Matthew Semelsberger in Las Vegas, he’s not aiming low in where he wants his career to go.
“I’m capable of being the best striker in this division,” he said.
“I have big-name people in boxing, the real boxing brass, and every time they see me they say I should give up UFC and go and box because they’ve seen me spar the best boxers in Australia since I was 18 years old.
“I want everyone to believe that, I want everyone to think that way, that I’m the best striker in the UFC. I 100 per cent believe it. If I do that, the world title will come along the way.”
That might seem fanciful to some — Matthews’ knockout win over Andre Fialho earlier this year was his first KO in almost six years, and most pundits would say his grappling was his greatest strength.
But the Victorian is adamant the Matthews we’ve seen since his debut in 2014 is barely scratching the surface of what he can do. And after he pieced up Fialho on the feet, it’s clear there’s still untapped potential in “The Celtic Kid”.
“The last fight was 50 per cent of what I can do,” he said.
“The ones before that were about 15 per cent.
“I might never get a shot at the title or anything like that, but what would burn me the most was if I retired and people didn’t realise what I was fully capable of.
“I’ve had that many fights that I know what my body can do and I know how to implement that.
“I regressed back to my boxing – I started boxing when I was 12, a lot of people don’t know that, they’ve never seen my boxing so it made me almost a completely different fighter.
“All I did in there was what I do in training. There were no more limitations.”
Matthews pointed to his loss to Sean Brady early in 2021 as the bout that changed him as a fighter and a man.
On the back of three impressive wins, Matthews was edging closer to the top-15 rankings and the prizes that come with it.
But a third-round submission loss put the brakes on what seemed to be a promising run. Not that Matthews is complaining — he’s sure that in the long run the defeat will force him to rise again, harder, stronger and, most importantly, smarter.
For the Fialho fight, and again in the lead-up to Sunday’s clash with Semelsberger, Matthews has taken a more active role in his training camps as he leans on his prodigious experience.
“I was so limited in that fight and afterwards I’d had enough and I knew I needed more input into how I fought,” he said.
“I’d been in this longer than the people coaching me. I needed that input, and you’ve seen the difference. I can feel the way I’m fighting is what I should be doing. It’s like a different world.
“When I was 18 I was tearing adults limb from limb. There wasn’t as much video or research. I’d go against Australia jiujitsu champions without knowing it because I didn’t care.
“I knew what I was good at and I went in there and did whatever I wanted to do.
“It’s hard to teach somebody that when they’re young. You take losses so hard. I know I took them really hard. But they’re the best things that can happen to you.”