So calm was his body language, Bubba Jenkins could have just as easily been watching Sunday Night Football on his couch, Cheetos bag in hand, not about to start the sizeable weight-cut for his first featherweight title defense.
But as he explains, he’s known the plan and the outcome for a while.
A couple of thousand years in fact.
“I was ordained before the beginning, before the foundation of this Earth,” Jenkins says. “I was made for this main event before the world even started because timing is everything, and God’s timing is beautiful.”
He fights on Thursday night when London’s Olympic Park will host BRAVE CF’s largest and most prestigious MMA event to date; an invite-only, red-carpet MMA showcase for a select group of the UK and Europe’s most influential businessmen, politicians and, according to their press release, “world influencers.”
See, it’s all part of something bigger for him. Over the course of his 31 years, he’s grafted, he’s “taken the stairs,” and with BRAVE, he’s finally reached the roof.
He’s not just their champion, he’s ‘his’ champion (‘his’ being God), with the former coming as a direct result of the latter.
“There was no elevator for me,” he says.
“I fought guys that I was not prepared to fight, so I got molded into a harder sculpture, sooner. All my fights are learning experiences, and I would say I got to a place, maybe four fights ago of understanding what it’s like to be a champion. I lived a contender’s life for 90 percent of my fighting career. It wasn’t until I started understanding, becoming more intelligent, becoming more alive with my higher calling that I really understood the championship level that I’m at.”
It wasn’t always so holistic. His 90%percent period reads as a typical life of a fighter; athletic success from a young age living a not-so harmonious existence alongside the love of the partying – with Jenkins taking national honors in both.
“When I went to college, I was born in sin,” he says. “I live in the world; I want to have a good time. My spirituality led me to a national championship, but my worldliness led me to not achieving the four national championships that my skills were capable of. I was a national champion wrestler and a national champion partier”.
After making his MMA debut with Tachi Palace Fights in 2011, Jenkins went around the block, enjoying a three-year stint with Bellator and a brief dalliance with Absolute Championship Berkut before signing with BRAVE in the summer of 2018.
Just a few months later, he fought for and won the featherweight title in his promotional debut against Frenchman, Elias Boudegzdame.
It all happened fast – title shots hadn’t come his way up to that point, and according to Jenkins, they weren’t meant to. BRAVE was his rightful destination. It was pre-ordained, and that’s just the way it is.
“The world looks to me, as Brave is getting bigger. They’re trying to see me game-plan, my intelligence in not only wanting to be an international face but globally recognized as one of the best fighters ever. You can’t do that just fighting in America or certain organizations. Of course, you can make a name for yourself wherever you go. But my plan was always to be global. And to join the only global organization and become their champion, it’s fitting together just like God told me it would”.
It seems a somewhat unfair advantage, having an omnipotent deity in your corner. But until the Holy Spirit becomes detectable on a biological level, Jenkins is free to dispose of whoever deems themselves worthy of a challenge – foolhardy or otherwise.
“The fast guys aren’t fast enough; the strong guys aren’t strong enough; the speakers aren’t smart enough; God has made me perfectly for this sport,” he says.
“I’m destined for this.”
His opponent come Thursday, former BRAVE interim Lightweight Champion Lucas ‘Mineiro’ Martins, has other ideas. As do those in the Las Vegas bookmakers and the population of Brazil.
Size advantage, hands of stone, nasty temper; these are some of ‘Mineiro’s referenced attributes. None of them intimidates Jenkins. For one he doubts ‘Mineiro’ will even make it to the cage door on weight, let alone go the 25 minutes befitting a championship fight.
“If he’s struggling to make weight, he ain’t going past two rounds,” Jenkins laughs.
“He’s challenging my belt; he’s challenging my validity as a champion, he’s got to beat the scale, which he has never done at 145. Then the fact that he’s beat the champion at 155, he sees it an ‘easier’ task to come and see me – that’s disrespectful.”
And even if the Brazilian shows up at his best, why worry about size? There’s a precedent here, and it sits with Jenkins.
“Lucas is a formidable opponent, a giant name. I see it as a massive opportunity. I believe that I’m the underdog; whether it’s in Vegas, the minds of people in Brazil, either way, I like it. It seems to me like a David and Goliath situation,” he says.
“Who is this uncircumcised philistine who comes to my weight and not only beat the scale, beat me over five rounds and deny me the validation of what the lord has ordained me to have? I hear people say, ‘he wants to make history’ – we all want to make history. But to do what he’s doing, he will pay for it, and I plan to put him out in less than 25 minutes”.
The lobby in which our interview takes place has been quiet to this point. Getting towards the evening drinks portion of the day, Doo Wop (That Thing) from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill starts to softly bump its way through the bar. Consciously or not, Jenkins ignores the natural pause in our conversation and breaks down a prediction in verse.
“If he don’t do what he’s supposed to do, I’ll rout his ass in two. If he comes wanting war, looking for more, I’ll make him snore in four.”
He’s always been a wordsmith, or as he puts it, “the guy who’s always had that Ra Ra speech.”
“I was the captain of every team I’ve ever been a part of. When it came to football, the coach would come to me and say ‘hey Bubba we’re down by three touchdowns, we need you to come and give a speech.’ So a lot of times, I was that inspiration and that motivation. There were always people in my life who told me that I would become a preacher like my father and encourage me to understand my spiritual anointing.”
He wants to make one thing crystal clear though, he’s definitely not preaching.
“I don’t want people to think that,” he says.
“It’s not all this ‘Bubba Jenkins is hyper-religious’ stuff. It’s not religious; I want to get out of being this religious guy. I’m spiritual.”
Earlier in the day, news of Jon Jones’ latest supposed indiscretion broke. As a friend and wrestling coach on Jones’ TUF 17 coaching squad, Jenkins reacted as a friend would – sans judgment. With the additional patience that his faith affords.
“To say that he wasn’t living the Christian way, I’d be no different than a person of the world,” he says.
“It’s Jon’s personal walk. I do not speak on other men’s walks and do not count the pennies of other men’s banks. I know my walk. If God came to me and said ‘give a message to Jon,’ I have the ability to do that. There are men like Jon riddled throughout the bible. We’re all going to make mistakes; we’re all going to have that trip along the way. I hope that God gives him the same mercy he gave me. When I see my brothers and sisters around the world fall, I pray for them and hope that they come back to what God called them to do.”
July 25 is set to be a big night for BRAVE CF, and an even bigger one for Jenkins. This is way beyond fighting, that’s simply his foot in the door. Unlike other spiritual fighters who credit the almighty with driving their careers, for Jenkins, it’s the other way around. Under BRAVE CF’s Global banner, he fights to spread the word.
He’s not a disciple as such; he’s something with a bit more punch. But unmistakably confident, and, as he would have you believe it, blessed with a divine gift.
In today’s crazy world, who’s to argue?
“I plan to see what me and Brave can do around the world because it’s a bigger message than just the event or fighting. It’s truly the Lord needing me to go places to deliver his message; I’m a War Priest,” he laughs.
“All these people in the room Thursday night; these people move the world. They need to know who Christ is. After I win this fight, I will go onto the next fight on the same path. My Bible teaches me that I will not only do the exploits that Jesus did but greater exploits. I will do things both inside and outside the cage that you will know are divine and given to me by the lord; therefore proving his existence. Proving that my path has been lit to continue to be who he has chosen me to be.”
Rhodri Morgan is a combat sports writer based out of London, England. When not covering MMA, he can be found roaming the halls of a south London Wholefoods, finding a dog to befriend and rolling in the doomed pursuit of the perfect kimura.