Ode Osbourne is the newest member of the UFC bantamweight division following his first-round armbar submission victory Tuesday night on Dana White’s Contender Series. For “The Jamaican Sensation,” the opportunity doesn’t bring dreams of potential riches the UFC can provide. It does, however, bring a bigger sense of responsibility to inspire and help others.
In other words, earning a UFC contract is the beginning of the beginning for the 27-year-old.
Osbourne took on Armando Villareal, a Bellator and LFA veteran, in the co-main event at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Villareal was the favorite coming in, but that didn’t have any effect on Osbourne. In fact, even earning a UFC contract from Dana White Tuesday night was, in essence, a normal moment for Osbourne as he envisioned the moment for a while.
“To be honest, I’ve been telling myself that I would be here for such a long time that it’s more normal to me than not,” Osbourne told The Body Lock. “It’s pretty normal to me. I’ve been in the game for a long time and my social media has been exploding (since Tuesday night). I post a lot, and I see what people are saying, but I try not to be super, super heavily involved with it because it’s so easy to be dragged down by negativity. I’m trying to start myself early.
“I expected an earlier timeframe. At the time I was like, ’25, 26 (years old) I’ll be in the UFC’, but that was unrealistic. This has been great. Everything happened just the way I thought it would. You can’t plan anything in life. That’s why I believe in God. You can’t plan anything. Everything happens the way it’s supposed to happen — naturally and organically.”
A needed change allowed ‘the chains to come off’
Less than a year before appearing on the Contender Series, Osbourne made a change. After training at the world-renowned Roufusport MMA Academy in Milwaukee, Osbourne made the change to another gym — six miles down the road — Pura Vida.
Osbourne would take a short-notice fight to kick off 2019 at HD MMA 15 against Kelly Offield. Osbourne was aware of the short timeframe and the risk that came with it, but his manager Jason House believed it was a fight he could win. The victory would solidify his opportunity to compete on the Contender Series and earn a UFC contract.
The January victory also solidified the belief that Jake Klipp, Zak Ottow and the coaching staff at Pura Vida had for Osbourne. They saw unlimited potential in the Waukesha native and gave him the best piece of coaching advice that they could have; be yourself.
“Before Roufusport I was at this gym called Waukesha MMA where I met my trainer and sensei, and unfortunately passed away in a motorcycle accident after six years of teaching me the martial arts,” Osbourne explained. “He just let me grow within the sport and let me be myself in there. Roufusport is a great striking community. They have great striking skills. For me, I couldn’t really be myself. The culture wasn’t really for me. My style is very unorthodox. I like to pull and come at you from different angles, just all around different variables of straights, combinations, etc. When I got to Pure Vida, they were just like, ‘Dude, you got to take off these chains that you’ve got on. You’re an explosive athlete. You’re fight with this style, and I can see that you’re resisting it.’ And I was.
“When I was there, my body was restrictive of the style, and it wasn’t adapting well. I’ve always wanted to do whatever I wanted to do, not fight one way that they wanted me to do (at Roufusport). When I got to Pure Vida, they saw all of the potential in me, all that I had to be an explosive athlete. So they told me, ‘Dude, be athletic all the time.’ I was like, ‘Word!’. I was once told that I didn’t have to be that athletic all the time. So now they are telling me at Pure Vida that I can be athletic all the time? What? I took the chain right off. Off came the chain, and out came the abilities.”
With the backing of his coaches and teammates at Pura Vida, Osbourne brings an aura of positivity and creativity in and out of the cage. Along with that aura comes a lot of intangibles that make it very difficult to prepare for an opponent like Osbourne. The confidence, in addition to a calm, rhythmic chaos he brings to every fight, paints an exciting picture. That’s why Osbourne believes he is the “Picasso of MMA.”
“Being me makes me the best,” Osbourne stated. “No one can be me. It’s hard to plan to fight me because I don’t have a certain style. I think the hardest thing to do in fighting is be aggressive, fast, and be calm. I believe I have all of those things, and I’m very, very calm. A lot of people see it and they think I’m in there swinging wildly, but if you look at my face, I’m super calm and everything comes very natural. I always say, ‘I’m checkmating you before I’m sacrificing my pawn,’ because when I’m in there, I plan for everything. That’s why I made the comment about being the Picasso of MMA. I see things differently. If I go in there, I get hit, knocked out or whatever, I expected that to happen because I already weighed the variables in my head. When I come in, I’m expecting you to punch me back so I can pull. I play a dangerous game. I’ll take one to give a couple. I roll with it, absorb it a little bit. Force equals speed times mass. It’s like looking at a Picasso, it’s so many different things.”
Visualization and confidence
Osbourne isn’t one who will watch a lot of film on his opponents. He focuses on his own game and what he brings to the table. That comes with confidence in himself and his team.
There are three things Osbourne said makes him as loose and confident as he is: spirituality, meditation, and the people around him.
He looks at fighting as a quasi-chess match, always trying to be several steps ahead of his opponent. While looking at Villareal’s most recent fight and comparing it to the style he brings to the cage, Osbourne was able to see some holes and ways he could exploit them. Stylistically, in Osbourne’s mind, the fighters couldn’t be more different.
“I saw a couple of things,” Osbourne said. “I really don’t study my opponents that much. I study one film on them, and that’s it. The most recent film I’ll watch, and that’s it. I’m very unorthodox with everything I do, not just fighting. I believe watching so much film can be overrated, for me. Everybody’s different, that’s just me. Watching too much film, you can over-prepare and plan so much for somebody that it takes you out of your element. You don’t ever want to change your style for somebody else. You want to make them fight your fight, adapt to your style. I saw that he was very aggressive. When he threw kicks, I saw that he threw them with his body. He wasn’t real loose and he didn’t whip his kicks. They were very body heavy, very stiff. I saw myself catching a couple of kicks that he would throw. I knew I would be able to react to how aggressive he was.
“If you’re not calm, if you’re too aggressive, you can train for my style all you want. If I come at you, I rush you and throw about four punches at you, your instinctual aggression will come out. If you stay calm, that instinctual aggression won’t have you doing anything reckless. But his game plan, whatever he was trying to do, gets scrambled and you just start swinging. His coaches were probably tell him, ‘watch out for the drop back, come with the cross.’ I knew that’s what they would plan for him. So I thought, swarm him, get his brain scrambled, his aggression will come out and he’ll start to swing at me. When he does, I’ll do my thing.”
‘Each One, Teach One’ – Denzel Washington
One of the stories told in regards to Osbourne before and after the fight on Tuesday night is his role as an assistant math teacher. Osbourne teaches fifth and sixth-grade math, and it’s a job he truly loves to do.
When you look at professional fighters, a lot of them have to take on full-time jobs to supplement their passion for the sport in hopes of making it to a major organization like the UFC. Osbourne sees teaching as a way to become a better fighter. On the flip side, training to be the best fighter he can be helps him become a better fighter.
Earning a UFC contract creates a big opportunity for Osbourne. However, that opportunity will not take him away from out of the classroom any time soon.
“I take what I do in the gym and I implement it with the kids — structure, motivation and discipline,” Osbourne said. “That’s what drives kids and that’s what drives marital artists. Being able to help a young adult accomplish something is more gratifying than any amount of money. Money means nothing to me. I know I need a lot of money to be able to help all of the people that I am, and want to help in my life, in my community. It’s an opportunity. Is money what I’m fighting for? Definitely not. I wouldn’t stop working with kids. I love it so much.”
With the ups and downs of the fighting world, the hard training sessions, the mental and physical battles you have with yourself and your training partners on a daily basis, there are times one will need a bit of truth. A bit of humility. Osbourne doesn’t struggle with that, per se, when it comes to being a professional athlete and a fighter. When those things are needed, however, Osbourne receives that from the students. As they grow, Osbourne grows with them.
“The fighting world is like a rollercoaster,” says Osbourne. “And you just go in the school and the kids joke with you, they’re like little adults. They know you more than you know yourself sometimes. Kids are very intuitive little people. When I say that, we’ve had life altering things through our lives that make us who we are. It changes our perception. Kids haven’t had that many life altering things happen, so they’re still very instinctual. They feel out your vibe and they roll with you. They help you in different ways they don’t know they’re helping you. It’s really good for me. They help me and I help them. I believe it was Denzel Washington who said, ‘Each one, teach one.'”
Using newfound power ‘for good’
Earning a UFC contract brings a lot of excitement and different feelings for an up and coming fighter: the chance to make money, the opportunity to become a star, fighting on ESPN, reaching a longtime goal and many other reasons that inspire these men and women to get in a cage and fight.
Ode Osbourne sees the opportunity in a different way. It’s not about the money, it’s about the platform to inspire change. It’s about the chance to help others in his community and beyond. The importance the three letters “UFC” brings to Osbourne go well beyond fancy cars, houses and the latest style trends. It’s about using his newfound opportunity for good.
“It has nothing to do with the financial potential,” Osbourne said. “Money has nothing to do with it. The things I want to build in my community and I know I’ll need a lot of money to do it, as far as platform I’m able to reach a certain level now, and a certain level of audience that I wasn’t able to reach before. With that being said, I can voice my opinion about positive things, positive changes that I want to obtain and people will actually listen. Being in the UFC, it’s almost like a power. I want to use my power for good. And that’s me. I don’t have any PR people telling me what to say. That’s how I am.”
Getting into the UFC is a small piece of the proverbial puzzle for Osbourne. The journey truly begins for “The Jamaican Sensation”. As great as it was to earn a contract with the world’s premier fighting organization, Osbourne knows it comes with great responsibility — a fact that the newest member of the UFC bantamweight division is not going to take for granted.
“Tuesday night was all very surreal,” Osbourne said. “It meant more to me because of the task I knew I had at hand, but in reality, I knew I needed to accomplish this for the greater good. To be completely honest with you, it doesn’t mean as much to me as it means to… I want to be able to do more with this. For me, personally, it’s cool. But I’m more like, ‘Now, I can do a lot.’ I can do a lot with this. It doesn’t really mean anything. I love where I’m at with the UFC. I want this so I can inspire people. I want to be able to shake up with world outside of the Octagon and inside of the Octagon.”