UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey recently said that she believes the pretty fighters are the ones to watch out for – because their unmarked faces can very well be the result of their handily winning all of their fights. It was a statement against conventional wisdom and the old maxim that gnarled, ugly fighters should be feared, because they having nothing to lose.
This writer doesn’t stand firmly on either side of that light-hearted debate, but he knows that there’s no way it would have been easy for a guy like Alan Jouban when he first walked into a fight gym.
Here’s the connection – long before Jouban became a UFC welterweight, he modeled for a living. The Lafayette native was discovered for his looks in Louisiana, and soon moved to Los Angeles to be closer to his new work of professional modeling.
Around that time, Jouban also walked into a Muay Thai gym in search of a new workout. He ended up finding a new passion and calling.
For all the perks beautiful people get in life, favoritism in fight gyms isn’t typically one of them. That is to say, it’s a safe assumption that Jouban’s first sparring partners were not eager to get beaten to the punch by some male model rookie.
Jouban would have had to gotten his respect the hard way, the way everyone does in a gym – by showing up every day, working hard, and doing well. If his early days were a challenge, the fighter himself doesn’t let on to us.
“I fell in love with fighting right away,” he tells Cagewriter.
“Brahma” hadn’t just found a new diversion - he’d found what he wanted to do for the rest of his life, if he could. The welterweight got better, competed in kickboxing, and eventually ventured into MMA.
Even though modeling paid the bills, Jouban began to prioritize fighting. “People definitely didn’t get it,” he chuckles.
“I told my manager to schedule jobs around my training and fight schedule. I would show up to shoots with black eyes.”
Despite making his MMA debut at the relatively late age of 26, Jouban proved to not just be in the sport as an experiment. He got through the amateur ranks and then exploded onto the pro scene, establishing an excellent 10-2 record and becoming one of the best 170 pound prospects in the world.
Now that he’s in the UFC, Jouban has been able to put away most of his modeling work. The decision may not have seemed smart to the outside world, but the 31 year-old couldn’t help himself.
“I’m glad I got to model,” he says.
“And, I still do it sometimes. It got me out of my shell a bit, helped with my confidence. I got to travel around the world, made some money. But, it was unreliable. Some years I would do pretty well, and other years, not so much, and I’d have to skimp by.
“Fighting is by no means a predictable way to make money, either, but it always felt like my earning was more on my shoulders, if I won or lost, more so than modeling. And the call from the UFC helped make it possible, more and more.”
As is usually the case, Jouban’s UFC call was a challenging one. In his first UFC fight, in August, the 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu member faced off seasoned veteran Seth Baczynski (19-12), who at the time had already fought in the promotion eight times, and had wins over some of the best welterweights in the world.
Despite the odds, Jouban managed to score a remarkable first round KO win over Baczynski. Next, he takes on undefeated Brazilian Warlley Alves (7-0) in Brazil this Friday.
There still isn’t anything easy about Jouban’s journey, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. “At first, I thought I would’ve rather gotten another first timer or something like that in my first UFC fight,” he admits.
“And then, I got another tough guy, who’s undefeated, younger, and I’m fighting him in his country. But when I thought about it more, I like things this way. I got into MMA later than a lot of other guys, and if I’m going to get ahead and do what I think I’m capable of, I might as well fight tough guys from the start. I mean, every fight at this point is going to be hard. I like fighting the best. I’ll be ready.”