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Uriah got confidence from Sonnen

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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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Uriah Hall is the “nastiest, deadliest, meanest kid” in the history of The Ultimate Fighter.

THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER

Jon Jones. Chael Sonnen. What more could you want? Relive all the action from TUF 17.

That insight was offered by UFC President Dana White at the conclusion of the semifinals of the reality show on FX. Hall, at least before the six weeks of taping, didn’t think nearly as much of his abilities.

“I was caught up in losing so much that it prevented me from performing,” Hall told FOXSports.com ahead of Saturday’s TUF finale at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

What changed? Conversations with his coach, Chael Sonnen — a guy Hall said earlier in the season he wasn’t well-suited to be under.

“I was like, aww,” Hall said on the show when UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones didn’t pick him. “I wanted to be on Jones’ team. I like Jones. I like the way he fights, but I believe things happen for a reason.”

Hall, 28, spoke the truth. Sonnen turned out to be the more successful of the two on the show. Hall’s opponent in the finale, Kelvin Gastelum, is also was part of Team Sonnen. Coverage starts on FX at 9 pm ET.

“He helped me with a couple things,” Hall said. “He said, ‘You guys fight every day. You train every day. What’s the difference if there are some guys holding cameras and an announcer? It’s the same thing, bro.’ Once he said that, things really changed.”

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Would Hall still have ended up in the finals had he been picked by Jones?

“I don’t really know,” Hall said. “I just know that I’m glad it happened this way. I got a chance to work with Chael. Not to take anything away from Jones, but at the time I needed some mental training. I got that with Chael.”

Hall entered TUF with a 7-2 record, and he was victorious in his three pro fights before he earned his way into the house. Still, those back-to-back losses to Chris Weidman (2010) and Costas Philippou (2011) wore on him.

“Looking back, maybe I needed to get beaten,” Hall said. “Chris caught me with a kick. I just remember going in the fight that I was not there (mentally). I was afraid to lose. I was afraid to be taken down (versus Philippou). That took me out of my element against Costas.”

Hall rarely hesitated, especially after he made it past the prelims. He used a spinning wheel kick that caught his opponent, Adam Cella, square in the face. Cella was knocked out before he hit the mat, and White said on Twitter it took Cella four minutes to regain consciousness.

Cella was transported to a Las Vegas-area hospital, but not seriously injured.

It was one of the more spectacular knockouts in TUF — if not UFC — history, although Hall was concerned as he watched Cella lay on his back and labor to breathe.

“I felt bad when it happened,” Hall said. “I don’t like to hurt people, but that’s the type of business we are in. I was just hoping I didn’t kill him. I was a little worried. It was something that I’d rather not show to my mom.”

Hall said his mother, Ruth, is his hero. Hall is the youngest of seven children, five boys and two girls. The family moved from Jamaica to New York when Uriah was 13.

“She’s always looking to forgive,” Hall said. “I think I have some of her traits. I’d like to think I’m a good person at heart. My mother made so many sacrifices and was dedicated to making a better life. Up until this point, I don’t think that I did anything that would make her proud of me.”

Just like the power and relentlessness he showed in TUF, Hall probably had his mother’s approval before the season, too.

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