Angela Hill ‘wanted to be wanted’ by the UFC before making her return

When Angela Hill first appeared in the UFC it was as part of “The Ultimate Fighter” season 20 cast to help crown the first ever strawweight champion.

At the time, Hill had only one professional mixed martial arts fight and her opening round matchup came against No. 1 ranked Carla Esparza, who was entering the tournament as the reigning Invicta FC champion.

Hill came up short in that fight and then amassed a 1-2 record in the UFC before she was released from the promotion. Of course in the third and fourth fights in her career respectively, Hill faced two top five ranked opponents — Rose Namajunas and Tecia Torres — before she was bounced from the UFC.

There’s no doubt Hill lacked experience during her first stint with the UFC, but she says the pressure she put on herself to have a breakout moment that early in her career was really what caused her downfall.

“I felt like before I put a lot of pressure on myself to win. When I was up against Carla (Esparza) I was like all right this is my chance. It’s my time! Saying all these stupid motivational things in my head and thinking this was going to be the moment that changed my life. Then it didn’t happen,” Hill explained when speaking to the Fight Society podcast.

“The same thing happened with the Tecia (Torres) fight, same thing happened with the Rose (Namajunas) fight, when you get someone who is ranked really high you think this is it. This is my chance to prove everyone wrong and if I (expletive) it up, it’s going to be the end of the world.”

Hill lost all three of those fights before exiting the UFC but she was quickly picked up by Invicta FC where she finally got the chance to develop and evolve.

The all-women’s MMA promotion has been a breeding ground for future UFC stars but for Hill it was a chance to learn how to walk after being told to sprint after making her debut on “The Ultimate Fighter” with no real experience inside the cage.

Hill proceeded to reel off four straight wins including two knockouts while also becoming the Invicta FC strawweight champion. Incredibly, all four fights took place during 2016 as Hill really started to come into her own as a fighter and before long she was back on the UFC’s radar.

When Hill got the call to face No. 5 ranked Jessica Andrade last year, she knew it was because she had earned her spot back on the UFC roster. She wasn’t just being brought in as late notice cannon fodder for Andrade, but instead the UFC needed a top opponent to challenge the Brazilian buzz saw and Hill was a perfect choice.

“It was always OK it would be great to be back in the UFC but at the same time I wanted to be wanted by them,” Hill explained. “I wanted them to say ‘we want Angela in here’ not ‘we’ll bring you back because you want to be back’.

“This time around after negotiations, I felt like they wanted me. They reached out to me and asked me to fill in for these last minute fights. I know Sean Shelby had been paying attention to my wins and my progress over the year so I definitely felt wanted when I got the call back.”

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Of course, Hill knows she’s once again entering a UFC fight as an underdog because Andrade has absolutely mauled her competition since moving down to 115 pounds after beginning her career in the Octagon as a bantamweight.

Andrade blitzed Hill’s teammate Jessica Penne last June before submitting fellow “Ultimate Fighter” season 20 competitor Joanne Calderwood in September. With a win, Andrade will likely be granted a title shot against current strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk and has even spoken openly about taking this fight with Hill as a way to fund her championship training camp for later this year.

Hill doesn’t hold any ill will for Andrade already planning for the future but she might be sorely disappointed to go home without a title shot and half the paycheck she was expected after Saturday night is finished.

“You have to have that confidence going into a fight. If you go into a fight thinking I’m going to lose and I’m going to have figure out how to win the fight after that, that’s not what a fighter does. It’s always a possibility that you’re going to lose but if she’s planning to fight the champ, it makes sense that she’s going to put some extra investments into actually winning,” Hill said about Andrade’s plan. “I think it’s smart for her because she does have a lot of holes in her striking. She’s very open to a lot of things. She drops her hands a lot. I feel like Joanna (Jedrzejczyk) would read that and kind of eventually hit her really hard and drop her. She’s been dropped before so it’s not like her chin hasn’t been tested yet. I think that’s smart of her.

“At the same time, she’s going to have to cut expenses by about half because she’s not going home with that win bonus.”

For all the hard work she put together to return to the UFC, Hill isn’t just going to concede her first fight to Andrade because she’s supposed to be the next person in line for the title.

Hill refuses to play the sacrificial lamb so Andrade can fund her training camp to get ready for Jedrzejczyk. In fact, Hill sees a lot of deficiencies in Andrade and plans to show her that she was never ready for a title shot in the first place.

“I know she’s going to be really tough. I know most people probably think I’m going to get knocked out or subbed or they’ll just say whatever finish comes to their mind arbitrarily but I’m really confident against her,” Hill said. “I feel like our styles matchup well for me.

“I feel like she’s pretty sloppy. She hits with power but I feel like my striking and my movement are better than what she’s dealt with so far. I’m really excited about this fight. I’m really excited to hopefully beat her up.”

Listen to the rest of Hill’s interview on the Fight Society podcast via Soundcloud or download and subscribe to the show via iTunes. Hill kicks off the main card at UFC Fight Night: Bermudez vs. The Korean Zombie on Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET on FS1.