The premiere mixed martial arts organisation in Australia is finally back in action for the first time in 2022 after a monumental run of stellar fight cards in the previous year.
Eternal MMA navigated the uncertain waters of 2021 within the COVID pandemic to put on eight events in three different states across the country, featuring seven title fights inside four different weight classes, four of which saw new belt holders emerge.
One of the combatants who managed to retain the gold around their waste during the 2021 period was the man who will once again look to defend his title in the upcoming Eternal 64 main event – featherweight champion, Jack Jenkins.
A surging Australian prospect on the regional scene, Jenkins has quickly made a name for himself as a well-rounded fighter with a solid cardio base, high level defensive awareness and proven finishing abilities, stopping four of his last five opponents while riding a five-fight win-streak.
Much of Jenkins’ success up until this point in his career can be directly attributed to an unwavering dedication to his craft. A country boy at heart out of Bacchus Marsh, Victoria – two-hour round trips from home to his gym in the Melbourne suburbs – as well as often sleeping at the gym, point directly to a man driven to succeed at the highest level.
Currently sitting at 8-2-0 in his professional career, Jenkins will be looking to add some polish to his record with a second title defence when he steps inside the cage at the GC Sports Precinct against rising contender and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion – Rod Costa.
Speaking with Eternal MMA, Jenkins gave his thoughts on the upcoming title fight and his career trajectory until now and beyond.
“I’m clearly the number one as I am right now, and Rod’s clearly the number two with the body of work that he’s put in in the last couple of years. So, we’re going to get to it and then I think if I win this one, I should be right to get to the UFC.”
“I think it’s a good matchup for me. I’ve tried to build my style around not having a kryptonite – not having one style that’s going to throw me off. My last three matches have been against grappling specialists. To put that into account, I think that Rod is the best grappler (out of all of them). But in saying that he’s been cracking people with his hands as well.
“I’ve just got to be sharp and work my way in, but I’ve got five rounds to do it and that works in my favour.”
A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt in his own right, Jenkins believes that he will feel comfortable controlling the fight no matter the direction it takes, but it’s his gas tank and stand-up game where he feels he has the clear advantage.
“I think the cardio is one thing that will work in my favour, but I know Rod is fit too, so I’m not discounting that. I think the cardio and the fact that I will be one step ahead on the feet will be the difference.”
“My biggest strength is that I don’t get hit much. You can go back and look through my ten fights and you could probably count on two hands how many times I’ve taken a significant strike.”
Anybody who follows the social medias of the two combatants will perhaps be familiar with some of the virtual stones that have been cast ahead of the match, with some accusations of looking for “easy fights”. As far as Jenkins is concerned, it has been all one-way traffic in that respect.
“If Rod and I had any kind of history or if we knew each other, I might get involved in it a little bit,” said Jenkins of the online barbs.
“I’ve spoken to Rod one time, I walked past him and shook his hand and said, ‘good fight, mate’ and he said, ‘yeah thanks mate’, and then I had a word to (current Eternal lightweight champion) Jack Becker who was standing next to him. I don’t know if he thinks he can just make it up on the spot and I’m just going to bite at it, but I’m not really interested in that.
“Rod’s a good fighter, I’m a good fighter and we’re going to and have a f**king scrap, so we’ll figure it out from there.”
The confidence levels for the Absolute MMA product are at an all time high and for good reason. At twenty-eight years of age, the man they call “Phar” Jack is barely entering the prime years of his fighting career in a rich vein of form.
A submission finish over the supremely talented Diego Pereira in 2020 to win his first title, was followed by up by two dominating TKO victories in 2021, one of which was his first title defence and an avenged loss against fellow featherweight – Jesse Medina.
The overwhelming factor in both recent fights was the sustained pressure and devastating leg kicks that neither of his opponents could keep a poker face to. If Jenkins is to retain his title at Eternal 64, he knows his heavy leg kicks are something he can always rely on to set the tone early, before he sees himself getting his hand raised mid-way through the five-round fight.
“I see it as a third round or fourth round finish,” he said.
“I’ll have to keep my base pretty low early on and watch out for his left hook. He throws a nice left hook off the break, and he’s got a good strong double (leg takedown) that he gets low on, so I’ll have to keep my frame low early on.
“I think I’ll touch his eye enough with my jab to set my distance early, and once that’s on it will just be about taking my time. But that’s the beauty of a five-round fight. I look at the five-round fight as a positive, not a negative, because you just get more time to work.”
“If the finish is there, I’m going to jump on it and take it, but my plan is to do the damage over the rounds that I’ve got rather than trying to get it done quick.”
Of course, the man meeting Jenkins across the other side of the cage has a different scenario in mind for the outcome of this highly anticipated title matchup.
Riding his own hot form with five wins in his last six fights, Scrappy MMA’s Rod Costa is ready to put his evolved skill set to the test against the reigning champ.
If not for an extremely close decision loss against Jenkins’ teammate – Kaan Ofli (a fight in which many fans were split down the middle in terms of who they thought won), Costa would currently be sitting on a six-fight winning streak of his own.
Not one to dwell on what could have been in terms of win streaks, Costa’s focus is completely set on the challenge that lies ahead and whatever obstacles Jenkins may present as an opponent.
“I’m going to go out there and feel him up standing, if he does something that I feel presents a takedown to me, I’ll take it,” said Costa.
“If I go in there and he starts catching me with punches, I’m not that proud that I’m going to (feel like) I have to prove that I can stand with Jack Jenkins. I don’t give a f**k.
“But I don’t see that he’s got anything different than the other guys (previous opponents) had, to be honest. He’s a little bit more powerful, I think. If you’ve seen him fight the last few times, he’s got that calf kick that he hurt people with.”
“For everyone that knows whats happening in this fight, it’s a matter of ‘is he able to hurt me with those calf kicks? Is his striking going to be enough to overpower me?’
“On the floor, I’m not really worried. If he ends up on top, if he plans to take me down, it doesn’t really matter. On the floor, I’m just comfortable wherever it goes.”
Dedicated fight fans will be familiar with the evolution of Costa’s arsenal during his time as a professional mixed martial artist. A world class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with his own gym, Costa has shown off a much-improved striking game in his recent fights, demonstrating a fearless attitude to stand and bang with the other elite strikers the Eternal MMA featherweight division has to offer.
It is this mindset coupled with a now highly dynamic skill and recent run of wins that has earned Costa his first title shot, though he can’t help but speculate as to why this matchup took so long to come to fruition.
“I’ve only ever had one interaction with Jack Jenkins face to face. It was after I fought Kaan (Ofli), and he was super nice to me – super respectful.
“I’ve got nothing against him, I just just want to fight him. I think I’ve said this stuff a few times, I don’t want to be repetitive, but I wanted to fight him and either him or someone on his team kept refusing.”
A recent venture for Jenkins to another MMA promotion outside of Eternal MMA also saw Costa questioning Jenkins’ motives when it comes to fighting local competition.
“Why would you rather fight a guy that’s 4-4, hasn’t fought in two years, in a show that no one knows, that doesn’t bring any views, that the UFC doesn’t know what it is – rather than fighting me on an Eternal show for a belt?
“That (Rogue MMA) belt means nothing. Who the f**k cares about (a) Rogue MMA belt? It’s the first fight they had. The dude is the champion of a shit promotion, who gives a f**k? He should have fought me. If he’s that confident that he’s that good that he should be in the UFC, he should have fought me.
“And he might beat me, but he didn’t want to take that fight and that’s a fact and that’s all I care about.”
The Rod Costa that fans have come to know and love during is time with Eternal MMA is one that is willing to take any fight, anywhere at any time, even on short notice. Costa is as real as it gets. While conceding that Jenkins has the tools to beat him, he just doesn’t believe the champion outweighs him when it comes to heart.
“I think he’s got a lot of doubts in his head,” said Costa.
“Either because of him, or because of his team not wanting to fight me. He might be a tough fighter, he might f**k me up, he might hurt my leg heaps, but I think I’m just way tougher than he is.
“I’ve got a lot more heart, and it doesn’t matter what happens in the fight I see myself raising my hand for sure. Not even because I’m a better fighter or anything, I just think I have more heart than him and I’m going to find a way to win.”
“I think he’s used to people who quit, and I’m not going to quit. He might knock me out, he might f**k my leg up to pieces, but not going to quit, I guarantee you this.
“I don’t think he has what it takes to go to the deep waters with me, but we’ll see. Maybe I’m wrong. That’s the beauty of MMA.”
Stylistically speaking, this is one of the most intriguing title fights in recent Australian MMA history. Both athletes can boast a deep toolbox of skills to rely on.
On paper it may appear that it’s a classic case of striker vs grappler, and to a degree that is accurate. But with submission victories on the champs record and the recent evolution of the challengers’ striking abilities, this is certainly a matchup that could have it all from both sides.
On March 19th, we will get the answer as to who the number one featherweight in the country truly is.