Issue 198

June 2023

Former Cage Warriors lightweight champion and UFC 155-pounder Jai Herbert fires off answers as quickly as he fires off strikes as he chats to Emma Bramford.

You started your career in the welterweight division, then moved down to lightweight when you turned pro. What prompted that decision?

My first MMA coach saw potential in me and I was walking around at 77kg (170 pounds) without a weight cut. He knew putting me with bigger guys would help me in the long run. I went 9-1 in my amateur career at welterweight. When I turned pro, he said, "Right, you are now going in the lightweight division,” so I did.

The rest of your career thus far has been at lightweight, so you must feel that this is your division now.

One hundred percent, especially in the UFC. I'm not big enough to be a welterweight. I only walk around at 80kg (176 pounds) max, so I don't cut that much weight to get to lightweight compared to some guys. Lightweight is the perfect weight for me.

What has been the best fight destination you've been to with the UFC thus far?

Las Vegas.

When you were signed to the UFC, you've had killer after killer in the lightweight division. How do you feel about that?

I wouldn't change it. It helped me improve rapidly to realize how you have to be with your skill level and think in there to win fights. It helped me in my all-round game as a fighter going into this top-level competition.

In your fight against L'udovit Klein, did you think with the point deduction, it was a groin kick or landed on the thigh?

I thought it was in the thigh, but I could have grazed his cup. I thought I had landed it on his hip and thigh at that moment, but it was close. 

Do you keep your walk-out music to the same song or change it up, and why? 

I change it up. In Cage Warriors I did keep to the same song, but in the UFC, three to four weeks out, (I’ll pick) whatever tune I'm feeling at the time, a recent tune that I know will sound good in the arena. 

Do you choose the walk-out music for yourself or the crowd?

I choose it for how dramatic it will be for me to walk out to the crowd.

What's a typical week for you while in fight camp?

Monday is wrestling practice at Renegade. I then go to strength and conditioning at 6pm. On Tuesdays, we have grappling at Renegade, pads with Joby, then sparring at Renegade. On Wednesdays are wrestling. Thursdays are strength and conditioning in the morning, then jiu-jitsu and Greco-Roman wrestling. Fridays we do pads or sparring in the morning, then runs and hill sprints in the afternoon. Sunday is a rest day.

It's not just you who fights in your household. Can you tell us more?

My partner Jaye is a judo black belt and competed for Great Britain, and she has also had an amateur and pro career in MMA. My stepdaughter Kyra, who is 14, is a 66kg Muay Thai champ, having only had five fights with Team Evolution under Peter and Reece Crooke. It's a good role model to the kids to see the hard work and dedication it takes to fight. Seeing me do that inspires them, too. My son will probably want to do it, but hopefully he plays football!

What belt are you in jiu-jitsu?

I just got promoted to Brown Belt in February this year.

What's your pre-fight meal?

Salmon and white rice.

What's your post-fight meal?

Meal or meals? (laughs) Usually burgers and chips. But, when I get home, it's Jamaican food.

Who gave you your nickname, “The Black Country Banger?”

I'm not sure, you know, but my mate called me “Banger,” and Leon Edwards took the mickey out of my accent as it's different to a Birmingham accent and called me “Black Country,” so it just went together.

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take five things with you, what would they be?

Phone, bluetooth speaker, portable charger, lighter and crate of Guinness.

Does pineapple belong on pizza?


What music do you listen to?

Potter Payper, reggae, bashment or UK rap.