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David Onama of Uganda prepares to fight Garrett Armfield in their featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 09, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
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Onwards And Upwards For David Onama

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David Onama has a plan. It may not seem like it as fights get canceled and he steps in at a moment’s notice to stay busy, but he’s got one, showing a lot of maturity in a wild sport where things don’t often go the way you want them to.

“I don't even know,” the 28-year-old featherweight laughs when asked where that mindset comes from. “I think it runs in the DNA.”

He laughs again, clearly in a good mood a few weeks ago as he prepared for Saturday’s return against Nate Landwehr. And why wouldn’t he be, as the only soundtrack to our conversation was the chirping of birds around him before his next training session in the Glory MMA and Fitness gym in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. 

“It is pretty nice out there,” he said. “Life is good. I’m loving it.”

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With good reason. The Uganda native is 2-1 in the UFC since making his debut last October, with a competitive three-rounder at 155 pounds against Mason Jones on short notice followed by a pair of finishes over Gabriel Benitez and Garrett Armfield that have him on the radar of fight fans looking for the next big thing in the 145-pound weight class. But Onama refuses to get engulfed by the attention, whether good or bad.

“I've been getting a lot of people reaching out to me, but it's a game,” he said of life in the spotlight. “Whenever you're doing good in life, you're gonna have people that are gonna support you and people that are gonna hate on you - I have both, and I support all of them and love all of them, because without haters, you're not poppin', so it's good to have haters sometimes because it's only gonna motivate you. I'm just gonna keep doing me, whether they love it or not - I'm gonna keep doing what I love.”

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Watching Onama fight, it’s hard to believe anyone could have anything negative to say, but this is 2022, so all bets are off on that topic. But when it comes to love, Onama isn’t kidding when he says he loves what he does for a living. Again, watch him fight and you can see it.

“That is pretty accurate,” he said. “I like having fun, going in there and doing me. I want to give the fans what they want to see. I'm excited, and everybody wants to see that.”

But what about those around him? Do they ever tell him, “Hey, David, this is a serious business, stop having so much fun?”

“Most of them,” he laughs. “Coaches, teammates, fans – but everybody knows I'm just going in there to have fun.”

David Onama Sinks In Arm Triangle In Round Two | UFC Fight Night: Dos Anjos vs Fiziev
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David Onama Sinks In Arm Triangle In Round Two | UFC Fight Night: Dos Anjos vs Fiziev
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After a long amateur career, Onama made his way into the pro ranks in 2019 and he hasn’t looked back, winning 10 of his 11 bouts and making a smooth transition from the regional circuit to the UFC. Needless to say, it’s been quite a rookie year for him in the Octagon, and going back to that whole plan thing, he’s ready for what’s ahead this weekend, the rest of this year and in 2023.

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“This past year has been really good for me,” he said. “I got signed to the UFC, got three fights in, and we're working on getting a new deal here pretty soon. So it's only the beginning for me and I'm just enjoying the process for now. Hopefully I get one more fight this year. If not, I'll take another short notice one. I'm just trying to get ranked - this year, if not, next year - and try to fight ranked opponents.”

First up, though, is Landwehr, whose nickname – “The Train” - couldn’t be more apt thanks to an aggressive style that means Onama won’t have to look for him when they square off.

David Onama KOs Benitez With A Big Combo | UFC Fight Night: Walker vs Hill
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Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

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David Onama KOs Benitez With A Big Combo | UFC Fight Night: Walker vs Hill
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“When I got the call, I knew who the guy was,” said Onama. “I was supposed to fight him in Columbus, Ohio (in March), but, for whatever reason, he had to pull out. Now that I got him on August 13th, it was nothing new to me because I already knew about the guy and I already studied him before then. I just watched a few more films on him and that kept me updated on what I need to work on more. I like the matchup, my coaches liked the matchup, my management team liked the matchup, and it's a great one for me. I look at him as a durable guy, he's tough, he bangs, he walks forward, and he's one of those fighters you might not take out. He's gonna stay in your face and he's gonna fight you, so I love the matchup and I'm excited for it.”

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And, if you missed it with the first mention, Landwehr is going to be right in front of his opponent all night or for as long as it lasts. Either way, that’s just fine with that opponent, Mr. Onama.

“That's why they call him 'The Train,'” said Onama. “I love it.”

UFC Fight Night: Vera vs Cruz took place live from Pechanga Arena in San Diego, California on August 13, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive all the action on UFC Fight Pass