GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When Jamahal Hill steps into the cage against Thiago Santos on Saturday, it will be mano a mano.

But Hill will be the first to tell you he didn’t get there alone.

“Absolutely no question about it. I would not be where I am without my guys,” he said, asked if he could have gone so far without his team. 

Chad Pomeroy, Johnny Grigware and Justin Andrews make up Team Hill. Pomeroy is his head coach and main sparring partner.

“Chad has brought a maturity to me. Order, discipline. Just an attitude of, ‘It don’t matter bro, get the work done,'” Hill said.

Andrews handles the heavy demands of the grappling sessions.

“Justin is like the most positive dude ever,” Hill said. “But he’s a beast, he’s a killer. He’s one of the dudes that is whooping (me) every day. We make each other better.”

Grigware is Hill’s strike coach. Watching them train is like witnessing a dancer work with his choreographer. 

“Johnny has been the guy to keep me on point,” Hill said. “Whenever we’re doing pad work, we’re setting up things like that last combination. I’ve never thrown that before.”

Being a coach for a fighter is an incredibly demanding job, especially when you are training a fighter as talented as Hill. 

“(I’ve come) home with black eyes or my nose is bruised,” Pomeroy said. “It’s like, ‘It’s fight camp. If Chad doesn’t have a black eye or a fat lip something is going wrong.'”

Black Lyon Jiu Jitsu Academy, where Jamahal Hill trains.
Black Lyon Jiu Jitsu Academy, where Jamahal Hill trains.

Hill first stepped into Pomeroy’s gym as a teenager. Now, the 31-year-old is steadily rising the UFC ranks at light heavyweight.

“What separates him from a lot of other people is his mindset. He knows what he’s got to get done, he knows what he’s got to do, he knows the level of people he’s fighting against,” Pomeroy said. “In his mind, he’s like, ‘If they’re running three miles, I’m running five. If they’re putting in ten rounds, I’m going to put in 20.’”

What they’re doing is working. A win on Saturday will put Hill another step closer to the thing that drives him most: a title shot. 

“I believed I was good enough to beat anybody, I still believe I’m better than anybody even on my worst day,” Hill said. “I now understand that I need to be at my best to make sure that happens every time.”