A Fighter’s Path: Kyler “The Matrix” Phillips Has Followed The White Rabbit To UFC 259

“I’m ‘The Matrix’. This is the system, I control it, I control their thoughts, their actions. They’re stepping into my world and I’m gonna unplug them from the Matrix” – Sensei Kyler Phillips

Kyler Phillips is the embodiment of a martial-artist.

From humble beginnings at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California, as a three-year-old white belt, up until his current status, of being a 1st Degree Nikidokai Black Belt under Grandmaster Hanshi Nico and BJJ brown belt at the age of 25, Phillips has made studying the art of war, a way of life.

What is Nikidokai? More than a daily practice, it is a way of life. “Ni” is for multiple, “Ki” is universal energy, “Do” is the way or the path, and Kai is the participant. The purpose of this martial art is to study, practice, develop, and creatively express the tools, techniques, and skills to conquer adversity and bring peace to oneself and hopefully others. Those who participate in Nikidokai are masters of creativity who focus on growth, family, and spreading their knowledge in the same temperament as branches from the Bonsai tree grow.


Have you ever had a dream that you were so sure was real? What if you couldn’t awaken? How would you know the difference between dream and reality?” – Morpheus

I am sure finally getting “the call” from the UFC felt like a dream for Phillips, it was something he had worked patiently at achieving for years. In 2010 when Phillips was 14-years-old he won the California State Championship in Judo. Two years later he became an IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu World Champion Blue Belt. In 2013, the California native won the Southern Section CIF Wrestling Championship at 138lbs on his way to a perfect 4-0 amateur career.

Kyler Phillips’ 3rd amateur fight – :15 Second head-kick knockout over Nick Gibson

As an amateur, it was evident Phillips would have a bright future in mixed-martial-arts. He steamrolled through Arizona’s regional MMA scene, finishing all four of his opponents in 2015, three in the first round. Two of those wins came by arm-bar, and two by knockout. The diversity and technical trickery of Phillips’s game were already on full display.

Phillips would settle in Arizona, where he would attend Grand Canyon University and begin training at the MMA Lab with a star-studded cast of young vultures including Sean O’Malley, Mario Bautista, and Casey Kenney. Professionally, his career began nothing less than perfect. Phillips carried his undefeated ways through his first five pro fights, scoring another four first-round finishes.

Kyler Phillips is a futurist sent here to discombobulate opponents with a visually appealing, crowd-pleasing style that makes him look like a parkour ninja born to float around octagons with fierce excitement.

After he finished James Gray in 46 seconds on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, Phillips went on to be a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter Season 27. He would lose an exhibition bout to eventual winner Brad Katona, and drop his next fight via split-decision to a world-class bantamweight in Victor Henry.

Adversity had finally struck, and Phillips could not have handled it any better. He viewed the Ultimate Fighter and his experience on DWCS as an internship, a way to get used to the bright lights and pressures of fighting for the world’s most popular MMA organization.

In his next fight, at LFA 59, Phillips showed more of his raw martial arts technique when he knocked Emeka Ifekandu out with a head kick in the first round.

After a year on the shelf, Phillips would make his UFC debut against Gabriel Silva, a fight he won by unanimous decision. This was just the third time Phillips had seen the judge’s scorecards throughout his amateur and professional career.

Seven months later, Phillips would return to the octagon handing out yet another red pill, this time to opponent Cameron Else, who took the fight on short notice. It was a statement win in which Phillips displayed his kickboxing-centric style that blends his unique striking and aggressive ground attack together.

Speaking of style, that’s precisely what Phillips delivers each and every time he enters the cage. This weekend against Song Yadong expect to see “The Matrix” integrate lighting-fast combinations, diverse kicks, flying knees, and just about any and everything you could expect to see in a Wachowski film. His accurate volume striking (6.28 Significant strikes landed per minute through his five rounds fought in the UFC) leads to high-level scrambles in which Phillips will continue to hunt for submissions. Yadong is a Team Alpha Male prodigy who has a number next to his name and an undefeated UFC record. If Phillips can unplug Song from the Matrix on a card of this magnitude, he will skyrocket up the bantamweight ladder.

Kyler Phillips (8-1) will fight #14 Song Yadong (16-4-1, 1NC) in a high octane bantamweight battle on the preliminary card of UFC 259 Saturday at 8 pm ET. Watch this fight with purpose, refrain from going to the bathroom, do not blink, I promise you, it will be incredible.

Joe Gravel

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