Meet Jalin Turner, the tarantula-collecting lightweight ready to break through at UFC 236

After an impressive showing in his first UFC win in February, Jalin Turner will close out the UFC 236 prelims on ESPN against Matt Frevola. Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for ESPN

When he was a kid, Jalin "The Tarantula" Turner was afraid of spiders.

Instead of avoiding them, Turner confronted his fear as a young adult. He started by caring for one tarantula. Then there were 10. By the time he was done, he had more than 200 tarantulas.

"You just get addicted to collecting them," said Turner, 23, a blossoming lightweight who will face Matt Frevola at UFC 236 on Saturday. "I was breeding them at the time, so I had a bunch of them. It got crazy. It's a whole underground world. I was developing a fear and dislike for spiders, so I casually got one as a pet to get over that. It just intrigued me so much. I've never seen anything like it."

He understands his favorite pet. Tarantulas are intimidating and captivating. Even those who loathe them can't take their eyes off them.

On Saturday night, in his third UFC bout, after being discovered on "Dana White's Contender Series" last year, Turner hopes to attract attention, too.

The UFC undercard is an opportunity for young fighters. With a great performance or two, unheralded combatants can take steps toward becoming stars. But one rough night can banish a fighter as well.

Turner understands both scenarios.

In October, in his UFC debut, free-spirited tactics cost Turner when Vicente Luque caught him with a right hand as he tried to throw a spinning elbow during their clash at UFC 229. Turner went down, and Luque threw five vicious ground-and-pound strikes that put "The Tarantula" to sleep.

"I learned not to fight at 170 [pounds]," Turner said. "That's the biggest thing I can take away from it."

Turner earned quick redemption and praise, however, with a win in his next fight. In February, his combination of strikes and a kick to the ribs led to a 53-second knockout of Callan Potter on the undercard of UFC 234, which featured Israel Adesanya vs. Anderson Silva in the main event. That fight allowed Turner to showcase his talents. At 6-foot-3, he's a lengthy fighter who can control the distance with his striking ability and size.

In 2013, Conor McGregor made his UFC debut in a fight broadcast on Facebook, getting a quick TKO of Marcus Brimage. Four months later, McGregor earned a unanimous decision over Max Holloway on the undercard of UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Sonnen. A year after his debut, McGregor headlined a UFC Fight Night card, earned a Performance of the Night bonus with a first-round TKO of Diego Brandao and never fought on an undercard again.

That's the blueprint for every young fighter.

Turner has tried to ignore the stakes attached to Saturday's fight, but he's aware of the potential impact on his career and his life.

In March, Turner and his fiancée announced the pending arrival of their second child and posted the gender reveal moment on Instagram. Turner burst a balloon with a spinning back kick to reveal they are having a girl.

That's why the financial element of Saturday's fight matters, too.

"I'm excited for her," Turner said. "I can't wait to see her. It's just more motivating. I've got two kids. I've got a fiancée. I need to step it up. I gotta put my big boy pants on now."

In the past, Turner tried to work a 9-to-5 job while training. It's a constant battle for fighters still chasing the prestige and cash that will allow them to train and fight full-time.

While he was training with Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he asked his employer, Amazon, for a leave of absence to prepare for a bout. The company said no. So he quit.

Turner then worked the graveyard shift at a Nordstrom during his next training camp for a Bellator fight, months before the birth of his first child. His shift would start at 11 p.m. and finish at 7 a.m. From there, he'd drive from his Southern California home in San Bernardino to train with Michael Bisping in Costa Mesa before completing the 120-mile daily roundtrip by driving back to San Bernardino to train at Adrenaline MMA, his home gym.

At night, he had to go back to Nordstrom.

"I would try to get some sleep," he said. "I did that for a whole training camp, about six months. I ended up having a baby. It was just so much on my plate at the time."

That's a burden he hopes to eliminate as he awaits the birth of his next child. He hopes to dazzle on Saturday night. He knows he has to put on a show to get noticed.

Turner got his start in the sport that way. He was 17 when a friend, who was training in mixed martial arts, sparred with Turner in his backyard. Turner impressed him, so his buddy convinced him to get serious about training. But Turner couldn't afford the gym fees.

He created his own workout by grabbing an old couch and turning it upright.

"I didn't have money for a punching bag," he said.

He hung a jump rope and threw punches, night and day, to develop his timing and precision. He watched MMA videos on YouTube. Turner didn't know how to train, but he'd run two miles on a whim while listening to the sounds of Nipsey Hussle. (He will walk out to one of the recently deceased rapper's songs on Saturday.) Turner trained as if he had an upcoming fight. He didn't really know what he was doing at the time.

He just knew he loved it.

Now Turner's in the headlining fight of the UFC 236 undercard -- a moment that could change his life. He said he's not worried about Frevola. He's more focused on his own strengths than his opponent's weaknesses.

"I just want people to look at my performance as masterful and look at it as, 'He's good at his craft,'" Turner said. "Like a mural with me painting."