Coming off a highly successful amateur career that saw him claim multiple titles, former NAIA national wrestling champion Austin Vanderford has managed to carry over his winning ways to the pro MMA ranks.
In two bouts as a pro, Vanderford has picked up a win over Sol Renato at Prime Fighting 9 in March, and followed that up with a victory against Adam Fugitt for Arena Wars in July.
“(My pro MMA debut against Renato) was a good fight for me,” Vanderford told MMAWeekly.com. “It was a little bit different game for me being able to utilize elbows. It was the first time I cut down to 170 pounds.
“The second fight I knew (Fugitt) was tough, but I had a game plan, I have a background in wrestling, so my game plan was to go out and use my wrestling to win. But I got out there and my hands felt good, and I felt like he didn’t really have what it took to hurt me on the feet, and I won that fight decisively.”
For Vanderford, making the move to MMA has been an enjoyable experience because of the freedom the sport allows him.
“The transition has been pretty easy,” said Vanderford. “Wrestling is just a grind – and I love wrestling and it’s fun – but MMA is fun. You can do the stuff (in MMA) you wish you could do in wrestling.
“My wrestling style is a little more athletic-based, and I feel like in MMA I can utilize that than I was able to in wrestling. I feel like my athleticism transitions well to MMA.”
Vanderford (2-0) will be gunning for his first pro MMA title when he takes on veteran Ben Fodor (7-2) in the main event of CageSport 47 for the company’s 170-pound belt on Saturday in Tacoma, Wash.
“I think if I go out and perform the way that I can and that I know I’m able to, I don’t think (Fodor will) be able to keep up with my game,” Vanderford said. “He’ll be a tough opponent and will come to fight, but at the end of the day I just don’t think he has what it takes to really compete with me.”
For Vanderford, adding his first pro championship to his resume will be a great way to close out his year as he gears up for a run at the next level in 2018.
“It’s cool and it’s a great honor to fight for the welterweight title, but my ultimate goal is to be the best on the world, so this is another step for me,” said Vanderford. “I’m pretty confident that this next year will be the year that I make the next jump up.
“I’m going to have this fight, take care of business, then be on to the next one. I think I have the talent and drive to be where I want to be. I think it will take me there within the next year.”