Against fellow undefeated bantamweight Chris Ocon at Dana White’s Contender Series this past July, Hunter Azure was able to have a good enough performance to earn an opportunity to fight in the UFC whit his unanimous decision victory.
For Azure, the bout with Ocon played out much how he and his team thought it would.
“It was a big opportunity being on the Contender Series,” Azure told MMAWeekly.com. “Chris was a tough kid. It was definitely a different setting in that Apex building. It was kind of tough to feel like you were in a fight, but everything went smooth and went to game plan.”
With an opportunity now to fight in the UFC, Azure feels like this is just the start of the journey, and as such he’s made changes to his training camp in preparation for the road ahead.
“I feel like the work is just now beginning,” said Azure. “All the fights will be tough. I have to be very well prepared. It’s exciting and stuff to be here, but I always knew this is where I was going to be. Now is the time to prove that I belong in here; and just keep climbing up.
“I just switched gyms (to Fight Ready) for my style of fighting and for things I felt was lacking and needed to be better at. It’s a big wrestling gym, and that’s where my roots are, so I just figured I needed to get back to those and into the little details of wrestling and bring it back up again.”
On September 14 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Azure (7-0) puts his undefeated record on the line versus Brad Katona (8-1) in a preliminary 135-pound bout at UFC on ESPN+ 16.
“He’s had a few fights in the UFC now, but it’s a perfect match-up for me against a name to come out and get a first win on,” Azure said of facing Katona. “Stylistically I like the match up as well. I’ve just got to go in there and get my feet wet for my first UFC fight, get a win and keep banging them out after that.”
Not only being new to the UFC, but to MMA as a whole, Azure isn’t trying to look too far ahead, but he does have an idea of where he’d like to find himself rankings-wise in the coming year.
“I have a roadmap as in keep getting better fights and climbing the rankings, but at the same time, I’m not trying to rush and just tossed up to the top either,” said Azure. “I’m still new to the sport, so I have a lot of growing to do, and with a couple right fights I’ll be right in the Top 15.”
An exciting throwdown between fan favorite lightweight contenders Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje headlines UFC Vancouver. Tune in to MMAWeekly.com on Saturday, Sept. 14, for full UFC on ESPN+ 16: Cowboy vs. Gaethje live results. The first bout is slated to begin at 5 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. PT.