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Contender Series’ Austin Vanderford willing to accept UFC fight a week before wedding to Paige VanZant

Austin Vanderford connects with a punch in his Contender Series bout opposite Angelo Trevino on July 17 in Las Vegas.

One of the most important events of Austin Vanderford’s life is just around the corner, but he’s putting as much emphasis on his career as possible until that day comes.

As much of the MMA community knows, Vanderford is engaged to UFC star Paige VanZant and their wedding is only a couple of months away. Vanderford (5-0) recently had the opportunity to join his fiancee on the UFC roster as a contestant on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, but the 28-year-old welterweight did not receive a contract despite seeing his hand raised last week.

He was matched up with Team Alpha Male prospect Angelo Trevino, who VanZant trained with during her days at the well-known Sacramento camp, and after a shaky first round that saw him dropped and mounted, Vanderford was able to make it to round two where he returned fire. After dropping Trevino with a left hook, Vanderford followed Trevino down to the canvas and put a stop to the fight with a rear-naked choke.

That was one of four finishes on the night, but only three of those winners were signed and Vanderford was not one of them. Among those to receive contracts were 20-year-old prospects Maycee Barber and Edmen Shahbazyan, and Vanderford told MMA Fighting that he expected to be celebrating alongside them at the end of the night.

“Yeah, I did,” said Vanderford. “I knew the first fight was super impressive and we were in the same warmup area so I knew it went by quick, and I was pretty sure that Edmen was going to get a contract.

“But as the night went on, I thought for sure that Maycee was going to get a contract and I thought that if it went to a decision maybe that gave me a little bit better of a chance, but deep down I really thought I did enough to get the contract, but unfortunately it just didn’t go my way.”

Paige VanZant and Austin Vanderford share a moment before Vanderford’s recent Contender Series appearance

Though he found himself in a rollicking back-and-forth battle, Vanderford says he didn’t require any extra medical attention following his fight and he’s ready to get back into the gym as soon as possible. And he is even more determined to make it to the UFC than ever.

Vanderford is confident that he’s on the promotion’s radar should they be looking for fighters to accept a bout on short notice, and that’s exactly the kind of opportunity Vanderford is ready to jump on even if he’s asked to fight close to his wedding, which is set to take place in late September.

“I think what we are looking it is just the best scenarios coming up,” said Vanderford. “Paige and I were just having a conversation, if God willing the UFC called and wanted me on a short-notice fight the weekend before our wedding, I’d take it.

“I’m a fighter and this is what I love to do. I literally have to have people tell me, ‘Hey, you gotta take a week off after this fight.’ Because I want to be back in the gym right now getting better and getting ready for the next fight.”

Looking ahead to the UFC calendar, the Octagon is scheduled to make international stops in Moscow, Russia, and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Would Vanderford — currently living in Oregon — be interested in taking a fight overseas when he’s supposed to be preparing for the big day?

“I’m doing it. I’m taking the opportunity, 100 percent. No second thought,” said Vanderford. “And the great thing is Paige is a fighter and is in the UFC and she understands and we both understand that and she supports me on that. No doubt.

“The heartbreaking part about this whole experience is this has been my lifelong dream to be in the UFC and this is what I want so much in life, and to have it right there in your hands and kind of have it taken away, it just hurts and it sucks, and it’s awesome to win and I’m happy about all that, but it’s kind of a bittersweet situation. So if I had the opportunity to do that, I’m taking it for sure.”

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