Through fighting for Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) and training at Elevation Fight Team, Austin Hubbard’s goal of making the walk as an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter is on the horizon.
He already accomplished the hard part — getting noticed. Now, “Thud” is set to move on to the next phase on May 18 when he steps into the octagon for the first time.
The 10-2 lightweight debuts against Davi Ramos at UFC Fight Night 152. Before the bout, he spoke to John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock about his short stay with LFA, the process of joining the UFC, his teammates and his upcoming opponent.
Climbing the ladder
It’s no secret that LFA has emerged as the premier “feeder league” for the UFC. Stringing together strong performances in the promotion is a surefire way of gaining notoriety in the sport.
Hubbard was well aware of this fact when he signed on in 2018, and when he was fighting for the lightweight belt in December, he could sense how close he was to getting the call up.
“Nine times out of 10, you win that LFA belt, no matter what division it is, you’re going to the UFC or at least some bigger promotion,” Hubbard said.
It took just one fight for Hubbard to get the title shot. After compiling a 7-2 professional record in regional competition, he debuted in LFA against Harvey Park. Hubbard defeated Park on the scorecards in May and was fighting for a belt seven months later.
In his fight against Killys Mota, Hubbard was able to get the sixth stoppage win of his career, winning by TKO late in the fifth round to secure the vacant lightweight title.
Although he was motivated by his goal of being a UFC fighter, Hubbard attributes his success in LFA to a change in mindset.
“I kind of went through this little patch where I felt like I was playing it safe because I was like, I have to make it to the UFC,'” Hubbard said. “I felt like that was really holding me back.”
In order to remove the unnecessary pressure he was putting on himself, he had to put more emphasis on the fight and less on the result.
“My whole goal now is to make sure I leave it all in there, leave it in there and have fun,” Hubbard said. “I did not want to come out of any of my fights being like, ‘damn, I wish I could’ve done this,’ or ‘I should’ve done this more.'”
Getting the call
“Thud” didn’t get picked up by the UFC right after he won the LFA lightweight title. It took a great deal of patience on his end while his managers and coaches tried to get him a shot on the big stage.
“I was feeling pretty confident that was going to happen,” Hubbard said. “I knew at the very least I was going to get on the Contender Series, but that wasn’t until June.”
Being the champion, LFA wanted Hubbard to defend his title. The promotion offered him a fight on April 26, but he was advised to decline the bout and wait for a short-notice opportunity to pop up. The waiting turned out to be a bit longer than Hubbard expected.
“I was feeling real hopeful that something was going to come up sooner [than April 26],” he said. “I kept hearing things, you know, this person dropped out or this might be opening, but nothing was coming through.”
Despite the lack of news, Hubbard stayed ready. He said he’d been training for a fight since January, so when he got the call from his manager about the Ramos fight, he was ready to go.
Hubbard wasn’t expecting to get anything more than a short-notice spot for his UFC debut, but he was glad to have some time to let the news sink in before stepping into the octagon.
“I was not able to sleep very well at all for like the first probably three weeks [after] I found out,” Hubbard said. “I’d wake up wide awake in the middle of the night thinking about my fight for literally like two or three hours.”
The time before his debut also gave USADA a chance to check in on him, but when they came knocking, he wasn’t exactly quick to answer the door.
“They come early in the morning, and I sleep in the basement and I have roommates, but everyone was out of town,” Hubbard said. “He was at the door knocking for like a little over an hour before I finally woke up and like came upstairs and knew he was up there. So it’s probably not the best first impression, you know, but I got it done, got it over with and didn’t miss it.”
His first USADA test may not have gone perfectly, but it served as a reminder that his life will be changing now that he’s in the UFC.
“It kind of hit me really like … ‘Oh, this is all really happening,'” Hubbard said.
Training at Elevation Fight Team
Hubbard has taken full advantage of his time at Elevation Fight Team. When he’s not preparing for a fight of his own, he is helping other professionals train.
Most recently, “Thud” has been getting rounds in with fellow lightweight Justin Gaethje, who is coming off a knockout win over Edson Barboza.
“I was one of his main training partners for that camp,” Hubbard said. “I can’t even count how many rounds we’ve done together getting him ready for that camp and then him now helping me with this fight.”
Other fighters such as Drew Dober, Cory Sandhagen, Carrington Banks and Le’Ville Simpson have helped Hubbard along the way, but UFC veteran Neil Magny has left a lasting impression on him. He refers to the welterweight fighter as “practically a big brother.”
“When I first moved out here and decided to move to Colorado, he kind of took me under his wing,” Hubbard said. “We didn’t really know each other all that well, but he gave me a place to live.”
Over time, the two fighters developed a lasting bond.
“He’s at pretty much every one of my fights,” Hubbard said. “He helps me so much like with the fight game and life itself, you know. We’ve really become like great friends in and outside of the cage.”
Magny is scheduled to compete in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 152 against Vicente Luque, making Hubbard’s first trip to the octagon even more special.
“To make my debut with him, it’s such an honor and dream come true for me,” he said.
Austin Hubbard vs. Davi Ramos
Hubbard’s opponent has significantly more UFC experience than him. The 32-year-old Ramos has competed four times in the octagon, and is riding a three-fight winning streak since he dropping his debut to Sergio Moraes.
Ramos is a decorated jiu-jitsu practitioner and has converted that skill set to MMA. His winning streak consists of three-straight rear naked chokes.
“I don’t think I’ve faced a challenge quite like him with him being such a high level ground guy,” Hubbard said.
In his lone stoppage loss, Hubbard was submitted by a rear naked choke in the second round. He has the ability to finish the fight with his own submissions, as evidenced by his three submission wins, but the game plan is to keep the match on the feet.
“It will be important to have good movement on my feet, pick him apart,” Hubbard said. “I’ve been known for good cardio and a hard pace, so I think it’s important for me to set that pace on him, and then drag him to deep waters, much like I did Killys [Mota].”
The bout between Hubbard and Ramos is set to take place on the main card of UFC Fight Night 152.
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.