Brad Katona is no stranger to tough competition, but believes Hunter Azure is.
Katona, 27, said Azure has yet to be truly tested in his career and hasn’t had to deal with much adversity inside the cage.
“If you look at the guys he faced coming up, and even his last fight, there was a big skill differential. He was significantly better than them,” said Katona in an interview.
“He’s never been losing and had to come back from it. I had to do that in the Bryce Mitchell fight where it was split going into the third and I was losing that third round, and I had to turn it around. Moments like that reassure you of your toughness and your resilience. I don’t think he’s had to face that yet in his career, and when you first do you never know how someone’s going to react.
Katona said he’s been training at the elite Irish facility full-time, not only for fight camps, which has allowed him to make massive strides.
“I’m living there and training year-round with all those killers, and I think that’s the big differentiator,” said Katona.
“I’m staying year-round at an elite gym, as opposed to just coming in for training camps. And I think that’s how you should do it, getting that learning and developmental time out of camp.”
Katona is coming in off the first loss of his career, a unanimous decision defeat at the hands of elite wrestler Merab Dvalishvili.
Now facing another tough wrestler in Azure, Katona said he and his coach, John Kavanagh, have been working hard to fill the holes Dvalishvili exploited in his last contest, while also analyzing and correcting other potential areas of weakness.
“It’s not just going back on the holes Dvalishvili exploited, obviously we want to fix those, but it’s about trying to make more of those mistakes happen in the gym, and kind of force out those holes and then patch them,” said Katona.
“We really looked at my game under a detailed microscope and thought about how we would beat me, and then try to make a defence for that.”
Azure is Fight Ready
Not only does Azure, 27, already possess an elite wrestling background, he also made the move to Fight Ready for this training camp, home of one of the best wrestlers in the UFC in Henry Cejudo.
Previously at The MMA Lab, Azure said the shift to Fight Ready has really brought him back to his comfort zone.
“It’s been great; it kind of brought me back to my roots and where I started from,” said Azure in an interview.
“The wrestling level there is just such high-class with the coaches they have. It just brought me back to where I’m comfortable.”
Azure enters the UFC octagon for the first time coming off a contract-winning performance on the most recent season of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, a unanimous decision triumph over Chris Ocon.
Azure said the whole Contender Series experience was something he really needed to endure in order to further his career and prepare him for life on the big stage.
“It was a great experience, and something I definitely needed to get under me with that type of pressure and exposure,” said Azure.
“Sitting in that chair afterwards with four finishes that night, and my fight being the only one that went to a decision, I wasn’t feeling very lucky. I didn’t know if I was going to get the contract that night, but with two good fighters in myself and Ocon, I ended up getting the contract too. I knew my time was coming and I just had to keep winning.”
So far in his career, Azure has yet to taste defeat, with four his seven wins coming before the final bell. Additionally, he entered the professional ranks coming off an impressive amateur career with a record of 8-1.
Whether it’s a finish or a decision, Azure said he believes he will come out on top in his UFC debut in dominant fashion Saturday night.
“With my striking and wrestling getting much better and mixing it together, I can definitely see myself finishing him,” said Azure.
“But if I don’t get that finish, and I’m not going to rush it, I’m definitely going to just dominate him for three rounds.”
“I’d definitely like to thank all my coaches, teammates, and training partners for putting in the work with me at Fight Ready, and my strength and conditioning coaches at NeuroForce1.” Follow Azure on social media: FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM