It’s been a long, long time since the UK has had any serious MMA Heavyweight fighters to get excited about but Stuart Austin is looking to change all of that. The six foot three, two hundred and thirty five pounder has been steam rolling his way through the UK regional scene picking up seven wins on the bounce and a Painpit Heavyweight Title before getting signed up to US promotion Bellator. Austin made his promotional debut at Bellator 119 in Ontario, Canada and was successful in picking up a first round win over Craig Hudson.
“I feel good about the win but am only just starting my career so I am trying to keep this in perspective and look for the next challenge” said the humbled 25 year old. It’s very refreshing to speak to a fighter who is so calm and collective about his future but also quite unnerving knowing how dangerous he is when the cage door is slammed shut behind him. Austin has lived to some extent in the shadows of his brother who was a member of the Team GB Judo team at London 2012 so has grown up naturally competitive and is now looking to accelerate his success past his brothers.
Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise for Austin to be competing in one of the less competitive weight classes which has earned him international opportunities so early on in his career but he has grasped it with both hands. When asked about fighting overseas he had a very ying and yang answer “Fighting overseas is an inconvience and a privilege. You will be in a foreign environment leading up to the fight but the rewards are bigger.” And he certainly reaped in those rewards with a great performance ending with him sinking in a rear naked choke to stop his opponent at 4:56 of the first round.
The pay rewards of fighting abroad also are a very attractive proposition for young up and coming fighters “Bellator are paying me significantly more than I was earning in the UK. I have the potential to earn very good money based upon my performance and results.” It is always encouraging to see local fighters reaping higher pay checks and opening the doors to potential sponsors, but for Stuart sponsors have always been a two way thing. “Sponsors can be a massive help in your career, but fighters should be realistic in who they approach. Too many fighters expect to be sponsored for little achievement, you have to offer your sponsors something in return and have a good relationship with them.”
A product of the Trojan Free Fight Team Stuart is constantly mixing it up with a real mix of UKMMA talent from veterans (Paul Sutherland, Che Mills) to the up and comers (Mario Saeed) which he feels is very important to his growth as a martial artist. “If you don’t train with people who challenge you then you are not going to improve. Trojan is full of good fighters who want to improve, we also get lots of people who visit for sparring days making it an intense place to train.” And having the opportunity to fight in Canada Stuart has also potentially opened the door for some training across the pond at a future date, “I think going out to the US maybe a useful tool in the future to test myself against top guys in a different environment.”
So what is the reason behind the distinct lack of Heavyweights coming up through the ranks and gaining the internationally opportunities that Stuart has managed to obtain in just seven fights? “I think Heavyweights get used to being able to smash lower quality opponents so that when they step up to higher levels of competition they struggle to adapt. I also think that even though their power is increased, their “chins” and ability to withstand punishment do not proportionally increase.”
Given the fact that he has just come off his biggest career win to date it would be fair to assume that all he cares about now is relaxing and catching up with friends/family after a big fight camp. But Stuart is keen to get back to action, “I would like to fight in August”, however, clearly hasn’t given much thought as to who could be next “I don’t really care who I fight. I just want to get more exposure, get more international experience and improve as a fighter.”
He is also open to the idea of competing in Bellator’s main unique selling point, the season tournaments. “I like the tournament format, it gives people the opportunity to gain exposure and guarantees a title shot.”
Make what you will of the young prospect and his unbeaten run in the Heavyweight division, but for those thinking that his ride so far has been anything other than tough he had these lasting words. “People think the Heavyweight division is easy, all I can say is that they are welcome to fight in it!”
Be sure to follow Stuart on twitter @Jaczaustin
Photo: Huw Fairclough, Short & Round