VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Poplar native Hunter Azure (7-0) is set to make his UFC debut this weekend after securing a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series in July.
But before he immersed himself in training, he took a trip home to Montana
“Right before I started camp, I went home for like three days,” Azure said. “Did some fishing with my family and some of my close friends and just kind of relaxed my mind. I took my mind off the whole fight and the preparation before I had to lock in and get after it.”
And no one gets after it quite like the four-time high school state wrestling champion from Poplar. He’s been hard at work for the past seven weeks, preparing for Saturday at UFC Fight Night Vancouver, where he’s set to face Brad Katona – a former winner on the reality TV series “Ultimate Fighter” who is 1-1 since joining the UFC.
Katona (8-1) is coming off his first professional loss, dropping a unanimous decision to Merab Dvalishvili in May.
“He's a tough kid. He has good range and he's from a boxing background. But I'm in the AFC now, so I'm expecting a tough fight,” Azure said. “I can't overlook anyone, but just stylistically I love the matchup and I just feel like it’s going to be a bad night for him. And especially looking at his only loss in his last fight was to a wrestler. So I know that's just going to play a factor in the back of his mind, too.”
It’s the biggest fight of Azure’s career on a card featuring some of the biggest names in the sport like Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Justin Gaethje, who are headlining the card.
“It’s surreal,” Azure said. “I've watched both of them fight live before and just to have my first UFC fight with these two great guys fighting each other, that just brings extra energy to me. And it’s a big main event card where a lot of people will be tuning in, so that brings some fun to it, also.”
Azure feels the moment. But one thing he doesn’t feel is pressure.
“I made it to the big stage now, so it's just I get to go let loose, go get the wins,” Azure said. “The Dana White Contender series was a little more pressure. But now all that's behind me and it just took more pressure off me and I just get to relax more and just enjoy this moment and take it all in.”
Win, lose or draw, Azure wants to represent Montana the right way.
“I want to be great out there this weekend and just because I know I have a lot of support back home from the (Fort Peck) Reservation and the whole state of Montana,” Azure said. “I've got a lot of people out there that support me and messaging me good luck, so that's pretty awesome. I just want to keep Montana on my back 100 percent.”
UFC Fight Night: Vancouver begins at 6 p.m. (MST) and will be broadcast on ESPN+.