The Ultimate Fighter
When I got the email that Hunter Azure wasn’t going to make it to his interview on April 10, it wasn’t the first time I had something like this postponed. But as far as the purpose for it being rescheduled, this was the best reason ever.
Azure was taking his lady, Sage, to the hospital, and soon, Wilder Azure joined the happy family.
“It's awesome,” said the beaming new dad. “When he was born, it's like I feel when I'm winning a fight, too. It gave me that good energy and adrenaline. Fatherhood has been awesome, and he's been such a good baby to where I haven't missed a night of sleep yet.”
Knock wood for the UFC bantamweight, because those sleepless nights will be coming soon enough. And though having a baby in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic is stressful as it is, it could have been worse, considering that Azure was originally scheduled to be fighting on April 18 before the UFC 249 card got postponed. Call that a silver lining.
“I was ready to fight on Saturday as scheduled, which would have been only a week after the baby,” he said. “My head was clear and everything for it, but until I experienced it, I didn't know how tired I was gonna be and how much different it was, just being in the hospital all night. It was just a crazy experience. There's so much going on, but at the same time, I'm a chill dude where I keep to myself and don't let things bother me too much, so I think it would have been fine.”
Azure is a calm, cool and collected sort in the Octagon. Was it the same in the delivery room?
“Yeah, I was pretty good,” he laughs. “I knew I had to be there for my girl for whatever she needed help with. I had a tough, long camp, but then seeing her go through that, I was like, 'Yeah, I can't be complaining.'”
No matter when it happens, fatherhood will change you. Immediately. The 28-year-old Montana native agrees completely.
“Yeah, for sure,” he said. “Hearing a cry or a little noise in the middle of the night, now I'm waking up like, 'Oh, what's wrong?' It definitely puts a different perspective in my mind. I don't even know how to explain it. It changed overnight.”
Yet the big question for the former wrestler is…does Wilder have his wrestling singlet yet?
“It's too early right now, but it won't be too long, I'm sure, until we're getting him one,” laughs Azure, who is staying sharp for the moment the UFC gets in touch with him for a fight.
“I'm staying ready, just waiting for the call,” he said. “I already had a long camp, a good eight weeks, my longest camp yet. I took a few days off, enjoyed it, and got back to it again. I'm keeping my weight good, the diet clean, and hopefully I get that call soon.”
When he does, it will be a chance to build on the positive momentum he got from his UFC debut win over former TUF winner Brad Katona last September. It was a solid win over a tough foe for the Dana White’s Contender Series graduate, and after fighting and winning four times last year, he earned a little R&R.
“I definitely enjoyed the victory and took a little bit of time off because I had a busy year,” he said. “But the main thing I enjoyed from having the break was that I was finally able to learn and not go into practice with a fight mentality. I was able to go in there and have fun and just learn and try things, be other people's partner for their fights and I was able to pick up new tools.”
He also enjoyed the holidays, got a new place with Sage and prepared for the arrival of their son. Not a bad year to say the least, especially after putting together a UFC performance that showed no sign of the first time Octagon jitters.
“I was for sure nervous, but if you don't have those little nerves before going there, something's gotta be wrong,” he said. “It's just how you handle your emotions going out there and what you do with them. Everyone has those feelings; you've got to put them to use in the fight. So I definitely had jitters, but after they say 'Fight,' it's just fun after that.”
Azure is still having fun now as he settles into fatherhood, but he’s also ready to get back down to business, something fight fans appreciate about the no nonsense battler.
“The diehard fans and the ones who enjoy fighting, I feel like they respect and like people that are like Khabib (Nurmagomedov) and Matt Hughes, people that are there for what they signed up for, not to run around and do flips and stuff,” he said. “That's all exciting and entertaining, but we are in the fight game, and I try to use that energy just to focus on my fight and get the job done.”