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Jared Vanderaa Is Turning The Corner

Jared Vanderaa Bounced Back To Get His First UFC Win And Now Feels Like He's Coming Into His Own

It was a cause for celebration in May for the Vanderaa family. Jared had just won his first UFC bout against Justin Tafa and picked up a Fight of the Night bonus in the process. His fiancée, Lauren, was soon to give birth to the couple’s second daughter, and their oldest daughter, well, she was just living her best life.

So what did the celebration look like?

“After my fight, I celebrated by getting my wisdom teeth pulled,” deadpanned Vanderaa. “Saturday, I wasn't in enough pain, so let me have some teeth pulling Wednesday. And the best part is, the novocaine didn't kick in, so I felt everything. That's how I party. I party hard.”

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Such is life as a prizefighter as you approach the big 3-0 and have kids. But Vanderaa isn’t complaining. Well, not too much. He still gets to do what he loves for a living and that living is pretty good for the Dana White’s Contender Series alum after he evened his UFC record at 1-1. 

Jared Vanderaa kicks Justin Tafa of New Zealand in their heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 22, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Jared Vanderaa kicks Justin Tafa of New Zealand in their heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 22, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

This weekend, he’s back in the UFC APEX in Las Vegas with another interesting matchup, this one against 14-0 Alexandr Romanov. A win keeps momentum on the Californian’s side while also likely garnering headlines for handing “King Kong” his first pro loss. But the way Vanderaa sees it, that unbeaten slate is a bit of a mirage.

“Honestly, if he sits there and tells himself that he won his last fight that he should have lost, that tells me he's not in the right mindset for this fight,” said Vanderaa of Romanov’s technical split decision over former Ultimate Fighter winner Juan Espino in April. “I saw someone who lost his last fight; I didn't see someone that won. And if he thinks he won that fight and he thinks he's gonna do the same s**t that worked for the other 13 fights, then he's gonna lose. It's simple as that.”

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Vanderaa knew the mindset of an unbeaten fighter for a spell early in his career as he went 5-0 with five finishes until running into Richard Odoms in June 2017.

“I knew it was gonna be a hard fight and I think there was a level of immaturity career wise where I jumped into a big LFA title fight with someone who was a veteran of the sport and we went all five rounds before he caught me in a standing kimura,” said Vanderaa. “Thinking about it, he wasn't setting things up in the sense of him picking me apart. It felt like a decent back and forth. And then he played the long game and caught me in the fifth. I felt that was just a lack of experience.”

Jared Vanderaa poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on May 21, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Jared Vanderaa poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on May 21, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Disappointing at the time, Vanderaa didn’t lock himself away from the world to sulk. He got back to the gym, weathered some more rocky waters, but by late-2018, he started to hit his stride. Two years later, he was a UFC fighter, and despite a loss to Serghei Spivac in his February debut, he feels he’s turned the corner in his career.

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“I'm past all that now,” he said. “Not saying I can't get beat, because I'm playing with the guys that are top level - there's no one above these guys. But I just don't want people thinking I'm a slouch.”

If there were skeptics, a lot of them disappeared after his three-round war with Tafa, and that line will get even shorter should he defeat Romanov in a fight he hopes will lead him to meetings with the likes of Ben Rothwell and Tanner Boser.

Then he might even celebrate a little.