In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Those are words UFC bantamweight prospect Hunter Azure takes to heart, especially now as the father of a young son. It’s easy to miss those parenting moments while being a professional athlete at the highest level of his sport who is chasing a championship, but Azure is settling in nicely by slowing things down.
“It's just a day-by-day thing,” he said. “I try to get better each day no matter what it is. I try to improve on everything. We get to train every day, we have things written down, scores we beat, so we get a lot to go off of and just try to improve. But I also enjoy my family time, so I try to slow things down, enjoy it and not look too far ahead. A lot of us think we're living the dream right now, so we're happy and stuff, but we're trying to live life too fast. So I just try to slow it down and enjoy it. I love training and fighting, so I'm trying to enjoy the camp as well and have fun with it.”
Watch UFC Fight Night: Vettori vs Holland Main Card Special On ABC and ESPN+
On Saturday, Azure puts his foot on the gas pedal again for 15 minutes or less when he faces unbeaten Jack Shore in Las Vegas. It’s the Montana native’s first fight since rebounding from the first loss of his career by beating Cole Smith last September. It was a satisfying victory for the 29-year-old, who now stands with a 9-1 pro MMA record.
“That was the big thing I was looking forward to after the (Brian) Kelleher fight was just getting back in there, getting that win, getting back in the win column and just being able to shake that last loss off so I can just continue chipping away,” he said.
The win over Smith was the type of swarming and punishing victory we’ve come to expect from Azure, who earned a UFC contract in 2019 by decisioning Christian Ocon on Dana White’s Contender Series. And even though he lost his perfect record to veteran Brian Kelleher last May, his efforts earned him a Fight of the Night bonus. Now, after defeating Smith, it’s another high-profile matchup that he was eager to accept.
MORE: Best Moments: Kevin Holland | Bonus Résumé: Jim Miller | Joe Solecki | Fighters On The Rise | Da-un Jung | Scott Holtzman | Daniel Rodriguez | Marvin Vettori: No One Can Stop Me | Mackenzie Dern | Arnold Allen
“I look forward to any fight,” he laughs. “I try not to pick and choose. Whoever they offer me and they want to throw at me, I accept the offer and I'm ready to go. But Shore is another good name and an up and comer. He's undefeated, so that's just a great one to have under my belt to beat him and give him his first loss. It's exciting and just gives me the energy and drive and focus to continue to grow myself and get better as well.”
Azure isn’t too far removed from getting his first loss, so he remembers how it feels to think no one was ever going to take that “0” away.
“We're all fighters,” he said. “We all think we're tough, we all think we're the best, we believe it, so it's good to go out and show it. But carrying that zero around, he's probably riding pretty high right now and thinking he's unbeatable, but in the UFC there's plenty of tough people that can humble you, so you just gotta keep at it. There's not a lot of people that stay undefeated in this sport.”
No there’s not, so it’s what a fighter does after a loss that shows how far he or she can go in the sport. Azure already put the Kelleher fight in the rearview mirror, now he’s ready for bigger and better things after his weekend meeting with Mr. Shore.
“After this win and I get this under my belt, I definitely want to start looking up and getting some names,” he said. “My main goal right now is to get into that Top 15 and obviously to be the UFC champion, but it's short goals first and I'm taking it a fight at a time. I'm doing some studying right now and seeing how it's gonna look after this fight, but when it plays out, I'm sure I'll have a name ready to go that I want to fight.”