Okay, let’s get this out of the way immediately. “Awesomely Awesome”. It’s not your typical fight game nickname; in fact, it’s not your typical nickname in any walk of life. But it belongs to UFC newcomer Pat Audinwood, and he’s sticking with it.
“Everybody was so into it, and they were like ‘dude, you’ve got to keep it,’” said the lightweight prospect, who was handed the moniker on the spur of the moment before a fight by his cousin, WEC vet John Franchi. “I was like, ‘you know what? It fits me,’ and it helps keep things light. I’m not one of those guys that needs a killer nickname like “Bad Ass” Pat Audinwood. I think it rolls off the tongue perfect for me and plays into my whole personality.”
And within a few seconds of conversation, you’ll see that he’s right. Just 24 years old, Audinwood doesn’t carry himself as if the weight of the world is on his shoulders heading into his Octagon debut on Saturday against Thiago Tavares. Dare I say he sounds like he’s enjoying the whole process?
“It’s another day at work,” he laughs.
But his day in Indianapolis this weekend is anything but ordinary. Unbeaten in ten pro MMA bouts (9-0-1), Audinwood is going to be taking a major leap from the local circuit and events entitled “Cage Masters”, “Rumble on The Rez”, and “American Steel Cagefighting”, to the biggest organization in the game, and he’s getting a legit contender in Thiago Tavares as his first opponent to boot. Yet Audinwood is remarkably calm about the whole process, something he owes to his time around his cousin during WEC events.
“It’s been nice because I’ve been at all his fights and was able to experience everything for myself, so nothing’s really going to surprise me,” he said. “We’ve been helping each other from the beginning, so that aspect of the fight has been pretty easy.”
As for the daunting task of squaring off against Brazil’s Tavares, again, he’s unmoved by the prospect, choosing instead to embrace the opportunity to make an immediate statement to the world in his Octagon debut.
“I don’t think it’s any test too far from reach for me to be able to handle,” said Audinwood of fighting Tavares. “I think it should be a good test for me. I shot up the ranks and did all the little shows and now I’m able to come in and test my skills and see where I actually am. He’s one of those people that are gonna do that for me, so I’m pretty pumped about the matchup. And that’s the name of the game. You’re not in this to just fight no names your whole life, and I’m expecting that if I do go out there and show a great fight and end up putting him out, I am gonna get another tough dude right after that, so I’m excited about the whole process. It’s really gratifying and I can’t wait.”
So where does it all come from? If you look a little deeper, it’s not surprising that Audinwood is more than ready for 15 minutes of battle with Tavares. He may have been born into it, as his cousins and uncle have all competed in wrestling and / or the fight game, and eventually, it was inevitable that the Corning, New York native would follow suit.
“John’s family is full of fighters,” said Audinwood. “His dad fought and his brother fought, so I was around it forever, and I just never really checked into it. But John had just graduated college and he was looking for his next step, and I was working and doing random stuff. He asked me to come along and try it out, it was fun, and I was like ‘holy crap, this is what I need to be doing.’”
That meant no more DJ work with his father, and no more work at Abercrombie and Fitch, where he was about to become a model before getting enough of a ribbing from Franchi that he blew off the gig to focus on fighting.
“I was close,” he laughed, and he admits that after some particularly rough sparring sessions he did wonder if he made the right decision. “Sometimes I’m like I don’t know if I picked the right one. I like working out and stuff, but I was always getting my butt kicked. I used to get coaxed to go in there and get beat up, but it was fine and it was always fun. I always asked for more for some odd reason. That was a good time.”
Eventually, Audinwood started turning the tables on those beatdowns, and the next step was taking his talents to the pros. He submitted Chris Murphy in the second round in his debut in October of 2007, and what began as a lark turned into a career.
“I just wanted to see if it was something I’d be able to do. As time went on, it just got more and more serious and I kept seeing a lot of growth in my skills, and all of a sudden John jumps into the WEC and I’m like, all right, this is definitely where I need to be,” he said.
Nearly three years later, he’s where he needs to be once again, in the UFC. And to follow in the steps of another upstate New York phenom, Jon Jones, he’ll have to make a big impression against Tavares, or at the very least, something awesomely awesome.
“I’m excited to fight somebody who’s gonna come out there and bring it because that’s the same thing I’m planning to do to him, and we’re gonna see which of the bullies win,” said Audinwood. “I want him on his best game and I’m not expecting anything less.”