Video interview with Jordan Vucenic above
When Cage Warriors champion Jordan Vucenic finished James Hendin via 2nd-round standing rear-naked choke to successfully defend his featherweight title in March, fans and media speculated whether it would be the last time “The Epidemic” would don the famous yellow gloves that have become synonymous with the leading UK promotion.
Vucenic could have booked his ticket to the UFC with that win. I think if the offer is there, he should go.— Ian O'Neill (@ioneillmma) March 18, 2022
Hughes vs. Charriere 2 in Belfast. #CW134
That's 7 in a row for Cage Warriors featherweight champion Jordan Vucenic.— Andy Stevenson (@andyste123) March 18, 2022
As much as I need to see that Hughes rematch, I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if the UFC come calling.
He's earned it! #CW134
Vucenic does it again. People need to put more respect on this guy’s name. Hendin deserves a lot of credit stepping up on such short notice too. #CW134— Peter Carroll (@PetesyCarroll) March 18, 2022
It seemed that Vucenic had ticked all the standard boxes to punch his ticket to the UFC, though a blockbuster showdown with Cage Warriors interim champion Paul Hughes would be left on the table.
Vucenic and Hughes are both UFC bound!— Seán Sheehan (@SeanSheehanBA) March 18, 2022
Let's see them scrap it out over 5 rounds first!
Four months on and despite expectations, the UFC call hasn’t come for the Englishman. Instead, Vucenic is booked for a November date vs Hughes, a bout billed as one of the most highly anticipated rematches in the promotion’s history.
While Vucenic vs Hughes 2 is a mouth-watering matchup for UK and Irish fans, there is a possibility that it could serve as Vucenic’s swan song.
Though just 26 years old, Vucenic says he is prepared to step away from the sport if a second win over Hughes doesn’t prove enough to warrant signing by Dana White and company.
“I’ve got 2 young kids that depend on me, and the pay I’m getting at the minute for these big, long camps, it just can’t cut it. I can’t keep doing it. I can’t keep scraping on by and be desperate for other people’s help” Vucenic explained to MyMMANews.com.
“I’m desperate on sponsors helping me to be able to fight. If I didn’t have sponsor, I couldn’t fight. It’s as simple as that. To raise two kids, keep a house going, it takes a lot more than people realize.
For Vucenic, it’s not simply about making money, but pitting his skillset against the best in the world. Since beginning his MMA journey, the end goal has been UFC. He knew the path to get there wouldn’t be an affluent one, but there was a goal in sight of both attempting to become the best in the world and making a decent living doing so.
“It’s almost like I’m on an apprenticeship wage. You can’t stay on an apprenticeship wage forever. You need to learn the trade, and I can’t keep doing it forever. I’ve given 9 years to this point. It’s always been good when it’s just been me, but now it’s not just me. It’s me and my boys. They come first at the end of the day.”
“If I lose this fight, I have building to do again. I’ve got to work my way up, because I’m not going to go to the UFC because I’ve lost the fight. But if I win this fight, and the UFC don’t take me, I probably am [going to retire].”
With Bellator and PFL providing opportunities for European fighters to make decent money, many may wonder why Vucenic wouldn’t pursue other opportunities if UFC aren’t interested. For Vucenic himself, the answer is simple.
“I got into this to be a UFC fighter, not to be Bellator or anything like this. I got into it to be a UFC fighter.”
“I’d love [my kids] when they’re older to say ‘my Dad’s a UFC fighter”. I wouldn’t want them to say ‘my Dad’s a Bellator fighter’. It’ just doesn’t have that same ring to it!”
Andy Stevenson is an MMA writer, interviewer, and occasional podcaster based in Dublin, Ireland.