Zac Pauga is quite seasoned for a 1-0 professional fighter.
This former NFL and professional rugby player trains with UFC heavyweights Alistair Overeem and Curtis Blaydes at Elevation Fight Team in Colorado. He faces a fellow undefeated light-heavyweight in Ashby Thomas at Legacy Fighting Alliance 98 in Park City, Kansas on Friday, Jan. 29.
Although the two share an identical record, Pauga is convinced their skill sets rank far apart.
“This isn’t disrespect to him [Thomas], but I would say it’s not really comparable. I train at the greatest gym on the planet,” Pauga said.
“He’s had one fight and one win and that’s cool, but our levels of experience and skills are just not the same.”
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Zac Pauga made three sports his profession
A three-sport professional athlete, Pauga carries a sense of confidence when he speaks. It makes sense since he is a perfect 6-0 between his amateur and professional mixed martial arts career.
The ironic part is Pauga’s confident attitude inside the cage stems from being forced out of another sport.
Pauga was recruited to Colorado State University to play football and later signed as an undrafted free agent to the Houston Texans in 2011. Pauga’s NFL career did come to an end after being cut.
The Colorado native rebounded quickly, playing professional rugby for Glendale Raptors and the Denver Stampede. His exit from professional rugby was a financial decision.
Pauga, who is a police officer in Colorado, decided to find a career where he could make more money. He first was introduced to MMA through jiu-jitsu. After training for a year, he started rolling with Blaydes.
That’s when Pauga realized he showed potential.
“I’m definitely on a different level just because where I came from, I played in the NFL. I have that experience of playing a sport at the highest level, just the physical qualities that it took,” Pauga said. “I have the work ethic that comes from getting cut like that. I know what it’s like to achieve your dream and have it taken away from you. That’s just the attitude I take into fighting everyday now. “
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There are times Pauga wished he stuck with wrestling more back in high school. He still embraces his journey to this point. It’s what got him to this point.
Pauga is a proven athlete and now he is trying to show the world he is more than an athlete, but a fighter. Friday night is another opportunity to do so.
“My background, what I’ve gone through is what makes me the fighter I am today,” Pauga said. “I couldn’t have skipped any of it. I couldn’t have just started fighting and be as good as I’m going to be.”
To see MyMMANews’ full interview with Zac Pauga, click on the video above.
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