Zac Pauga is the first to admit Terrance Jean-Jacques is his toughest test to date.
The unbeaten light-heavyweight is slated to face the former Division III All-American at Cage Warriors 126 in San Diego, California on Aug. 1. A grappler in his own right, Pauga is expecting roles to reverse for him this time around on.
“Usually I am trying to get my opponents to the ground and bring the grappling to them and this is the first time that’s actually what he wants to do,” Pauga said.
“This will definitely be my biggest test.”
Zac Pauga is relying on defensive wrestling
Pauga scored at least one takedown in all three of his professional bouts. He plans to stick more to his striking in his fourth appearance.
In addition to training MMA wrestling with his teammates at Elevation Fight Team in Colorado, Pauga is working with the Colorado Top Team School of Wrestling. The training room is filled with former collegiate national champions and All-Americans.
Jean-Jacques wrestled Division I for Rutgers University and the University of Iowa after claiming two high school state titles in Pennsylvania. He then transferred to Rhode Island, going 34-2 and finishing as runner-up at the Division III NCAA Championships in 2015.
Pauga’s wrestling background is not as extensive as his adversary, which is why he promises he won’t be shooting a takedown this time around. Pauga welcomes wrestling during the fight, but prefers a standup affair with Jean-Jacques.
“I’m not afraid to grapple with him, but I’m not going to say I’m going to shoot a double leg on him. I’m working with the best wrestlers in the world, working on my takedown defense,” Pauga said. “I think I could wrestle with him, but that would be just putting him where he’s comfortable and my goal is to put him where he’s the most uncomfortable.”
Building a brand
A potential win over Jean-Jacques brings notoriety as well. The former collegiate athlete signed a developmental deal with WWE in April 2016.
Being a professional before mixed martial arts, Pauga can relate to his opponent. Pauga played Division I football at Colorado State University and later signed as an un-drafted free agent with the Houston Texans in 2011.
After being cut from the team, he rebounded by playing professional rugby for Glendale Raptors and the Denver Stampede. With Jean-Jacques’ wrestling background, he is a notable name for Pauga to add to his record.
“To the people that matter, the higher ups, the matchmakers in the UFC and Belaltor, they can look at this fight and be like, ‘OK, he’s fought a wrestler, he’s beat a wrestler, we don’t have to worry about bringing in some guy that has been held down for three rounds and make it a boring fight,’” Pauga said. “I’m trying to fight the best, so I’ll be ready when I get to the league.”
Pauga prides himself on being well rounded. It’s the same reason he is confident in his striking against Jean-Jacques.
Pauga feels differently about his opponent, claiming the former WWE signee is too reliant on his wrestling ability. The Colorado native plans to expose his opponent’s game under the Cage Warriors banner.
Pauga is eying a UFC contract and is confident a dominant win over Jean-Jacques on UFC Fight Pass will get him there.
“I feel like if I go out there and put away a decorated wrestler, seeing I’m 4-0, with my background, with who I train with, I feel like I can get a shot in the UFC,” Pauga said. “If not, I’m one fight away. At 5-0, I don’t know what else the UFC is looking for at these heavier weight classes.”
Connor Northrup once covered municipal meetings and promised himself never again. He is now combining his passion for Mixed Martial Arts and reporting all into one.