Sikjitsu featherweight Austin Arnett will return to the cage against Elias Boudegzdame later this month at UAE Warriors 10.
Austin Arnett has spent the past several years competing inside the confines of the UFC octagon. The featherweight, who trains with the likes of Michael Chiesa and Tyler McGuire at Sikjitsu in Spokane, Washington, certainly didn’t get an easy run in the promotion. Paired against the likes of Hakeem Dawodu and Cory Sandhagen, Arnett saw a couple of losses pile up, leading to his release from the company last year.
Not before he earned a win over Humberto Bandenay at UFC Argentina, part of a virtual world tour he found himself on during his UFC tenure.
He’ll continue to traverse the globe when he returns to the cage later this month in Abu Dhabi at UAE Warriors 10. It will be Arnett’s first fight since his UFC release, after he was forced out of a previous bout against Rolando Dy, also for UAE Warriors.
“I had a neck injury,” Arnett explained, speaking to Cageside Press recently, “so I had to step back a little bit. Get healthy, do my physical therapy. I didn’t need surgery or anything, which was a relief, but I had some pretty extensive physical therapy to go through to get it all healed up. But I’m feeling great now, and excited to finally get back in the cage and start fighting again.”
With about a year between fights — his last, in the UFC, came against Shane Young at UFC 234 in February 2019 — it’s been tough, Arnett admitted.
“Just because I was kind of in limbo with the UFC for months,” he said. “They were going to cut me, they weren’t going to cut me, you’re going to get another fight, no you’re not going to get another fight — I just didn’t know what their plan was, and so I couldn’t do anything, I was just kind of waiting to see what was going to happen. Then they finally decided they were going to release me. Looking back, I wish they would have done it right away, so I could have got some fights in.”
The whole process, from his last fight until his release, took five to six months. “After that, I started getting on the hunt for a fight, but I’m at a point where I don’t just want to take any fights, and I’m not going to fight for cheap. I want to get paid a decent amount of money to do this, otherwise it’s just not worth it to me.”
It took a bit of time, but Arnett was able to find some promotions offering the right terms. One of them, clearly, was UAE Warriors. “I had a good contract with them originally with the Dy fight, and I got a bit better one here that I’m taking on the 31st.”
The Dy fight was expected to be a title fight. This time out, Arnett faces Elias Boudegzdame — a former featherweight champion for Brave CF. It’s a one fight deal, though presumably it could lead to a fight with Do Gyeom Lee, who won the promotion’s featherweight belt when he stepped up in place of Arnett this past October.
Arnett, however, is taking things one fight at a time. “I’m going to fight this fight, I’m going to see what else is out there. There’s a lot of organizations, there’s a lot of stuff going on right now in the MMA world, between Bellator, PFL, and ONE— there’s a lot of different options at the moment right now.”
The key, he added, is to get back on the winning track. “I don’t want to get locked in on a long-term contract. I just kind of want to be fight-by-fight right now, then after each one, re-assess, see what’s out there, and see what makes sense.”
The trip to Abu Dhabi for UAE Warriors 10 won’t be Arnett’s first visit to the region. While he competed in Canada, Australia, and Argentina for the UFC, he also did a Tour for the Troops which took him to the Middle East. “We didn’t go to Abu Dhabi, but we were all around that. We were in Aman Jordan, and Egypt. So I’ve been to the Middle East before, so I’ve kind of experienced a little bit of that kind of culture out there.”
“I’m a traveler” Arnett said with a laugh when frequent flyer miles were brought up.
One downside to this trip, Arnett’s dad will miss the trek to Abu Dhabi. It’s the first time Arentt’s father will miss one of his fights, but the elder Arnett is recovering from heart surgery. However, UFC standout Michael Chiesa will be in his corner, as will coach Rich Little. A week earlier, Arnett will corner Chiesa at UFC Raleigh.
“It’s super exciting,” Arnett said of Chiesa’s first bout of 2020, against Rafael dos Anjos. “He was up there ranked top ten in the lightweight division, and then his body just grew and he got too big. He had to move up a weight class, so when you move up a weight class you kind of have to start over, building yourself back up. And that’s what he’s been doing. He got his first two wins at 170, versus Diego [Sanchez] and Carlos Condit. Now he’s going to be fighting the number five or six ranked guy in the world at 170. So this will show where he’s at in the division.”
Arnett feels his teammate is as sharp as ever at welterweight. “I’m excited to see what he can do to RDA. [RDA]’s the guy that, if you beat him, you’re ready for a title fight. That’s what Dana [White] has said the last couple years about RDA. He’s a marker to see where you’re at in the division. If Mike can get by him, I think that puts him in the top ten, another win or two away from fighting for a title.”
As for his own fight, Arnett broke down his opponent, suggesting the biggest danger was likely on the mat.
“His striking is decent. He’s not a knockout artist or anything,” Arnett observed. But while Boudegzdame’s stand-up might be pretty basic, “off his back, he’s got a pretty dynamic guard game. That’s a point of emphasis for me, in this whole training camp.”
Arnett is aware that Boudegzdame likes to pull guard and fight off his back. “I’m not going to be scared to go to the ground with him, I’ve just got to be on my A-game and not make any stupid mistakes and let him throw up any submissions,” he stated.
While the travel could also complicate matters, the upside is, with all that previous UFC experience, Arnett is more than ready.
Outside the fight business, meanwhile, Arnett, like many others, has become hooked on The Mandalorian, the Disney+ show set in the Star Wars universe. And the last two episodes sealed the deal. “I liked it, leading up to those last two episodes. I thought it was good,” said Arnett. “But the last two episodes got me completely hooked. They’re the best episodes of the whole season by far. It sets it up really nice for the next season.”
If you haven’t seen it, tune in. And definitely tune in for UAE Warriors 10 on January 31 in Abu Dhabi, where Arnett makes his return to the cage.