Heavyweight Jared Vanderaa is about to be introduced to a much wider fan base. Vanderaa (10-4) is set to throw down on the Contender Series on September 22, against Oscar Ivan Cota. “The Mountain” trains under Dan Henderson, and has worked with the likes of Dominick Reyes in the past (ahead of the Jon Jones fight). He also owns a wry sense of humor, which fans should appreciate.
Ahead of his Contender Series opportunity, we caught up with the SMASH Global heavyweight champ, who told us that despite the quarantine, “I’m busy as all hell, and I’m not making any money. So nothing in my life has changed.”
“During this quarantine time, I decided to make the smart business decision of opening my own gym. Genius move on my part,” Vanderaa revealed. “No one else is doing it, everyone is shutting down, I’m like ‘you know what, it’s a great time, the market is clear to open up a gym.’ Yeah, smartest business decision I’ve made yet.”
We warned you about that sense of humor.
Vanderaa got his start in MMA through wrestling. In his younger days, he did watch the sport, but only so much. Same as now, in fact — in essence, the coach in him comes out.
“Don’t block with your face! Check a damn kick!,” Vanderaa laughed, noting his reaction to watching fights on TV. “It kind of takes me out of it a little bit, from enjoying fights.”
“I do watch the heavyweight division, for obvious reasons. Gotta see who my opponents are,” he admitted. “I do always have my fandom of your classic fighters, Arlovski, JDS, stuff like that.”
Outside of that and light heavyweight, where he previously competed, however, Vanderaa doesn’t watch fights unless someone he knows personally is fighting, like “Chito” Vera, who he calls a “phenomenal guy,” when he defeated Sean O’Malley recently.
Vanderaa trains with Dan Henderson, who, he says, still stops by the gym for some wrestling work. Which leads to something of a humbling experience, apparently.
“I’m tired of getting thrown every time I shoot. I believe it’s the height difference, he’s like 4″2, I’m 6″4, that’s a long drop for a shot. And Dan’s part brick, so it does not work out well,” Vanderaa explained.
“He’s always been a dense human being, so every time he hit people, it was just stupid. Now he has old man strength, so it adds on to the density,” he added. “You got older, now you hit harder. What the f*ck?”
The heavyweight is also a bit of a self-admitted nerd. A big one, actually. “I’ve been watching anime since I was like 3, 4,” he told us.
“I’m happy that anime has kind of got a little more mainstream, but I do hate hearing these hipsters like ‘I’ve been a fan since Bleach, Naruto.’ Oh, how cute. I’ve been a fan since Sailor Moon, Gundam Wing, Dragon Ball. The OG stuff,” he stated. “It doesn’t give you any more points because you liked it more. But yeah, I’m a giant nerd. Outside of being a nerd, I’m also giant into the occult. I’m basically gothic without the makeup all the time.”
The Adesanya of the heavyweights? Minus the colorful hair maybe? In any case, as fun as Vanderaa is, he does have a tough fight coming up against Cota. Who he says definitely has a chin on him.
“I feel like I could bring a brick to this fight, beat him over the head with it several times, and he still stands,” observed Vanderaa. There’s that, and what Vanderaa referred to as a Mexican boxing mindset, but in MMA. In short, Cota is one tough challenge.
That said, Vanderaa admits that he thrives off negative emotion. “It’s bitter, it’s evil, mixed emotions all the time. That’s where I’m at,” he said, when asked about how he’s looking at the Contender Series. If that’s the key to success, let’s hope he stays negative right up until he has his hand raised.
Jared Vanderaa faces Oscar Ivan Cota on Dana White’s Contender Series on September 22. The event airs on ESPN+, and on UFC Fight Pass in Canada and elsewhere.