Heavyweight Jared Vanderaa made quite the impression at Dana White’s Contender Series earlier this month.
“The Mountain” earned a finish of Harry Hunsucker, won himself a UFC contract, and managed to pretty much book his UFC debut, all in one night.
It wasn’t easy. “I was expecting to play chess,” Vanderaa (11-4) told Cageside Press recently. Instead, he wound up “playing tic-tac-toe.” That’s thanks to original opponent Oscar Cota withdrawing from the fight.
Opponent Hunsucker “came out just swinging for the fences. I was expecting a guy that was trying to be a little more technical, maybe a little more sharper. I was like, ‘oh sh*t!’ It catches me by surprise, like that first major blitz, he had something going.”
It worked out in the end. And Vanderaa’s self-deprecating humor appears to have won him some fans. “Maybe my humor’s a little different,” he admitted, adding that he wasn’t entirely sure what he was allowed to say after the win. But amidst joking about his good looks, or lack thereof, after the fight, Vanderaa also called out Sergey Spivak.
The next day, the UFC called him to tell him he had the fight. Vanderaa was happy. His girlfriend, who had just put up with a long fight camp, wasn’t exactly thrilled. At least it’s just five weeks.
When it comes to the callout, “I really didn’t say anything negative about him as a person, I still haven’t yet, because as a person, I still don’t know.”
The reason behind it, rather, was because the pair had been booked in the past. Vanderaa had been lined up to challenge for a belt Spivak held in Ukraine.
“We were scheduled to fight, I think 2018. Maybe 2017. Around that time. I was scheduled to fight him, I wanted to fight him. He pulled out,” recalled Vanderaa. “I don’t know if it was him, his coaches. Or his manager. I don’t know if they’re like ‘hey, if you take this fight, it’s a tougher fight, but if you take these fights, it’s easier, and there’s a higher chance of you getting into the UFC.”
If it was Spivak’s manager or his coaches trying to make sure he got into the UFC, “then I don’t begrudge him,” said Vanderaa. “Now, if he chose, ‘no I don’t want to fight him,’ then that’s where I would have animosity towards him.”
From how quickly Spivak agreed to the fight in December, Vanderaa doesn’t believe that’s the case. And in the end, he added, “it worked out to my advantage.”
Watch our full interview with Jared Vanderaa above. Vanderaa will meet Sergey Spivak as part of UFC 256 on December 12, 2020 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.