The Ultimate Fighter 30 alum Zac Pauga, unlike many of the show’s notables, loved his time on the reality fighting series.
Pauga (5-1) returns to action at UFC Vegas 69 this weekend, moving down to the light heavyweight division. Speaking to The Top Turtle Podcast on Cageside Press, Pauga reflected on his time on the show, and was upbeat about the experience.
“It was great for me. I loved it. I’m a little older, I’m more mature but to be able to go in for six weeks, and do nothing but think about fighting and training, someone pays all your bills, gets you all your food, anything you ask for you get— it was a vacation for me,” Pauga stated. “Yesterday I think was a year since I went into the house, and to be honest I miss it. I miss doing nothing but eat, sleep, train every single day.”
“It was great, obviously I took advantage of the opportunity and used the most of it, but I do hear people say how hard it was, or they would never do it again. I don’t know, I liked it. It wasn’t that bad.”
Zac Pauga’s route to the UFC took him through Cage Warriors and LFA, two promotions that have produced a bountiful harvest of UFC fighters. Those are the exact organizations, in fact, that you would want to use to move straight into the UFC proper — which begs the question, why go through TUF?
“It was just luck that they wanted to do a heavyweight season,” Pauga explained, noting that the avenues into the UFC are much more restricted these days. “The only ways in are [Dana White’s Contender Series] or a short-notice fight. They have so many fighters now that that’s the only way in. And it was like, December of 2021, and the next Contenders season was in August.”
“So either way, it was keep fighting on the regional scene, or go do this show that’s going to put my name out there and get me even more recognition, which I believe I’m going to win anyway and get into the UFC guaranteed.”
“Contender’s great, Contender’s really cool but it’s a hard fight that you still have no guarantees [for],” Pauga continued. “Maybe you have to grind out a win, maybe your opponent’s really good and you have to grind out a boring victory, and Dana just tells you to hit the road. So it was a no-brainer when they were doing a heavyweight season for me to just go in there, perform the way I knew I was going to, and get my name out there and get my fans to know me a little bit better than they would in a five minute blurb on Contender.”
Pauga faces Jordan Wright in his move down to 205lbs at UFC Vegas 69 on Saturday night. Light heavyweight is where the bulk of his professional career has been, though he was active as a heavyweight in his amateur days.
Moving forward, Pauga is down for both, but light heavyweight is where he expects to make his run.
“Light heavyweight’s where I plan to win the belt at. That’s where I compete the best at,” Pauga said. “But when I got in the cage last August, I was 245 pounds. I cut a lot of weight, and I think that gives me a great opportunity to win at light heavyweight, but it does restrict how often I can fight a year. I’m down for short-notice heavyweight fights, but where I want to get ranked, where I want to make a run at, is light heavyweight.”
Zac Pauga faces Jordan Wright in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 69 on Saturday, February 18, 2023 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.