Richie Vaculik's New Beginning

"If you’re a serious MMA fighter and you want to prove yourself and test yourself with the world’s best, the UFC is the only place to do it." - Richie Vaculik
UFC flyweight Richie VaculikIn the fight game, you take any advantage you can get: physical, psychological, whatever it takes. Sydney’s Richie Vaculik basically went in the other direction when trying out for the first season of The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes series in 2012, giving up any advantage he had to get a shot at a UFC contract by signing up as a lightweight competitor on the reality series.

Vaculik is a career-long bantamweight.

“It was too good of an opportunity not to take on,” he explains. “It’s always been a dream of mine to compete in the UFC, and I didn’t want to leave any stone unturned, so I applied for it, selected lightweight, went through the audition process, and got lucky and was chosen.”

Only a real fighter will call himself lucky while knowing that he had six weeks of training and fighting with monsters ahead of him, separated from family, friends, and the outside world as part of the deal. And as his custom, Vaculik tried to look at the bright side.

“I was one of the lucky ones that didn’t have to cut weight in the house, which was a bit of a bonus,” he laughs. “But then of course when you step into the cage and the guy has 15 to 25 pounds on you, it’s a little tough. But that’s no excuse because I still think I could have beat both my opponents; I just made a few mistakes and they capitalized.”

Representing his native Australia against Team UK, Vaculik lost his first bout in the competition to eventual winner Norman Parke. An injury to Team UK’s Mike Wilkinson brought him back to the semifinals, but his second stab at glory came up short when he was submitted by Colin Fletcher.  

“It was extremely tough,” said Vaculik of the TUF experience. “I didn’t realize how tough it would be, being away from my loved ones and my family and living in a house with your opponents and having no escape. All you saw was the gym and the house for six weeks. I love to surf and spend time on the beach. It’s a great escape from fighting and a great way to come back to the gym refreshed and excited about fighting, and that was all taken away from me. So it was a massive learning experience as a fighter and as a person and something I was really grateful for. I’m very proud to have been there and done it, and I feel like I left the place a better person for it. I knew it was a gamble going in there as a lightweight and giving that weight away, but I still believe I could have won it. I was a little disappointed in my performances.”

Vaculik, 9-1 entering the house, did impress with his heart and tenacity, but once the show was over, a UFC contract wasn’t on his doorstep.

“After I left I was hoping to get signed back down at my weight by the UFC, but the roster was so stacked at that moment that it was just best to go out and get some fights at bantamweight or flyweight and try to stick with it,” said Vaculik, who stayed busy in a bit of an unconventional manner, fighting at home for the Combat 8 promotion that uses modified rules of three minute rounds and only 30 seconds of groundfighting allowed per round. Vaculik won the organization’s championship at bantamweight, competed in jiu-jitsu tournaments, took part in another reality series, The Crew, and even though he was fielding offers from other MMA promotions, he still had his heart set on getting a call from the UFC.

“I’ve tried to stay busy and I did that, fighting in a promotion that had modified rules,” he said. “I won the bantamweight title in that promotion and then I was in talks with promotions throughout Asia, and I just wanted to stay active. That was the main thing, but it was getting quite hard to stay active here in Australia. A few promotions went under. But then I got a call from the UFC so I was over the moon.”

So what is it about those three letters – UFC – that meant so much to the 30-year-old Vaculik?

“It’s the biggest and best promotion of mixed martial arts in the world,” he said. “If you’re a serious MMA fighter and you want to prove yourself and test yourself with the world’s best, the UFC is the only place to do it. They’re head and shoulders above any other promotion. I had a taste of it being in the Smashes, and I did wonder what it would be like to fight in the UFC, so I never lost sight of it.”

On Friday (Saturday in Australia), Vaculik gets his shot at 125 pounds against fellow newcomer Justin Scoggins.

“He’s a really exciting fighter,” said Vaculik. “He’s a very creative striker, he loves to move and he’s pretty evasive. He brings a whole different bunch of skills that are unique in mixed martial arts, and I’ve been working with particular guys to replicate what he’s really good at. I’m just really excited to get in there and mix it up with someone as exciting as Justin. These are the kind of fights that I really chomp at the bit for.”

Then again, you get the idea that Vaculik would be amped up for any fight in the Octagon, especially since being in the UFC was as far-fetched a notion as an Aussie fighter could have back when he turned pro in 2006.

“In the early days when I started, the UFC was just a dream because they didn’t have my weight class and it wasn’t active in this part of the world,” he said. “Then things changed and all of a sudden they added the weight classes and they started to do shows in Oz, and the possibilities started to become reality, and that’s when that excitement just grew.”

Now it’s reached a fever pitch for “Vas,” who gets that rarest of opportunities shortly: to fulfill one dream and start another.

“It’s like a new beginning.”

Watch Past Fights


UFC 해설자 조 로건이 UFN 라스베이거스 대회 메인이벤트 토마스 알메이다-코디 가브런트 5라운드 대결에 대해 살펴본다. 대회는 폭스스포츠 1 채널을 통해 무료로 중계되며, 라스베이거스 만달레이 이벤트 센터에서 열린다.
2016. 5. 26
UFC 밴텀급 토마스 알메이다는 무패 전적을 유지하며 체급 랭킹 10위권으로 진입하기 위해 수없이 많은 땀을 흘렸다. 알메이다는 이제 UFN 라스베이거스 대회에서 코디 가브런트를 맞이하며 정상을 향한 여정을 계속한다.
2016. 5. 26
토마스 알메이다가 UFC 특파원 아만다 살바토의 인터뷰에 한다. 알메이다와 살바토는 함께 경주차량에 탑승해 직접 차량을 몰아본다. 현재 무패행진 중인 알메이다가 노리는 것은 이번 일요일 코디 가브런트를 꺾고 21승 무패 전적을 기록하는 것이다.
2016. 5. 26
동부 오후 9시 서부 오후 6시 UFN 라스베이거스 대회가 막을 올린다. 코디 가브런트 vs. 토마스 알메이다 대결이 메인이벤트다. 헤난 바라오-제레미 스티븐스 대결을 비롯해 다양한 경기가 준비되어 있다.
2016. 5. 26