Sherdog Prospect Watch: Pat Audinwood

By Tristen Critchfield Sep 8, 2010
The first time it hit Pat Audinwood was on an April night in Atlantic City, N.J., a little more than two years ago. Barely more than five months into his professional mixed martial arts career, in his fifth professional fight, the former wrestler from a small high school in New York was already fighting for a belt.

The event was Battle Cage Xtreme 4, and Audinwood won that night, scoring a unanimous decision over Lester Caslow. Who he beat and what he won were not as important as what he realized leading up to and during the bout. He belonged.

“I think that solidified it for me,” Audinwood said. “I was, like, ‘Holy crap, I might actually be able to be something in this sport.’”

It was around that same period that one of MMA’s most unique nicknames was born. Audinwood was not so pretentious as to give himself a moniker, but when his cousin -- World Extreme Cagefighting veteran John Franchi -- showed up unexpectedly for one of his bouts, the Team BombSquad product could not help but play along.

“It was my fifth or sixth fight and I was talking to the ring announcer, and he was trying to get all my bio information,” Audinwood said. “He said, ‘So, are there any nicknames for you?’ My cousin just came out of the blue. I was like, ‘Oh, no,’ but before I could finish anything, [Franchi] said, ‘Yeah, his nickname is Awesome … Awesomely Awesome.’ The guy almost didn’t even let us use it. He’s like, ‘No, that’s ridiculous. I’m not gonna say that.’ At that point, I just said, ‘Screw it. I don’t really care.’ We were actually going to try to add a third awesome in there, but we thought that might be too much.”

Franchi has been influential in his cousin’s life for quite some time now. He served as Audinwood’s high school wrestling coach, and when life afterward revealed limited athletic options, Franchi convinced him to try MMA.

“He’s a really tough kid,” Franchi said. “I’d take him out in the garage -- we have a little training area out back [at] home -- and I’d take him out there and beat him up a little bit, and he’d always come back for more. He’s a glutton for punishment, so he’ll take whatever.”

Franchi also gave Audinwood some valuable career advice when he was waffling on what to do for a day job.

“For a while, he was trying to be a model,” Franchi said. “He was working at Abercrombie and Fitch. They were having him pose for all these calendar shoots. I don’t know how well it turned out for him, but I was, like, ‘Man, you don’t want to do that garbage; you’re a fighter. Come fight.’”

Predictably, Audinwood received a fair amount of grief from both family members and training partners over his detour into modeling.

“We all ripped on him about that because he’s always trying to keep his face nice and GQ, but everybody always punches him there,” Franchi said. “Somehow, he always turns out with a decent looking face.”

The pair trains at Team BombSquad -- a rising camp that spawned UFC light heavyweight contender Jon Jones, who has since moved his training base to Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts in Albuquerque, N.M. There are other talented fighters at the New York gym, however. The roster is dotted with UFC, WEC and Bellator Fighting Championships veterans. The Team BombSquad Web site proclaims the group as the “largest and most successful MMA team in the entire Northeast.” Audinwood has witnessed that growth firsthand.

“It’s been a really great atmosphere,” he said. “Most of the people that stuck around, they’re starting to see that people are coming up and everybody’s starting to get looked at.”

Audinwood is on that list himself. He signed a four-fight deal with the UFC that begins on Sept. 25 at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. There, he will meet Thiago Tavares in a preliminary matchup at UFC 119 “Mir vs. Cro Cop.” His most recent fight under the M-1 promotion in April helped generate interest in his career. After he defeated Robert Connor in the first round of what was to be a three-round tournament, opportunity began knocking at his door.

“A lot of things happened onto my plate after that fight,” Audinwood said. “I didn’t have a contract or anything signed through [M-1] yet, so I was able to really weigh my options and pick where I wanted to go. When the UFC is knocking at your door, you really don’t have too many options.”

The 24-year-old lightweight believes he is prepared for the step up in competition. Tavares, a black belt in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, has secured 10 of his 14 career victories by submission and owns wins over world-ranked featherweights Manny Gamburyan and Michihiro Omigawa. In 18 professional appearances, the 25-year-old Brazilian has been finished only once.

“It’s going to be a real test for myself, but at the same time, I think I’m ready,” Audinwood said. “I’ve had 10 fights, so it’s not like I don’t know what’s going on in this sport.”

Audinwood’s original opponent was to be Aaron Riley, but the Jackson’s MMA trainee pulled out of the match with a back injury. Enter Tavares, who has won only once in his previous three UFC bouts. Still, he began his MMA career with 12 straight wins and represents by far the biggest name Audinwood has faced. The change in adversary did not faze him.

“As far as training, the only thing I switched was, instead of looking at a southpaw, I’m going conventional now,” Audinwood said. “But other than that, I just go to fight. As far as game planning and stuff like that goes, I don’t really look too far into it.”

Franchi sees a bright future ahead of his cousin.

“I can see the evolution of when he was a small wrestler and I was coaching him to now,” he said. “He just absorbs stuff. If he’s not getting it, he works and works and works until he gets it.”
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