Austin Springer coached a UFC combatant. He beat a UFC contender.
But Springer, who calls Vancouver home, still awaited his shot at mixed martial arts’ top promotion.
On Aug. 29, Springer’s MMA career hit its pinnacle, as the the 32-year old made his UFC debut on just two days notice at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. He was submitted in the first-round by veteran Alex Caceres.
“Humbled, disappointed,” Springer said on a video call the Thursday after his fight. “On one hand, I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved getting to the UFC. On the other side, I didn’t see a debut loss happening. So I go back and forth being frustrated and happy.”
Springer’s roller-coaster career took another turn Tuesday when he was released from his four-fight contract with the UFC, he announced on Instagram. He was planning on returning to the Octagon later this year and felt he had something to prove after missing the 146-pound featherweight limit by five pounds before the brief 3-minute, 38-second bout.
“They were pissed that I missed weight, and decided rather than give me another opportunity, they’re releasing me from my contract,” Springer wrote. “That hurts!”
Springer turned professional in 2007 after graduating Southridge High School in Kennewick. In 2010, he opened Vancouver Elite Martial Arts out of the Vancouver Mall and coached the early careers of two Vancouver-based martial arts standouts: UFC’s Ricky Simon and Bellator’s Jake Smith.
“I was their first MMA coach and when they got to a point, it was like ‘You’re not average members, you need more training,'” Springer explained. The two joined Springer at American Top Team Portland, then called Gracie Barra. “It’s very cool to see them succeed.”
Springer, who is 12-4 in his MMA career, took a little longer to reach the sport’s upper echelon. He appeared on The Ultimate Fighter in 2015 and competed on the Dana White Contender Series in 2018, when he earned a submission win over Giga Chikadze — now a rising star in the UFC.
Springer was recently offered opportunities in Bellator and ONE Championship, as well as another chance to impress on the Contender Series, but turned those down as he waited on the call from UFC brass.
“My goal from the very beginning was UFC,” Springer said. “I can’t raise two young boys and teach them to set goals and work hard and change my goal at the last minute.”
On Aug. 25, Springer’s manager informed him there might be a chance to fight on the upcoming fight card. That spot went to another fighter and Springer resumed enjoying his son’s birthday.
Another call came the next day. Replacement fighter Kevin Croom pulled out and Springer needed to get to Vegas; he was one of two fighters with a chance at the replacement.
“It was a bad day to load up on pizza and beer,” Springer said of his Tuesday celebration with his youngest son.
The decision was a fatal blow to Springer’s short-lived UFC stint. Springer, who weighed 168 pounds when he arrived in Vegas, officially weighed in at 151 pounds that Friday. He forfeited 30 percent of his purse and the missed weight was the reason the UFC chose to end his four-fight contract prematurely, he said.
“It’s something I will remember and cherish forever,” Springer wrote about his one fight in the UFC, a brief 3 minute, 38-second bout.
Springer still owns and operates Vancouver Elite, which has moved to a larger space in Salmon Creek. The gym is offering new member specials through the month of September in celebration of Springer’s UFC debut.
Springer also runs Northwest Championship, an amateur fight promotion based out of Vancouver. When school sports return, Springer is an assistant wrestling coach at Covington Middle School and Mountain View High School. He parents his sons — Jaxon, 9, and Zander, 7 — with his wife, Danielle.
Austin Springer online
Facebook: Vancouver Elite MMA