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Austin Springer: Gym owner had UFC's Rick Story knockout amateurs, guys with head trauma

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It's not an easy task to go head-to-head with an event like UFC 185: "Pettis vs. Dos Anjos" this weekend, but the undefeated Austin Springer has fought his way to a Prime Fighting co-main event that may earn him an even bigger spotlight.

Austin Springer's kicks pack a serious punch.
Austin Springer's kicks pack a serious punch.
Paul Nelson Photography

Austin Springer was an undefeated bantamweight prospect who won his debut fight in the big leagues at Bellator 101 only to be told, "Come back and see us again after you get a few more wins, kid."

It wasn't as though Springer turned in a lackluster performance. He handily dominated his opponent Zach Skinner, even earning a 10-8 from one of the judges en route to scores of 30-26, 29-28 and 29-28. Knowing he'd have to earn his next opportunity lit a fire under Springer, as none of his next three fights went to the judges.

Still undefeated at 7-0, Springer is preparing for the co-main event spot for Prime Fighting in Ridgefield, Washington, this Saturday night (March 14, 2015) live on GFL.tv, where he'll be facing Ryan Mulvihill (13-5). That's a tough spot given they are going head-to-head with UFC 185, but in this interview for MMAmania.com, Springer says he's up to the task.

"(I) absolutely prefer a finish, I don't want it to go a decision. I want it to be an exciting fight. Whether it be a submission or a TKO, I'm hoping to leave with a finish regardless. If it's a TKO, I'm hoping for a body shot. The last (fight) was actually a right hook to the kidneys, so I'm hoping (for) a left hook to the liver this time."

Springer was a high school wrestling prospect in Washington state with a lot of recruiters looking his way, but he bypassed the collegiate route and went straight into training at a local gym, though not necessarily by choice.

"Different stuff was going on in my life. My head was kind of in a weird place. My mom and step-dad had recently become addicted to methamphetamine, they were going back and forth and I didn't want to go college when they were trying to get that all sorted out, so I denied the scholarships that were offered."

Springer left the local circuit to join Xtreme Couture in Vancouver, but it turned out to be bad timing since Randy Couture decided to pull the plug and sell the gym. Springer tried to make a go of it under the new ownership and found that it was a hostile environment.

"I don't know if you ever heard the stories about ... Mike Pierce was talking about the owner having Ricky knock out guys that already had head trauma. He had Ricky knock me out, I was a 135, 145-er and I was an amateur at the time, and he was having Rick Story knock me out in practice. It was just not a good fit for me."

If true, terrible. But, it's an accusation that Story has had to shoot down previously (more details here).

Springer moved on and found a better training environment in Portland more conducive to his future.

"Guys like Pat Healy, Dave Jansen, Mike Pierce, a bunch of Bellator and UFC guys that kinda ... birds of a feather flock together. I can't try and get myself to a world championship. I need the help of other coaches and training partners."

The future for Springer seems bright. He's making the right decisions on who to work with, and he's keeping all of his options open with regards to major promotions who need another bantamweight on their roster.

"Not taking anything away from Bellator, they're obviously a great company, but UFC is the goal short term. If something happens and UFC says 'our roster is pretty full right now,' I would definitely look toward Bellator but, everybody wants to play in the NFL not the Canadian Football League."

CFL and Bellator fans may take exception, but it's hard to blame Springer for shooting for the top. Check out Prime Fighting on GoFightLive this Saturday night to see his quest continue, and check out the complete audio of our interview below.