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As the first Australian to take part in Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, Jim Crute did not disappoint.
The 22-year-old light heavyweight prospect won via TKO in the first round against Chris Birchler, earning himself a four-fight contract with the UFC.
The Contender Series has become a popular feeder program to the UFC, where participants are not simply rewarded with a contract off a win, they must also put on an impressive performance in doing so.
Whether that weighed on his mind or not, “The Brute” came out aggressive, quick but loading up on his shots. Birchler managed to avoid the bulk of them and started to land his own, the damage of which appearing under Crute’s right eye.
Nearing the end of the round, Crute was more patient and found his rhythm, along with more success. He finally landed a left hook which visibly buckled the New Jersey native, prompting the referee to step in. Though there was some speculation that the stoppage came prematurely, Birchler had appeared to be out on his feet.
Speaking of his performance, Crute said he has a tendency to make the fight uglier than necessary.
“I’ve got a bad habit of – apparently – just trying to brawl,” he said. “I can move. I can slip. I can move. I can be slick. But sometimes I just get in a zone, and I don’t care, and I just want to punch on.”
More than just an adequately impressive performance to get him a spot in the UFC’s roster, Crute got a special nod from UFC president Dana White who admitted he was a “big fan” of the Aussie.
“The Aussies are on fire right now. There’s a tonne of talent coming out of that part of the world, and Australia has always been very good to us, as far as fights, big gates, huge fans, big pay-per-views, and to have another superstar from Australia, we love it,” White told UFC correspondent Laura Sanko.
“[Crute] was my favourite one tonight. He was my favourite pick so I’m looking very forward to seeing him fight again in the UFC.”
As White noted, Australians are on a remarkable stretch of success on the international MMA stage; a trend Crute acknowledges.
“That’s just a little taster. We got so many Aussies coming through and we’re about to take over. Simple as that,” Crute told Sanko after the fight.
Since turning pro just two years ago, Crute has exclusively fought under Australian promotion Hex Fight Series, becoming the light heavyweight champion in June last year with two successful title defences since.
With his fifth stoppage victory, Crute (8-0) remains undefeated as he enters the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
In his post-fight interview, Crute told media he was interested in a place on UFC Fight Night 142 in Adelaide, South Australia against any opponent.
“I want Adelaide. I want Adelaide on December 2nd. Whoever.”
Other winners of UFC contracts on week six of the Contender Series were Sodiq Yusuff and Jeff Hughes; while Chase Hooper was signed to a development deal.