Former NFL player Austen Lane is trying to earn a UFC contract on June 12 on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender series. Lane will be facing a controversial figure who is also trying to make the switch from pro football to pro MMA, Greg Hardy, whose NFL career ended because of domestic violence charges.
Lane, 30, has been pursuing an MMA career since his retirement from the NFL in 2014.
“I definitely feel confident with the matchup,” he told MMAFighting.com about his matchup with Hardy. “Let’s be honest: At the end of the day, we’re probably about same height, reach might be in my advantage by a little, and he might outweigh me by a few pounds. All of that stuff is close. But what I have is experience. I have 10 fights. You can train all you want, and you can have the best coaches in the world, but where you get better as a fighter is in the cage.”
The Tuesday Night Contender series airs on UFC Fight Pass at 8 p.m. Eastern.
Here’s what you need to know about Austen Lane:
1. Lane Says He & Greg Hardy Have Been ‘Destined to Be on a Path Together’
Austen Lane told First Coast News he and Greg Hardy have been “destined to be on a path together.” Lane is a betting underdog in the fight, but many are rooting for him to knock out Hardy, because of his fellow former football player’s past.
“I’ve always kind of had my eye on Greg Hardy,” Lane told FCN. “We were at the combine together, we got drafted together, so I knew of him before. When I found out that he was doing MMA, obviously, I was following his career, so I guess you could always say we were destined to be on a path together and eventually fight. I thought it was going to be later on in our careers but it’s happening now and that’s fine with me.”
Talking about Hardy’s criminal issues, Lane said, “”Obviously, one of the reasons why Greg is so [well-known] is his off-the-field issues. I feel, as a fighter, if I focus too much on that and I use that as extra motivation, that’s taking away from my training and getting ready for him as an opponent. When we step in the cage, it doesn’t matter what he’s done in his past, it doesn’t matter what he believes in, he’s coming to fight. So I’m concerned about Greg Hardy the person, what I’m concerned about right now is Greg Hardy the fighter.”
2. He Began His MMA Career Last Year & Won His First 2 Fights by Knockout
Lane has fought twice as a professional MMA fighter after beginning his career in 2017. He won both of those fights by knockout, according to Sherdog.com. On April 1, 2017, Lane defeated John Darling at Combat Night Pro 2 in Sarasota, Florida. Then, on July 29, 2017, Lane knocked out Jonathan Miller at Combat Night Pro 3, also in Florida.
Lane told the Orlando Sentinel his interest in mixed martial arts started soon after he was drafted out of college in 2010 by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He went to a boxing gym, hoping to improve his hand speed, but soon found jujitsu, which helped him develop hip flexibility.
“By the time I got to Chicago (in 2014), I was entering jujitsu tournaments on the down low,” Lane told the newspaper. “I couldn’t risk violating my contract and if I placed, I couldn’t accept any cash prizes, so I snuck out the back door.”
Lane said he was humbled by his first jujitsu coach. “The guy teaching the class was a purple belt in jujitsu, and he was probably 135 pounds. Really scrawny guy. And he asked me to roll with him,” Lane told the newspaper. “At the time, I weighed about 260, and I figured I could just use my power and crush the guy. I think he tapped me out four times in 5 minutes. It humbled me and really taught me that this is an art form. Strength helps, but it comes down to form and technique.”
3. Lane Played High School Football in Wisconsin Before Attending Murray State
Lane, whose height is 6’6″ and who weighed 265 pounds during his football career, was born in Evanston, Illinois, and later moved to Wisconsin, where he attended and played football at Iola-Scandinavia High School. He earned all-state honors both as a wide receiver and on defense. He also played basketball and was a standout at that sport as well.
Lane then went on to play for Murray State University in Kentucky, a FCS level team, the second level of college football. Lane was a defensive lineman and set school records for sacks, with 29, and tackles for a loss, with 55. After his senior season, Lane was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the top defensive player in FCS football, and won the Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year Award.
4. He Was Drafted by the Jaguars in the 5th Round of the 2010 Draft & Also Played for the Chiefs, Lions & Bears During His 4 Year Career
Lane was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010 in the 5th Round. He was the 153rd overall pick. Lane signed a four-year $1.974 million deal, along with a $184,190 signing bonus, according to the Jaguars website. Lane started nine games during his rookie season. He was released before the 2013 season. He wrote about what it was like to be cut for Monday Morning Quarterback.
Lane was then claimed off waivers by the Kansas City Chiefs in June 2013, but was released in November of the same year. He briefly played for the Detroit Lions, from November 5 to November 27, before being cut again. Lane signed with the Chicago Bears in 2014 and after being released, announced his retirement from football in August 2015.
During his pro career, Lane, recorded 66 tackles, including 3 sacks, and had one forced fumble, according to NFL.com.
5. Lane, Who Lives in Jacksonville, Is Married & Has a 3-Year-Old Son & Moonlights as an Uber Driver While Pursuing His UFC Dream
Lane lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with his wife, Cody, and 3-year-old son, Ronin, according to the Florida Times-Union. He and his wife were married in September 2017. Lane said he is able to support his family while pursuing his MMA career through savings from his NFL income, but he also moonlights as an Uber driver, using his wife’s Hyundai.
“A lot of guys my size don’t want to pursue this career because there’s not much money to be made in MMA early on,” Lane told the newspaper earlier this year. “The Uber thing, that keeps me humble. I only played for [former Jaguars coach] Gus Bradley about three weeks, but I remember one of his sayings was, ‘You can’t be addicted to the big meal. You have to eat crumbs.’ It made me realize you have to stay hungry.”
Lane also wants to be a writer. He has written for Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback and told the Times-Union one of his dreams, along with fighting in the UFC, is to write for Rolling Stone.