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May 10, 2022


[NEF PRESS RELEASE]  Auburn, Maine (May 10, 2022)

Anthony Vasta and Aaron “Short Fuse” Hughes have been training partners and at least casual friends for a while, and Vasta sees no reason why the Massachusetts mixed martial artists won’t be able to push the reset button once their professional featherweight bout at NEF 47: “The Battle of L/A” is over.

Vasta doesn’t hesitate to acknowledge, however, that any current animosity between the two possibly stems from how quickly and unequivocally he accepted a proposal to step into the cage with Hughes.

“It was just thrown my way,” Vasta explained to host Steve Domenico in an episode of The Room Podcast. “(New England Fights co-owner and matchmaker) Matt Peterson offered it, and I was like, ‘Fuck yeah, let’s do it.’ It’s funny, ‘cause Aaron had messaged me the same day. He’s like, ‘Yo, NEF offered me this fight. I said no, ‘cause we train at Lauzon’s.’ I was like, ‘Oh, fuck, ‘cause I said yeah.’ And I then I guess he reconsidered or something, ‘cause the next day we were booked to fight.”

Vasta (0-1) and Hughes (1-2) both have made it crystal clear that they’re eager to hit the highway for their crossroads bout this Saturday, May 14 at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn, Maine. Opening bell time for the card, NEF’s long-awaited return to the Twin Cities, is set for 7 p.m.

For his part, Hughes touted his recent training in New Mexico with Jackson Wink MMA and his more extensive combat sports experience as reasons he should win the fight with authority. Vasta, who is at least five inches taller than Hughes and sports a substantial reach advantage, shrugs it off as bluster and sees himself as the favorite due to the tale of the tape.

 “He has been chirping a little bit, but he can do whatever he’s gotta do to get in there and feel confident when he gets in the fight, so he can do whatever the fuck he wants. The fight itself I think it’s a perfect matchup for me to come back after a loss,” Vasta said. “The length, I mean we’ve trained. It’s no secret. I saw some of what he was saying. He was talking all about his training partners, Aaron Pico and all this shit, but like, we’ve trained. I know he doesn’t have much answer for my length. I’m thinking Aaron’s gonna try to take me down and just pin me on the ground like everyone else. We’ll see what happens, but yeah, the length is definitely gonna be a problem for Aaron.”

 Although he doesn’t yet have any UFC or Bellator veterans on his ledger or in his camp, Vasta considers his first pro opponent, Nathaniel Grimard, a step above anybody Hughes has fought in front of a crowd. Grimard, who will battle Andrew Provost on Saturday night, defeated Vasta by unanimous decision at NEF 46: “Decade of Dominance.”

 “Typically most guys I would say are not gonna take a fight like that for their pro debut. We got the opportunity, and I was looking to go pro, anyway,” Vasta said. “A loss is not how you want to start your pro debut, but I really feel like it leveled me up. He’s a grinder. He’s gonna do really well. He’s a prospect. Going against another prospect really gave me a lot of confidence. I mean, the fight didn’t go the way I wanted, but I learned a lot. If you’re gonna take a loss, going against an opponent like that, that’s probably the way to go. We learned a ton from it.”

 Vasta resides in Burlington, Mass., and trains out of Defensive Edge in Wakefield.

With the fight date approaching, he withdrew from the Saturday sparring sessions at Lauzon MMA and has kept most of his preparation in-house with instructors Connor Barry and Thomas Kincaid.

 “We worked basically just tightening up my technique, my basics and everything, making sure that everything is there. I have a very interesting style. Sometimes I get ahead of myself, and I put myself out of position, but we’ve really tightened things down,” Vasta said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself the last camp, every day in training just thinking about the fight all the fucking time. And of course you want to, but this training camp has been more about development and skills and not really worrying about who I’m fighting or the fight itself. Obviously, we’re booked to fight, so we’re gonna get to the fight eventually.”

 After only two amateur bouts before his baptism by fire against Grimard, the 22-year-old said the five-minute rounds of the pro ranks have proven a better fit for his measured approach.

 “I mean, it’s the way the fight played out, but we got to the third round and it was like, dude, I could do three more right now. I really had barely broken a sweat by the third round,” Vasta said. “The thing about the fives, as an amateur when the round starts, you can just dance around for like 20, 30 seconds… and then you get one takedown and one grappling exchange and the fucking round is over. So there’s a lot more time to like really set things up as a pro. In my last fight, I was stuck on the bottom the whole time, but I had more time to figure out something at least to try to get up. I enjoy having the fives now. It’s nice. It gives a lot more time to work.”

 Vasta added that he’s amply prepared for whatever work this fight entails and matched Hughes’ confidence when asked what the mostly non-partisan crowd two hours from home should expect.

 “We’re just gonna school this guy, man. I did see he said all this shit about he’s way more skilled than me, but I don’t think that’s true. I think my length and everything, my style and my skills right now are just too much for him,” Vasta said. “I don’t see what Aaron has for me. He says he’s gonna finish me in the first round. I’m not sure what he’s gonna finish me with. I’m expecting to really push the pace with this kid, put my hands on him. We’ll see. Whether it’s a decision or a finish, I don’t fucking care, man. We’re taking the win.”

 Although the verbal volleys between Vasta and Hughes have been some of the most volatile this side of the Jesse Erickson-Matt Denning main event, Vasta admitted some of the chatter is just the combatants’ attempt to fire everyone up, themselves included.

 “Me and Aaron at the end of the day, I hope we can keep it respectful. The respect’s still there, I hope. The fans can do whatever the fuck they want. I don’t pay attention to that shit. He can say whatever he wants. I don’t care about that shit either,” Vasta said. “The fight’s in a couple days, man. The weigh-ins are Friday. I’m cutting weight right now. We’re right there. There’s nothing much that needs to be said about that. The atmosphere of NEF was great last time. It looks cool. It’ll be great. There’s tons of people that are on both sides. It is what it is, man. It’s part of the business. Like I said, it doesn’t matter what he says before or anything. After the fight it’s always love as long as it’s love back. That’s how we’ve gotta be as martial artists.”

NEF 47: “The Battle of L/A” is the organization’s first appearance in Lewiston/Auburn since June 22, 2019, and its inaugural card on the opposite side of the river. NEF held 25 of its first 30 dockets in Lewiston. The pay-per-view live stream for the event can be ordered at 

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