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May 9, 2022


[NEF PRESS RELEASE] Auburn, Maine (May 9, 2022)

 In the case of Aaron “Short Fuse” Hughes (1-2) and Anthony Vasta (0-1), the time-honored truth that familiarity breeds contempt applies and gives a jagged edge to their scheduled professional featherweight bout at NEF 47: “The Battle of L/A.”

 Hughes and Vasta have trained together off and on for a while, and they’ve remained cordial or at least civil enough to be in each other’s presence multiple times during the weeks leading up to the fight this Saturday, May 14 at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn, Maine.

 “Funny story is we’ve sparred together probably a good six or seven times at Lauzon MMA. We were actually training together in the same room together for this camp,” Hughes said in an interview with Ryan Jarrell of Between Rounds Radio. “Saturday morning sparring, I was there, he was there. We didn’t spar with each other, but I was watching him a little bit (and) he was watching me a little bit.”

 After getting an up-close-and-personal peek at Vasta’s current skill set, Hughes is more outspoken than ever about his prospects to end the fight in short order.

 Opening bell time for the card, New England Fights’ highly anticipated return to the Twin Cities, is set for 7 p.m.

 “There’s always a threat when a guy is that tall (6-foot-2 with a 76-inch reach). He has pretty good knees. He’s really, really long,” Hughes said. “But I think from a skills perspective that he’s just not as a good as I am. He was saying that he’s gonna break me on fight night, but I’ve had teammates spar him before, and they’ve put him down in the gym pretty bad. If Aaron Pico and Holly Holm ain’t breaking me, I just don’t see how he expects to break me.”

 Hughes isn’t merely dropping names. He recently spent several weeks sharpening his craft at Jackson Wink MMA, the renowned cradle of world champions in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Pico is 10-3 in the mixed martial arts realm after a highly decorated freestyle wrestling career, and Hughes says his workouts with the Bellator mainstay were a command performance.

 “(Coach) Greg Jackson actually pulled me aside and asked me to spar with Aaron Pico. That right there’s a confidence booster in itself, because Anthony Vasta is no Aaron Pico. He’s not as strong as Aaron Pico. He’s not as good of a wrestler as Aaron Pico. He's not as good of a striker as Aaron Pico, and quite frankly he doesn’t have the right mindset that Aaron Pico has,” Hughes said. “That dude trains like an animal. Ten rounds of sparring, hops on the treadmill, hops on the bike, hops on the bag. That dude is just built different. It put a lot of stuff in perspective for me where I want to be in my career, and I don’t think Anthony Vasta is on my level, man. I truly, truly believe that, and I just can’t wait to go out there and show it Saturday night.”

 Hughes also argued that his ledger in both the professional and amateur MMA ranks as well as related disciplines dwarfs what Vasta has done in the sport.

 After a victory in his pro debut by knockout over Tyler Edwards, Hughes got caught by a punch from Jacob Deppmeyer at NEF 44: “Back in Black” ahead of a unanimous decision loss in November to Rakim Thorpe out of Jackson Wink. He knows a three-fight winless streak wouldn’t be beneficial to his larger professional aspirations.

 “I definitely feel a little bit of pressure, but at the end of the day not really. I have a lot of fights, 10 amateur MMA fights, lots of amateur boxing, amateur kickboxing fights, three pro fights,” Hughes said. “Honestly I’d say that out of all my fights, I think Anthony is the least dangerous fighter that I’ve fought as a pro.

 “Even the guy that I fought in my pro debut, he was 0-3, but he was a two-division amateur champion, and he was 6-1 as an amateur. Then I fought Jacob Deppmeyer, who was undefeated, a big, big power striker, Then I fought Rakim Thorpe, who comes from one of the best gyms in the world. So there’s pressure, yes, but I’m not gonna let that pressure control me. I’m just gonna go out there and fight my fight.”

 Hughes contends that Thorpe outweighed him by a substantial amount and taught him several lessons that he will apply to his career going forward in and out of the cage.

 “I definitely learned that I need to be a lot more active. I was having fun striking, but I kept getting taken down. I didn’t show much of an urgency to get back to my feet,” Hughes said. “I’m pretty hard to take down, and he just kind of manhandled me honestly. He kinda treated me like a child. I put a big emphasis on strength and conditioning for this camp. I focused on getting a lot stronger and actually giving myself the recovery that my body needs, so stretching, doing some yoga, taking some nice, hot baths after training. On days where I’m super, super sore, not pushing it and really giving my body the recovery that it needs.”

 The sum of Hughes’ training in the mountains and his improved discipline back home will catch Vasta and NEF fans by surprise, he predicted.

 “I think it’s truly gonna show,” Hughes said. “I’m gonna go out there Saturday night, and I’m going balls to the wall. I’m letting everything hang out there. Win or lose, it’s gonna be fight of the night. I’m coming to show there’s levels to this shit, and I just don’t think Anthony Vasta’s on the level that I’m at.”

 Vasta split his two amateur fights against Justin Stevens (win by triangle choke) and Lance Hart (loss by decision) before a unanimous decision loss to Nathaniel Grimard at NEF 46: “Decade of Dominance.”

 Hughes, who said Grimard’s bout with Andrew Provost is the one on the NEF 47 docket that intrigues him the most aside from his own, boasted that Vasta won’t go the distance with him.

He said you’ll have to show up to find out the specifics, though.

“I’m just gonna go out there. I’m not really worried about what Anthony Vasta’s gonna do. I’m worried about what Aaron Hughes is gonna do, and that’s just go out there and fight my game, mix it up,” Hughes said. “Maybe I’m gonna wrestle. Maybe I’m gonna strike. Maybe I’m gonna pull guard. Who knows? You’re just gonna go out there and watch. But I will tell you this: I am gonna finish him, and I will be victorious in this fight. It’s something that you’re not gonna want to miss, I promise.”

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. Tickets are on sale now at  For those unable to make it to Auburn for the event, “NEF 47” will stream live at a price of $29.99 at