Austen “A-Train” Lane is a true Renaissance Man. He played five years in the NFL before retiring and transitioning to MMA. He also co-hosts a morning radio show here in Jacksonville, FL. 

Lane is scheduled to appear on Dana White’s Contender Series Tuesday, September 20th, where he looks to make it six-straight stoppage victories en route to a UFC contract. We caught up with him a couple weeks before the big night.

 

GrapplerMag: How are you feeling heading into your fight on Dana White’s Contender Series September 20th?


Austen Lane: “Feeling fantastic. All the hard work’s been put in, another week of hard work coming up, and then we can taper off a little bit. It’s an advantage for me, because I’ve been there before. Obviously things didn’t go my way the first time, but I know what to expect. I’ve studied my opponent a lot, I know what he brings to the table. I know what I have to do, I just have to execute the game plan. It’s a very exciting time right now, just trying to stay even-keeled, don’t be too high, don’t be too low.”


GM: We are diehard Jacksonville Jaguars fans, so we have to start there. When you reflect on your NFL career, do you remember it fondly or otherwise? 


“It’s wild, because I’ve never really been one to reflect back on what I’ve accomplished. I’m always trying to look forward. When you talk about the game of football, I’ve played since I was six, seven years old. That game was always there. 

It wasn’t until late in my college career where I figured out, ‘Hey, I could actually make this a [professional] career and get paid for it.’ So it was always the [same] game, but I promised myself if it ever stopped being fun, if it ever started being too political, I’d walk away. 

I spent some time in Jacksonville. I’m here to this day because of the time I spent in Jacksonville when I first got drafted here. I spent some time in Detroit, Kansas City and Chicago [also].

But toward the end of my career, it stopped being fun and it started to feel like a job. Could I have tried to pull out a couple more years, make a couple extra bucks? Absolutely. But it wasn’t conducive to what I was trying to do. I had MMA in my back pocket. 

When I reflect back on my football career, I haven’t spent too much time thinking about it, but I’m thankful for it. It brought me to where I’m at now in MMA, it brought me to the city of Jacksonville.”


GM: Why pick Jacksonville to plant roots in after football?


“There are a few reasons. Having been born in Chicago, raised in Wisconsin, it’s the cold weather up there. But I really enjoyed when I first got to Jacksonville, how it’s so spread out and it’s so huge but at the same time, it’s really a small community. It has that feeling, whether it was the [Jaguars] fanbase, meeting new friends. And there’s all walks of life here. Whatever you’re looking for, you can find.

I hit it off right away with Jacksonville. That was a big reason why I stayed. I knew once football was done, MMA was in my back pocket, and I wanted to train in Jacksonville. When you walk away from the game, when someone tells you ‘You aren’t good enough anymore, that’s a hard pill to swallow. Some guys get lost in the shuffle, where ‘What do I do next?’ I was thankful that I had this city, I had my training partners and I had my gym. When football is done, I’m going to be embraced by them and I know the next goal.” 


GM: Didn’t waste any time spinning your wheels looking for the next challenge.


“It was to the point where my last couple years in Chicago, I was going to Jiu-Jitsu tournaments, I was winning them, and getting a paycheck I couldn’t collect, because it was against my NFL contract. So I had to go out the back door and say, ‘Hey, keep this on the DL. Don’t let the Bears find out.’” 




GM: It doesn’t seem like there was a huge change to your lifestyle after football was over then.


“I would say the biggest change was the whole training regimen. When you talk about being an NFL player, a play can last anywhere from four to seven seconds. It’s all about explosiveness and strength. When you talk about MMA, it’s mastering your body, it’s cardio, it’s lactic acid buildup, all this different stuff you don’t really encounter in the NFL. So that took me a while to adjust to, because obviously with my ego, I want to bench press 315 still. I want to squat 500 pounds. I would try to do that and then go train, and I could tell something’s not mixing well. It was an opportunity to really get a hold of my body in terms of optimization. And that’s with yoga. That’s with what I eat daily, that’s with sitting in the sauna. Whatever the case may be, it’s been a fun adventure just learning my body and trying to optimize it.”    


GM: What initially drew you to MMA and combat sports in general?  


“I remember being a kid growing up and my grandma bought a UFC 1 VHS. That would’ve been Ken Shamrock taking on Royce Gracie in the finals. I’m sitting down with my stepdad watching, he knew what was going to happen, he’d seen it before, but I had no idea. And I remember he turned to me and said, ‘Who do you think’s going to win this?’ This is back when Shamrock was like 245, 250, shredded, probably juiced to the gills. Then you got this lanky, skinny dude in Gracie coming out. I’m like, ‘Shamrock’s gonna win all day.’ And that’s not what happened. Seeing how that match played out and seeing Jiu-Jitsu and seeing how in my eyes the underdog overcame and absolutely dominated that fight, it kind of got me in tune a little bit to MMA.

From there, I gradually became more interested with GSP, Anderson Silva, those years. Brock Lesnar took it to a new stratosphere, so I was always a fan of it. It wasn’t until my football coach here in Jacksonville, the defensive line coach when I played, suggested I go to an MMA or a boxing gym to work on my hands, because I play defensive end.  And as soon as I started doing that, I fell in love with it. 

It was an MMA gym, and there was Jiu-Jitsu going on, so I gotta try that. And my very first roll, at the time I weighed 265, and I went against this guy who was a purple belt, he was probably 150. And I’m like, alright, I don’t have any technique, but I’m gonna show him what’s up. I’m an athlete, I’ll use my strength and everything. I shit you not in five minutes I got tapped four times. And that was a rude awakening to me, it definitely humbled me. I needed that. But it showed me, hey, there’s something to Jiu-Jitsu. There’s something to this MMA game that I got to be a part of eventually.”


GM: When did you decide to pursue fighting professionally?      

My first amateur fight was in Orlando. It went well, got the KO in the first round. I fell in love my second fight, and that was in Jacksonville at an old honky tonk called Mavericks

I’ll never forget, and I’m not trying to brag or anything…my very first start in the NFL, I played in front of 80,000 screaming fans that were booing me. And that adrenaline rush was awesome. But it didn’t even hold a candle to fighting in Mavericks in front of maybe 200 people, getting the knockout, facing a little bit of adversity but getting the win. Then climbing the cage, celebrating with my friends, that moment right there, I can’t even put it in words what that moment was compared to the NFL. It was another level. 

There’s something about fighting, something about going in a cage when that cage locks, and you get a very decisive victory, and you get to celebrate all the work that you put in, there’s no feeling like that on Earth. I’ve chased that feeling ever since, and that’s a big reason why I do it.”  


-30-



Tim Kline

Brandon Ibarra

Brandon attended the College of Journalism at the University of Florida. He has one stripe on his white belt.