Most people think of it as UFC, but the actual sport we do is MMA. Some people will come up and ask, “Do you train in UFC?” No, no. I train MMA. UFC is the promotion I want to go to. It’s the biggest promotion within the sport. And it is massive. They just sold it for $4 billion. Billion! They’ve brought in celebrity shareholders like the Williams sisters and Mark Wahlberg. Their shows in Vegas, usually at the MGM, they get around 15,000 people. And when they take it around the world, they do it in stadiums. We had 58,000 here, the biggest attendance ever, for the Ronda Rousey fight in Melbourne.
If my shoulder was fine, I probably would have made it to the UFC already. I’m on the brink. I have recovered from my shoulder reco. So the plan is one more fight to defend my title, against UFC veteran Sokoudjou. That’ll happen in October, in Melbourne, and if that goes to plan, it should see me in the UFC. We were gunning for it last year, but I had to get a shoulder reconstruction. I’ve been working my whole career to get to the UFC, and we were really really close. But hopefully this year. I think five AFC [Australian Fighting Championship] fighters got signed by the UFC last year. It’s like a feeder show for the UFC.
We fight in a cage. It’s not barbaric, it’s for safety. In MMA, we throw each other around, and so if you’ve got the cage, you don’t have to worry about falling out and landing on a table. It looks better, too. And for the fighter, it’s a truer way of fighting. You don’t have to worry about getting the ref to reset. Like if you fall out of a boxing ring, the ref has to bring you back to the centre, so it’s a little bit stop-start. Whereas in a cage, there’s no stopping. You just go for it.
MMA is a true mixed martial art. You have to know how to fight standing up, you need to know how to fight in the clinch, you need to know how to fight on the ground. It really tests a fighter in all aspects of martial arts to really see who the better fighter is. I think that’s what the crowd likes. And it’s always evolving. It’s that young a sport that our generation is the first to really train it properly. In the past, you had wrestlers who learnt to strike or strikers that started to wrestle or do a bit of Brazilian ju-jitsu. For me and the ones coming up behind me, we started with full mixed martial arts training. And you are seeing the up-and-comers demolish the old champions now.
When it first started, you could pretty much do whatever you wanted. There are some rules now, like any sport. You can’t hit people in the back of the head, you can’t throw elbows, you can’t kick them in the head when they’re grounded. As far as martial arts go, you’re allowed to do the most. At the end of the day, we’re athletes and they’ve got to think about our safety and the longevity of the sport.
About 70 per cent of my fights finish within the first minute. On my first fight, I knocked a guy out in six seconds. I was so nervous, I think I just threw out a jab and he dropped to the floor. So I knew from that point on that this is definitely for me. I’m a power puncher, and with the four-ounce [113-gram] gloves I wear, if I can put it on the chin, a lot of the time, the guy is going to drop. So that’s my game plan. There’s nothing like that adrenalin rush of stepping in there, one-on-one against another guy who trained for this as well, and the better guy is going to come out on top. There’s no bigger thrill than that.
My brother is actually a world champion kickboxer. Undefeated. It’s a bit of a family business we’ve got going on. I did kickboxing, too. That’s why I consider myself more of a striker than a grappler. Back in the day, kickboxing was bigger than MMA. But MMA has really got a stranglehold on the audiences these days. UFC has hyped it up really well.
This week’s highlights…
• Horseracing: Stradbroke Day
Saturday, 1st race 11.20am (AEST), Doomben Racecourse, Brisbane
• Netball: Preliminary final – Melbourne Vixens v Giants Netball
Saturday, 7pm (AEST), Hisense Arena, Melbourne
• Rugby union: Wallabies v Fiji
Saturday, 3pm (AEST), AAMI Park, Melbourne
• NRL: Parramatta Eels v North Queensland Cowboys
Saturday, 7pm (ACST), TIO Stadium, Darwin
• Cricket: ICC Champions Trophy – Australia v England
Saturday, 7.30pm (AEST), Edgbaston, Birmingham
• Soccer: Socceroos v Brazil
Tuesday, 8.05pm (AEST), Melbourne Cricket Ground
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 10, 2017 as "Striking out".
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