We’re now less than four weeks away from my UFC debut on February 21st in Sydney, and training has well and truly kicked up a notch. I’m currently working real close with a variety of world-class athletes, some Olympic wrestlers, some top-level jiu-jitsu guys and some world champion kick-boxers. All these guys are at my weight and I’m learning so much from them.
The only trouble I sometimes have preparing for fights in Australia is that it’s often hard to find sparring partners. I never have that problem when I go to America and train. They have a whole heap of guys to choose from in the American gyms, which is very useful when it comes time to spar.
As well as preparing yourself physically for a fight, it’s also important to perfect the mental side of things. There are going to be a lot of people at UFC 110 and it’s something you have to get your head around beforehand. The show sold out in only a couple of hours and I think we’re expecting around 17,000 people on the night. That’s an amazing turn-out for the first ever UFC event in Australia. It just shows what kind of interest there is in the UFC nowadays.
I am preparing myself to walk out in front of the big crowd and to be hit with the noise of it all. The hardcore fans are going to be there and I know it’s going to be very loud. It’s going to be a lot different from the normal Australian shows I’ve fought on. The biggest crowd I’ve fought in front of to date was only 4,000 people, so this show at UFC 110 is going to be something new altogether.
Though I haven’t fought in front of a massive crowd myself, I did have some experience of it when I went over to Japan with Mark Hunt ahead of his fights with Fedor Emelianenko and Yosuke Nishijima. I walked to the ring with Mark and got a taste of what it was like to enter an arena with thousands of fans screaming. The crowds at PRIDE events were famously large and enthusiastic and it was a great feeling to enter the ring with such a noise behind you. It really made the hairs on your arms stand on end.
It’s an awesome feeling to have your home crowd there when you fight and to know that the whole country is behind you. I was born in New Zealand, so I have fans from both Australia and New Zealand behind me, which is great. I moved to Australia 11 years ago now. My brother came over here, then my parents followed and it went from there really. I love it in Australia and I just can’t wait to represent both Australia and New Zealand at UFC 110. I couldn’t be more fired up than I am right now just thinking about it.
My family and friends were very supportive of me when I told them I wanted to be a fighter. A lot of my friends and family knew about mixed martial arts when I started to get into it, but they weren’t huge fans. Now I’m actually competing in the sport, most of my family and friends are real hardcore followers of the game. It’s great for me to have that kind of backing.
The profile of the sport in Australia has changed massively, especially in the last year or so. We have UFC shows turning up on lots of cable channels now and everyone is talking about it. This is a great time to be a UFC fan and an even better time to be a UFC fighter…
**Tickets for an exclusive viewing party broadcast of UFC 110 – hosted and attended by UFC fighters – are available now from http://premier.ticketek.com.au/ **