Three hundred and seventy-nine seconds can either be a long or short period of time depending on the context. Long, if you are waiting for the light to change green on the commute to work. Long, if you are waiting for your leftovers to reheat in the microwave.
It is short however, if you are counting the total amount of time a combat sports athlete has spent inside the confines of a mixed martial arts cage, no matter how many fights they have competed in.
For Josh Kuhne, three hundred and seventy-nine seconds is the precise amount of time he has clocked in for across all six of his MMA bouts to date. In other words, barely longer than a single five minute round. A career that has been equally divided thus far between three amateur and three professional fights have all largely finished the same way; all via knockout or technical knockout, all ending inside the first round, all but one never made it longer than the two-minute mark.
The most recent of these highlight reel wins came at Eternal 63 on his home turf of the Gold Coast. A vicious onslaught of striking from the opening bell against a game opponent in Taela Kelly, would see Kuhne earn himself his third professional win in just forty-nine seconds via TKO.
Speaking with Eternal MMA, the man they call “Kamikaze” gave some insight into his pre-fight mindset as well as the play book that contributed to another quick night at the office.
“The plan’s always the same and I think it’s the same with not just me, but any fighter,” said Khune.
“I think everyone’s trying to get that early night, everyone’s trying to close it in the first round, I’m just the only one going out and doing it. That’s the difference.”
Of course, the game plan is only a part of the picture when it comes to finding success in any combat sport. If there is one aspect of Kuhne’s DNA that he is so well known for outside of his fast-finishing style in the cage – it’s his mentality and preparation. A fighter who is already well versed in dealing with the emotions and adrenaline that accompany any high-risk task, Kuhne brings a fearless approach with him every time he makes the walk to the Eternal MMA confines.
“Obviously on fight night, you’ve got to find something that switches within you. It’s not (necessarily) anything that I switch in to, it’s not a persona as such that I play.”
“When you’re about to step into the cage or you’re about to step into fight or you’re about to do anything like that, I think you’ve just got to find a place in your head where you’re totally focused and totally dialled in.
“Sometimes I’ll just scream, and I’ll just hype myself up and do crazy things and just punch shit – just do whatever it is that I’m feeling in the moment.”
“I’ve always been a thrill seeker; I’ve always put myself into those crazy situations where crazy s–t pops off. I’m so aware of the adrenaline dump. I’m in there, I’m super composed. I don’t feel nervous, I don’t feel scared, I don’t feel anything like that. There’s nothing in that cage that’s going to happen to me that I haven’t seen before.”
Possibly the most fascinating aspect about Kuhne’s meteoric rise so early in his mixed martial arts journey is the fact that he only started hitting pads little more than four years ago. With no previous
experience and no desire to pursue a career in combat sports, the story up until this point for Josh Kuhne is nothing short of remarkable.
The son of a builder, whose humble beginnings started in eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, Kuhne’s father would eventually seek greener pastures within the building industry after experiencing frustration with his career at home. A move to Brisbane was implemented to broaden the family’s horizons, and with that, the foundations of success would eventually be laid down for Josh in his professional career both inside and outside the combat sports world.
The deadly hands of Kuhne would first find a love for the tattoo gun long before they would grace the Eternal MMA cage. Already armed with a creative flair and artistic mind from his early childhood, Kuhne credits the move north as what spawned a lifestyle as a successful business owner with his tattoo studio – ‘Phresh Ink,’ as well as a competitive mixed martial artist.
“My old man was in the builder’s industry, and he was just getting buggerized in Victoria with it, so he just made the decision to pack up and move to the Gold Coast. And then shortly after a lot of our family actually did the same thing, a couple of uncles have all moved up here now.
“My parents naturally gravitated here for my dad’s work, and it’s just built up and we’ve stayed here since. And I’m glad that they did. I’ve been lucky enough with tattooing and everything that I do, I’ve travelled most of the world, I’ve seen a lot of the parts of the world – I’ve seen everything.
“The Gold Coast is one of the best places that I’ve ever been. I love to call this place home and I’ll always come back here, so I’m super thankful (for the move).”
School was a mixed bag for Kuhne growing up. While he excelled at a sufficient level, the academic side of education was not particularly where he focused his attention.
“In school I was always three pages of bookwork from the front and then from the back page it’d just be doodles and drawings that’d meet those three pages of schoolwork. I really paid attention in art and sports and athletics and stuff like that, everything else I wasn’t too phased in.”
Kuhne’s time at school was cut short a little unceremoniously, the irony of which is clearly not lost on him. But it was from that moment on that he was able to focus his efforts on a passion that would see him become the high achieving figure that he is today.
“I got kicked out of school for fighting believe it or not, in grade eleven.” Kuhne conceded with a wry laugh.
“I got into tattooing pretty much straight away from then I was hooked on it.”
While the artistic side to Kuhne’s makeup as a person served as a creative outlet to his obvious talents, sport was also a large part of his DNA from an early age. Growing up as the younger brother of a competitive – and highly successful motorcycle rider, the seeds were planted from the get-go that would eventually see Kuhne evolve into something of a renaissance man later in life.
“My family – we’ve grown up around motorcycles our whole life.
“My older brother was a professional motorcycle rider. From a very young age he was pulled out of school to travel the world through Europe, through Japan and through everything (while) racing professional motorcycles.
“I think he is still the youngest Australian to ever ride in the world GP. So, to see my brother be a professional athlete from a young age, that was really our drive (to succeed as athletes).”
It was within the same competitive motorcycle world that tragedy would strike the Kuhne family when Josh was only sixteen years of age, with his brother Matthew suffering a career ending injury that left him as a quadriplegic – just nineteen years old himself.
“That was a big hit to the family,” Kuhne confesses.
“But I think growing up around motorcycles and seeing what dedication it took to put into yourself as an athlete to perform that well in a sport – I got a bit of an early insight on that.
“My brother was my hero growing up. I was never ‘Josh Kuhne,’ I was ‘Matt Kuhne’s brother.’ I was the little brother of someone who was already achieving great things. And I was proud of that, I was never upset with that at all.
“I think seeing how much dedication he put into being the best that he could, I took a lot from that when I decided to do sports myself.”
The big brother influence of Matt has evidently been a major contributing factor towards the high standard in which Josh holds himself to. The tattoo industry is one that requires undivided attention and dedication, and Kuhne was throwing himself in headfirst to achieve his dreams with the highest level of success.
Hours spent honing the craft would often mean a sacrifice in leading a healthy lifestyle, which lead to an increase in unhealthy eating and unwanted weight gain – something Kuhne knew he had to change. It was this notion that would unknowingly be the spark of a new passion outside of the tattoo studio.
“I got a point where I was twenty-six or something, and I said ‘I’m going to start doing some boxing or some training, just for my fitness’.
“I think about six months to a year into my training I started finding a real passion for it. I started sparring at the amateur classes, and I told my coach that I wanted to get a matchup. We tried to do that for ages in the boxing industry and it just never eventuated for one reason or another. Whether it was injuries or opponents pulling out or opponents just not stepping up for whatever reason.
“I got the first crack at competitive sports on Eternal with MMA. I got the feel for that, I got the first round knockout there and I was just hooked.
“It wasn’t something that I had planned on doing from the very start when I set out training, but after I had that first fight, I knew that I had to continue to pursue this.
“I’d already sort of made my way in my tattoo career so I was pretty happy to sideline that for a little bit and have a new direction where I’m starting at the bottom and I’m rebuilding myself. I’m drawn to that sort of struggle as well. I like anything where it’s hard and you’re not the best person in the room, and you’ve got to close your mouth and open your ears and be that person to be learning. I got past that point for a little bit in tattooing and when I found that again in combat sports, I was hooked.”
Of course, every combat sports athlete needs a team around them in order to get the very best out of themselves they possibly can. While Chris Carden from Platinum Boxing Club was and still is the man sharpening the fast hands of Kuhne, it will be none other than former Eternal MMA legend and title challenger – Brentin Mumford, who will assume the role as head coach going forward.
While Kuhne has had the support of his team and coaches at CMBT Training Centre throughout his fight camps, this will be the first time in his career that he will have a dedicated man at the helm of his training to solely focus on every aspect of his progression. With the knowledge that the challenges from here on out will only get greater, Kuhne certainly sees the value in having an experienced veteran of the fight game taking the reins full time as he looks to make bigger waves with Eternal.
“He’s (Mumford) been a massive ticket to the growth in my game.
“Now that he’s stepping away from fighting himself, he’s going to be my coach. I haven’t had a coach since I started training. I haven’t had a head coach; I haven’t had anybody guiding me in terms of (identifying weak points) and giving me that honest feedback.
“Sure enough, we’ve got coaches at CMBT, but those coaches are usually fighters as well. It’s hard to train a fighter when you’re a fighter yourself. So having a head coach now, I think that’s going to be (another way) to cement myself and really start getting those levels up.”
Outside of the of his mixed martial arts training, Kuhne has a support network that is arguably just as vital to his success as his team and coaches are. Balancing a full-time job six days a week is no easy task, especially as a business owner – but especially as a full-time business owner who is simultaneously training as a professional athlete.
Not one to consider his plate ever too full, Kuhne is also a father to twin boys – a full-time job within itself. It is within this chaotic but no doubt rewarding schedule that Kuhne considers himself lucky to have some of the best people imaginable in his corner to help shoulder the load. With a team at the tattoo studio holding down the fort whilst in fight camp, Kuhne also has the unconditional support of his wife Amy who forms one half of the dream team both professionally as well as privately.
“We’re definitely a team, and a f—–g good one at that,” said Kuhne on the relationship with his wife.
“That didn’t come easy. Like with any relationship, with any partnership, it takes time.
“We’ve worked together in the studio for years. The first year that we did that, I fired her. I just said, ‘you go back to doing what you do, and I don’t want you to come in here with your opinions.’ And then after time (went by) I took a step back and let the pride down and let her back in, and it was the best thing I ever did because she can run the business when I’m not there.
“She helps me manage my time; she’s taking things off my plate. She watches the kids for me, she does all the ordering, she does all the accounting. She does so much behind the scenes and does it (with no intention) to put herself in limelight, not for any gratitude or reward. She just does it because we’re a team. I take my hat off to her so much and there’s no way that I could be here doing what I’m doing without her doing that.”
“Having her having my back and being able to take a lot of responsibility and tasks off me that I’ve already set up for myself, like being a business owner or having staff that require certain things, it’s been great, I couldn’t do it without her.”
The many helping hands in the life of Josh Kuhne are clearly paying dividends on every level both professionally and privately. As a mixed martial artist, the strides Kuhne is making inside the cage may not always be obvious given how quickly the curtains are drawn on each of his fights.
Behind closed doors however, the gains are being made at a rapid rate in all facets of MMA far beyond his dangerous striking abilities. The work is translating well to the cage. In his last two fights, Kuhne was finally given a chance to show fans how he would deal with at least some adversity.
“Seventy percent of our camp is wrestling, just because it’s such a fundamental.
“I know my striking’s there; I know that I’m super heavy handed. I know that once I start putting guys heads on the end of my f—-n’ punches, they’re not going to want to stand there with me. They’re going to be wrestling me, they’re going to be taking me down, they’re going to be trying to slow me down, they’re going to be clinching (and) grappling. So, I’ve been prepared for that in every fight.
“It was good that I got to show it in my last two fights that I’m not so easy to take down and I am working those other areas.
“I’m not going to go and big-note myself now and say what I’m capable of or let people in on my game. They’re just going to come and see what I’ve been working on and test me (in those areas) and see what I can do there.”
For those who have come so far, they have certainly seen. Kuhne’s devastating approach to the fighting has set him on a trajectory for superstardom, with no previous challengers coming anywhere close to halting the justified hype that surrounds him.
It is an approach that Khune does not plan to abandon any time soon. It is his belief that the aggression he exhibits in the cage comes naturally; it isn’t forced, nor is it a tactic that he leans on for any other reason besides the fact that Josh Khune just loves to fight.
By his own admission, fighting isn’t something that he does for the money. This isn’t a sport that he wants (or needs) for any type of financial gain. The training, the education, the weigh ins, the fight days with his teammates – this is all purely for the love of the sport. Tattooing is where Josh Khune makes his bread – the fight game is where he butters it.
It goes without saying that Kuhne’s fan friendly style has made him a huge hit with the Australian crowds, but it is on the Gold Coast where his star shines the brightest. The hometown support is evidenced by the fact that no matter where Kuhne is placed on the card, it is his name that gets the biggest pop of the night. It is this level of support that Kuhne does not take for granted.
“It’s huge,” said Kuhne.
“It fills me with energy. I love putting the pressure on myself. I find that I perform the best under pressure.”
“In those moments when you step into the cage, and I’ve invited all my friends, all my family, all the supporters are there. Everyone’s there to see me perform. So, I can’t let my people down. I have to go out there and I have to perform, so putting that pressure on myself makes me work even harder and it makes me even better in that moment.”
Like any up-and-coming fighter on the local scene starting to make a name for themselves, Kuhne has ambitions for international competition. The UFC is the number one destination for most mixed martial artists, and by Kuhne’s own sentiment, he is no different. Blazing the trail that he is in red hot fashion, Kuhne believes it is an ambition that he will achieve in the not-so-distant future.
For now, his eyes are focused on what lies ahead on home soil, with a hopeful return to action when Eternal MMA returns on the Gold Coast in March 2022 for Eternal 65. Relatively untested at any notable length up until this point in his career, Kuhne expects his next opponent to be someone who can challenge his resolve and give him the chance to showcase his abilities on a wider spectrum.
“Throw me a name,” Kuhne said when asked who his next opponent could be.
“A lot of people are out there promoting themselves that they’re not getting fights and they’re not getting people to say yes. But behind the scenes, I’m saying yes to everyone. And these fights aren’t getting made.
“There are a few people that I don’t want to fight because they’re either my mate, or I don’t feel they deserve that shot. But anyone from here on out should be a test. It should be an elite striker, an ex-champion, the next best thing, or a f—–n’ title shot.”
The prospect of a shot at the belt feels like it could be sooner rather than later for Kuhne. With ex contender and now head coach – Brentin Mumford no longer in the title picture, Kuhne believes the path to gold is becoming a little clearer.
“I considered the belt (to be) out of the picture for the next two or three fights, purely because I thought Brentin would be the belt holder. But now that that’s taken a different path and the belt is in other hands, I don’t mind taking my shot at it. Whether that be one or two fights before I get there, or if I’m gone by then, so be it.
“I’m down for whatever the promotion throws at me. At the end of the day, Cam, and Ben – they’re the matchmakers. They know what’s exciting, they know what the fans want to see.”
Until such time as a match is confirmed – Josh Kuhne will be ready and waiting for his number to be called.