THE FUTURE OF AUSTRALIAN MMA? CODY HADDON IS STAKING HIS CLAIM

June 5th, 2021, presented as something of a potential career trajectory moment for a then twenty two-year-old Cody Haddon. 

Touted by many as a future star of Australian MMA, Haddon was thrust into the spotlight of an  Eternal MMA main event having notched just two professional fights in his young career. 

His opponent would be then reigning Eternal MMA Flyweight champion, Stephen Erceg – a man in  need of an opponent after a scheduled title fight with hard-hitting contender Paul Loga fell through and ultimately rescheduled. 

Struggling to find opponents in his own division, Haddon jumped at the chance to face a champion  moving up a weight class in search of a fight to fill the void left by the rescheduled title bout.  

Erceg VS Haddon would go down as the 2021 Fight of the Year.

Questions were asked if this match up was “too much, too soon” for the then 2-0 Haddon. Erceg  boasted a wealth of experience as a mixed martial artist and was well on his way to next phase of  career, while Haddon was barely at the beginning of his journey. 

Haddon would ultimately go on to lose a decision to the flyweight champion in a three-round war  that would eventually be named “fight of the year” for 2021 – a fight that was anybody’s to win right  up until the final bell.  

It would be first blemish on the young prospect’s MMA record, but a huge boost in stock given his  performance against a far more established opponent. It’s a performance that has aged finely, given  the fact that Erceg would earn himself a call up to Dana White’s Contender Series less than twelve  months later. 

Fast forward to May of 2022, Haddon would steady the course and notch his third professional win at Eternal 66 against surging contender, Jarrett Wilbraham.

Haddon VS Wilbraham had the local crowd on their feet.

A fight that lived up to the hype in every way would see the twenty-three-year-old Haddon finish Wilbraham early in the third round with a series of elbows following a well-executed takedown. 

For Haddon, it was a moment of vindication after dedicating himself to years of hard work as a  martial artist. After taking some time to work on himself both personally and professionally following his loss to Erceg, Haddon found it tough to find an opponent who would be willing to share  the Eternal MMA cage with him – a major hinderance for a competitor with high ambitions and a  clear vision of the path he wishes to take. 

Speaking with Eternal MMA, Haddon reflected on his emotions after the win and what it means for  his future. 

“For me (winning) is always reassurance,” said Haddon. 

“Obviously the fight was tough, and it got a bit messy. You kind of lose that assurance of yourself  (during) the fight. Not that you’re doubting yourself, it’s just that it’s an intense fight.” 

“After winning and getting the finish (I felt) relieved to have won, even though I thought I was going  to win. At the same time, I was obviously very energetic and excited about winning, and (even) angry  in a way.”

“(It’s) a bit off a mix of emotions. When I win, especially if I get the finish, it makes me feel like I want  to start calling all these people out. That’s not my persona, it’s just how I feel. It’s kind of like ‘I  deserve this’. I deserve another fight; I deserve people to stop running from me and actually step up  and fight.” 

Haddon was highly emotional after this win at Eternal 66.

Step up and fight was exactly what Haddon’s opponent, Jarrett Wilbraham set out to do when  seemingly nobody else would. 

A surging prospect in his own right with vast skill set, unorthodox style and a unique height  advantage for the bantamweight division, Wilbraham presented as a dangerous opponent more  than capable of squaring Haddon’s win-loss record. 

Undefeated at 5-0 coming into the matchup, Wilbraham was riding a wave of momentum that  included an impressive TKO victory over the durable Jamie Hunt at Eternal 63. 

Suffice to say, this was not a matchup tailored to get Haddon back on track. Wilbraham is as tough a  competitor as Australia has to offer with his own lofty goals. This was going to take a complete  performance from the Western Australia native. 

Haddon and his team, fronted by Luistro Combat Academy head coach, Romel Luistro, studied what  little footage was available on Wilbraham prior to the match. According to Haddon, the game-plan  was more about emphasising his own skill set rather than devising a specific plan for what  Wilbraham would bring to the table. 

“I definitely watched the fight with Jamie Hunt,” said Haddon. 

He looked very, very good in that fight. I knew that he liked to throw big head kicks, I knew that he  liked to throw big knee’s, I knew that he liked to clinch – go for the body lock. I knew he was very  strong and fit.” 

“My coach Romel said, ‘No game plan. You got out there and mix it up with the guy. You’re better  than this guy in every area’. So, there was actually no game plan.” 

“I went in with an adaptable mindset and just tried to be as adaptable as possible in there with  Jarrett.” 

The 22-year old looked comfortable everywhere the fight took place.

An adaptable mindset would prove to be an important key to success as the fight opened at a  furious pace, with Wilbraham pushing the issue and forcing an early takedown. Wilbraham would  advance position and attempt to take Haddon’s back, looking for a submission. Haddon managed to  find his way back to his feet, only for Wilbraham to slam Haddon back to the mat with a thunderous  takedown. 

It was in these opening exchanges that Haddon became fully aware that he was in for a tough fight. 

“He took me down and my first thought was ‘how much does this guy weigh right now?’, he felt like  a lightweight,” said Haddon. 

“He was super strong – probably the strongest I’ve felt in a fight. He just grabbed me and picked me  up straight away.”

“When I started to move and noticed that he wasn’t trying to let go of grips, get better grips and  advance position, that’s when I realised, he was just trying to hold me with strength. I knew that was  only going to last a (short) amount of time. I was composed the whole time.” 

“It was a matter of being efficient with my energy. I knew he was going to come hard. In my mind  the whole time during the fight (I was thinking) ‘just keep putting pressure on him, he’s going to  start slowing down’.” 

“I definitely felt like he was dangerous the whole time, but I just let him swing and miss, get tired,  and then I was able to have my way with it.” 

As Haddon alluded to, efficiency would also play another vital part in securing the victory. With both  fighters having their own moments in the first round, Haddon had the best of them with a well timed jab that dropped Wilbraham as he was loading up with his own right hand. 

A three-time Australian amateur boxing champion, Haddon exhibited exceptional footwork, timing  and range. His obvious skill set on the feet continued to be demonstrated as the fight progressed  with well executed combinations and precise head movement that gave way to precise counter  striking.  

Beginning to sense a drop in energy from Wilbraham midway through the contest, Haddon took full  advantage with his own takedowns and ground control. Never out of the contest until the finish,  Wilbraham would continue to contest the fight from his back, making submission attempts and  never accepting his position as Haddon continued to work within Wilbraham’s guard to impose his  own dominance over his taller opponent. 

The momentum that Haddon took into the third and final round would pay off almost immediately.  A double-leg takedown in the opening minute was quickly capitalised on by a series of heavy elbows to the face of Wilbraham, leaving the referee no choice but to wave the fight off. 

Haddon’s eventual victory came early in the third round.

What initially seemed like a possible early stoppage was quickly proven to be the right call from an  alternative camera angle to the original broadcast. The initial takedown from Haddon was driven  with enough force to stun Wilbraham as his head hit the mat, with the follow up elbows sealing the  knockout victory for the fan favourite in his home state. 

With the win in hand, Haddon’s attention turned immediately towards the rest of the Bantamweight division. Calling out no one in particular, Haddon made it clear that he wants all would-be  challengers to come and see him when it’s time to step back inside the Eternal MMA cage. 

Clearly of the opinion that not only his performance, but also his words may have lit a fire under the  rest of the division, Haddon expects that he should now see a slew of challengers step up in attempt to take away some of his shine. 

“I think now I’ve created a little bit of a response,” said Haddon. 

“There is a few more people now that definitely want to fight me, they want to take something that I  might have. Having a lot of fans and stuff like that, they definitely want to take that from me now.  It’s lit a bit of a fire in their bellies, and they definitely want to put a stop to me because it makes  them look better.”

“I definitely want to get another two, three, four more fights in by the end of this year and stay  pretty active. Therefore, I can solidify my position. Then after that, I deserve to be going on to  (bigger things).” 

Haddon expects more challengers to put their name forward after Eternal 66.

The biggest question facing Cody Haddon right now is whether he truly is the future of Australian  MMA. Considered by many fans and media to be the case, Haddon himself was steadfast in his  opinion on whether it’s a label he is happy to shoulder. 

“One hundred percent,” said Haddon. 

“I feel like I’ve been the future of Australian MMA since before I had my first amateur MMA fight.  I’m super happy to carry that. If I’m not carrying that, I’m a bit insulted. I’ve always seen myself as  the future of Australian MMA. All my fans around me have always seen me as that, all my friends  and family – coaches as well. 

“I feel like I deserve that label. Like said, I’d be insulted if people aren’t labelling me that. Not being  big headed or anything, (but) the thing is I’ve been wanting to do this since I was six years old – I’m  twenty-three now. It’s the only thing I’ve thought about since I was six years old.” 

“My schoolteachers would ask me ‘what do you want to do when you’re older?’ (And I’d say) I want to be UFC champion.” 

“I remember I did a presentation in year three of the UFC, explaining to everyone in the class what I  want to do, what the UFC is and why I want to do it.” 

“I‘ve been a fan and I’ve been wanting to do it for a very long time. So, to be labelled that, I (feel  like) I deserve it.” 

Cody’s match vs Jarrett Wilbraham at Eternal 66 can be replayed on UFC Fight Pass.

KNOW YOUR FIGHTER: CODY HADDON

Know your fighter: Cody Haddon 

Eternal MMA sits down with Cody Haddon for a quick-fire Q&A ahead of his fourth professional fight at Eternal 66 against Jarrett Wilbraham. 

Age: 23 

Where were you born? 

I was born here in WA – Joondalup. 

Where are you based now? 

Still in WA – Northern Suburbs, Balcatta. 

What gym do you train out of? 

Luistro Combat Academy. 

Who are your coaches? 

Romel Luistro. 

What sports and activities did you participate in growing up? 

I started off in Taekwondo when I was six years old and then from there I got into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,  Muay Thai and boxing. I would have been nine when I started doing all those sports (together). I was  playing footy (Aussie rules) as well at the same time and I kept competing in those sports  individually. Now I’m competing solely in MMA.

Only his fourth pro outing, Haddon has already shared the cage with the best.

When did you first decide to dedicate yourself to the sport of MMA? 

The start of 2019, I would have been nineteen at the time. That’s when I went full-fledged focused  on MMA. 

In training, do you have any favourite techniques or areas that you enjoy drilling? 

Not really, I like all of it. Just getting the heart rate up feels good. I can’t really say one aspect more  than the other. I like it all equally. 

What can fans expect to see from you when you step inside the cage? 

I always bring a high pace. I like to put pressure on. I’m always looking to finish the fight at any  chance I get – sooner rather than later as I don’t get paid overtime (ha-ha). I’m always looking for  the finish, whether that’s a submission or striking. 

What do you see as your biggest strengths as a martial artist? 

I’d say my experience. I’ve only had “so many” MMA fights, but I’ve been competing in combat  sports for so long. My knowledge in the sport itself, how much I know about it and all the disciplines.

What do you consider to be your standout performance as a professional up until this point in  your career? 

I wouldn’t say one fight I performed better than the other fight. In my last bout with Steve (former  Eternal flyweight champion – Stephen Erceg), even though I lost the fight I feel like my performance  was pretty good. I think if anything my biggest achievement was getting that first pro fight and  winning. Not from a performance standpoint but more so from a success standpoint. That’s the big  thing, being an amateur your whole life and then eventually turning pro. There’s not (to say) so  much “pressure” on you, but everyone expecting (so much) of you already. To then go out and win  it, that’s the biggest kind of achievement up until now because it’s what means the most to me.

Even through loss, Haddon rates his performance VS Erceg.

Could you compare your style at present to a UFC athlete? 

People ask me that question quite often I can never seem to answer it. I feel like I haven’t had  enough fights to explain exactly what my style is like. People haven’t seen the best of me yet and  people haven’t seen what I’m capable of in all aspects of fighting. 

Do you have a favourite fighter at a professional level? 

Not really, I don’t have a favourite fighter. I respect all the fighters who are there in the UFC to be  honest. 

What belts or rankings do you currently posses as a martial artist? 

I’m actually a Taekwondo black belt, which not many people know about, but that was my first  martial art. I’m also a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. 

What are some of the accolades you have achieved as a combat sports athlete? 

Australian champion in boxing – three-time national champion. Four-time Pan Pacific Jiu-Jitsu  champion, that was at blue-belt and purple-belt. 

What are your goals for both the immediate and long-term future as a combat sports athlete?

The UFC. That’s the goal, that’s the always the end goal. I want to be UFC champion.

“I want to be UFC Champion.”

How do you see yourself getting your hand raised at Eternal 66? 

I think on the feet I might land something and then progress towards a finish from there, just  because I believe in my hands. No disrespect to my opponent, he’s great, but I just feel like I’m  probably going to land something with my hands. 

A message of thanks to your supporters? 

First and foremost, my gym – Luistro Combat Academy. A big shout out to my sponsors – Vex MMA,  Gobsmacked Sports Mouthguards, Pro Fuel Meals, Victory Recovery Systems, HempCann Labs,  Gorilla Chiropratic, my CrossFit gym – CrossFit Dignus, Margaret River Roasting Co, Steezy and True  Nemesis. 

A final message to the fans ahead of your upcoming fight at Eternal 66?

To the fans – thank you for all the support. Without them buying tickets, paying for PPV’s, we as  fighters wouldn’t be able to do this. This is my full-time job. At the moment, we’re not making any  money out of it, so we do it all for the love. Without the fans, we wouldn’t have the fighters. I  appreciate all the fans who are going to tune and as you know, I’ll be hunting for the finish as  always.

Know Your Fighter: Jarrett Wilbraham

Eternal MMA sits down with Jarrett Wilbraham for a quick-fire Q&A ahead of his sixth professional  fight at Eternal 66 against Cody Haddon. 

Age: 28 

Where were you born? 

Nowra, New South Wales. 

Where are you based now? 

In the Gold Coast – Burleigh Heads. 

What gym do you train out of? 

Potential Unlimited Mixed Martial Arts. 

Who are your coaches? 

Vincent Perry is my head coach. 

Jarrett trains under Australian MMA pioneer Vince Perry.

What sports and activities did you participate in growing up? 

I played AFL first off when I was a kid. As I went into late primary school I started to play (Rugby)  League – which I played right up until I was about fifteen or so, and then I ended up going back and  playing one season of under 18’s. 

When did you first decide to dedicate yourself to the sport of MMA? 

When I started off it was more of just something I wanted to do because I enjoyed fighting. I entered  in to a four-man eliminator, which I ended up winning. So, it was that exact moment that I won my  first pro title that I realised I was good at this. I was at that point where I was very unfamiliar with  this sport, but then it sent me down this track to chase it professionally as a career. 

In training, do you have any favourite techniques or areas that you enjoy drilling?

Striking and wrestling. 

What can fans expect to see from you when you step inside the cage? 

I would say strategy and flashiness. 

What do you see as your biggest strengths as a martial artist? 

I think I’m pretty all-rounded. I’d probably say my work ethic – how many hours I put into the sport. 

What do you consider to be your standout performance as a professional up until this point in  your career?

My last fight on Eternal (Eternal 63 – win vs Jamie Hunt). That was definitely my standout  performance because of how much I’d improved. 

Wilbraham called his Eternal 63 bout his stand-out performance.

Could you compare your style at present to a UFC athlete? 

I would just have to say Cory Sandhagen because we’re the same height in the same weight division  and it’s very rare to have someone so tall (at bantamweight). 

Do you have a favourite fighter at a professional level? 

Not really a favourite at the moment, I would have to say. 

What belts or rankings do you currently posses as a martial artist? 

I’m a blue belt in Jiu-Jitsu. Not very proud that I’m a blue belt. I did a lot of No-Gi, I’ve only just  started rolling in the Gi in the last two years, but its not something that I’m very focused on. 

What are some of the accolades you have achieved as a combat sports athlete? 

I won the Australian open wrestling tournament up here in Queensland last year. (Also) a couple of  gold medals in grappling comps. 

What are your goals for both the immediate and long-term future as a combat sports athlete? 

I want to win this fight and then I want that bantamweight title shot because I think I’m the only  bantamweight that has strung two wins together in the bantamweight division. I think I’m actually  the last bantamweight that fought, so I want to go for that title. 

How do you see yourself getting your hand raised at Eternal 66? 

I would like to get the finish by knockout, but I also like to beat people at their own game, and I  consider Cody to be an absolute workhorse with really high cardio. I think even a decision win over  him would make me look better than an actual knockout finish.

Wilbraham enjoys beating people at their own game, and plans to do the same at Eternal 66.

A message of thanks to your supporters? 

I have to give a massive thanks to Simon Black from Driftwood Shed – he donated $1300 to me  during this camp. As I live in a van to train full time, that is so helpful. Also, Cameron Birkett Electrical – Cameron Birkett donated $1000, which I can’t even express how much that’s helped. I’ve got Mirror Merch, who have been supporting me on my recovery at P3. Tankard Dental have supported  me as well as Hidden Fury. (Lastly) I couldn’t do any of this without my partner – Michaela Jensen,  she’s the glue that holds the whole dream together. 

A final message to the fans ahead of your upcoming fight at Eternal 66? 

Anyone at all that is interested in MMA, wants to get into MMA or anyone that wants to chat in  general and supports me, reach out and give me a message because I like to be in contact with my  supporters and I like to build relationships with them. Whether it’s in person or online, I have a lot of  good friends that I’ve never even met in person. So, please reach out, I’ll really appreciate that. The  support is everything, it’s the reason I do this as well as the love for it.

Jarrett can be found on YouTube and social media as a co-host for the “Punch Drunk MMA” podcast with Chris Ferguson and ElkMeat MMA, as well hosting his own YouTube podcast – “The Life’s Like Podcast”.

SPOTLIGHT: Kuhne VS Dimps

Australia’s leading MMA promotion returns to the Gold Coast on March 7th for Eternal 65. 

Atop of the card stands one of the most highly anticipated matchups in recent memory, with two of  the most popular figures on the local Australian MMA scene set to thrill fans with their high-octane style and larger than life personalities. 

On paper, Josh Kuhne vs Dimps Gillies is a stand-up enthusiasts dream. Familiar fans will be more  than acquainted with both athletes’ penchant for setting a fast and furious pace with their boxing combined with a solid chin – on paper it reads of a paradox in the “unstoppable force meets an  immovable object” realm. 

Kuhne himself has quickly captured the imagination of local MMA fans across the country, especially  on the Gold Coast where he now calls home. 

A relentless knockout artist with devastating power and surgical precision, Kuhne has yet to find an  opponent who can survive his onslaught beyond the first round. With three wins as an amateur and three wins as a professional, Kuhne has won all of six of his bouts by knockout long before the  corner stool is ever needed.

Not a single fight has gone past the 1st Round for Kuhne.

Hot off the news that he will now be represented by management powerhouse – Paradigm Sports,  Kuhne spoke with Eternal MMA ahead of the highly touted matchup. 

“It’s probably the biggest jump that I’ve made in my career yet,” said Kuhne of his new management. 

“Paradigm is top tier management; they take on the biggest stars – the biggest names. So, to have  them on my team now working with someone like myself – who invests a lot into myself, to have a  team also investing themselves into me, I think it’s just going to be big things on the horizon.” 

Prior to an illness sidelining him for a short period, Kuhne was originally slated to compete at Eternal  64 against fellow lightweight – Blake Donnelly. With Donnelly himself now on the sidelines, Kuhne  was more than happy to take on a different challenge once he was cleared to fight. 

“As soon as I got healthy and was able to get back into the gym, I put my name straight back into the  mix for the next available option,” he said. 

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t get Blake who was the original signed opponent due to an injury of his  own, hence why Dimps’ name got thrown into the mix. They’ve (Dimps Gillies’ team) been asking for  this fight for a while, so that was the fight to make. 

“I think it’s an exciting one, I think it’s the one the fans wanted to see. So, we signed it, we got done.” 

The upside of a fight against a fellow fan favourite in Dimps Gillies is far from lost on the man they  call “Kamikaze”. With fans eager to see two hardest hitting athletes go head-to-head inside the  Eternal cage, Kuhne is just as eager to meet an opponent who many believe will be by far his biggest  test to date.

The Kuhne VS Dimps bout is considered must-watch MMA.

“I think for anyone who’s ever seen Dimps fight and anyone who’s ever seen my fights, it’s a no  brainer,” said Kuhne. 

“I think it’s just something that people want to see. They want to see what happens when two trains  collide, they want to see what happens when two bulls lock horns, they want to see what happens  when two savages get locked in a cage. 

“We’ve got aggressive styles, we both move forward, we’re both hella-tough. He’s got a chin on him,  I’ve got a chin on me, and we both throw hell for leather, how’s that not exciting? 

“That’s what fans pay to see. The fans pay to see people like me, they pay to see people like Dimps.  We’re the ones who bring that violence, we’re the ones who bring that crowd and bring that noise,  so to put us up against each other…? Makes sense.” 

Fans are in for a treat this Saturday night.

A scary prospect for future opponents is that for the most part, Kuhne has achieved so much in a  small space of time without the guidance of a dedicated head coach up until now. Former Eternal  MMA lightweight and Australian combat sports legend – Brentin Mumford has taken the reigns of  Kuhne’s career now that he has retired as a competitor, an alignment that Kuhne feels he is  beginning to reap the benefits from. 

“It’s massive,” said Kuhne of his new coaching arrangement. 

“I’ve probably been blessed in a sense that (until now) I’ve got through my career to where I am on  my own account. Obviously there (has been) gym partners and coaches along the way that have  helped me. 

“But to just have that one voice of reason, just that one voice in my corner and just to have someone  game planning and guiding me through my whole camp start to finish, that’s been a game changer. 

“I’ve (gained) huge levels in my game from every aspect – setting traps, baiting people, working  different angles, the whole lot.  

“It’s all coming together. Having one voice, one coach – having Brentin who’s so experienced in the  lightweight division – who’s done it all, seen it all, been everywhere and just passing on that wealth  of knowledge to me, it’s humbling.” 

Kuhne feels right at home with the team at CMBT.

Time will tell exactly what level Kuhne has reached now that he has a mind like Brentin Mumford in his corner full time, but the benefit of a full training camp with a former title challenger at the helm  can surely not be overstated. Now with most of the hard work behind him, Kuhne had a message for  ahead of the blockbuster clash for new and old fans alike. 

“Expect fireworks. Expect to see two of the toughest dudes in Australia just go in there and beat the  shit out of each other (until) one of us comes out with their hand raised. 

“At the end of the day, this is a mixed martial arts match and it’s going to be the person with the  most well-rounded skill set (who wins).” 

“I’ve got Brentin Mumford in my corner, he’s my coach, I’m going to be listening to his voice of  guidance. Wherever the fight plays, wherever the fight takes me – it takes me.”

“If it means something else causes the finish and it’s not a knockout? So be it. Maybe it is a sub, maybe it’s not, maybe it goes the distance. 

“Let’s just see how it plays out, but I’m not going in there with any intentions to do anything but give  it my all.” 

Meeting him across the cage in the other half this highly combustible equation will be Eternal MMA  mainstay and wildly popular crowd favourite – Dimps Gillies. 

A well-travelled veteran of the game with a wealth of experience in combat sports, Gillies will be  looking to put his own stamp on what will be his second main event as a professional. 

Dimps’ last Main Event saw him score a Knockout in under a minute.

A multiple time “fight of the night” award winner, the NTG Fight and Fitness product never finds  himself in a boring fight. Armed with ferocious power, quick hands and slick head movement, Gillies has long held a reputation of being one of the most exhilarating fighters to watch on the Australian  MMA regional scene. 

Speaking with Eternal MMA, Gillies was as humble as ever as he looked ahead to the match. “A main event is always big,” said Gillies. 

“I’m grateful for the platform and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to perform in a main  event and share the ring with Josh Kuhne. I’ve admired from the sidelines, from cage-side – I was  there for most of his fights. 

“I didn’t really think I was going to fight him in my career because I was more just a fan of his work.  But my team – they see an opportunity here to get my name (back) at the top again and get the right  exposure. All the right eyes should be watching on May 7th

“It was an opportunity I had to jump at, and it was one that I couldn’t miss.” 

Anybody who is familiar with Dimps Gillies will know that it is the stand-up game that he truly lives  for. Recent ventures into the world of professional boxing while still have all played a part in honing  his craft as an elite striker, with classic boxing traits often on display as he competes as a mixed  martial artist. 

Asked of the prospect of fighting a fellow stand-up specialist, Gillies was resolute in his enthusiasm  for another potential fight of the night contender. 

“For sure, I know what to expect. When I say that, I can’t predict anything, but I know it’s going to be  a vibe and half for everyone that’s watching and tuning in.” 

“Usually, I’m the guy that comes forward and I don’t take a step back. In his perception that’s what  he does and in my perception that’s what I do, so it’s going to be hard to say what happens. But I  know there’s going to be violence and I know there’s going to be explosive action. 

“I’m ready for it and I can’t wait. It does get me out of bed in the morning and it does get my arse to  the gym. I’m excited and I’m ready for this matchup.” 

Dimps is driven to perform for his gym.

A fiercely loyal character by nature, the opportunity to represent his team at NTG Fight and Fitness  at any time is something that Gillies doesn’t take for granted. Given the opportunity on the main stage, Gillies is aware of the exposure it creates for his team, and he plans on showing out for his  gym regardless of the outcome. 

“I believe that loyalty is key, and I am going to keep playing my part and doing my best to perform  for my gym. If I don’t win, it doesn’t matter. As long as I lose and it was a fight where I didn’t leave  anything in there, I didn’t leave with regrets, I didn’t question myself after.” 

“If I can perform even when I lose and put on a show, then I still give that exposure to my team. It’s  something that I strive for. To me, it’s more important than winning, but others don’t think like me.” 

Fans can rest assured that Dimps Gillies is always coming into the building to put on a show. His  humble and sunny disposition is something of a stark contrast to the violence he brings whenever he  steps foot inside the confines of the Eternal MMA cage. While Gillies needs no help in turning up for  a scrap, it’s the fans in attendance the get him going the most. 

“The fans give their energy and that rowdiness, especially in the MMA scene as opposed to the  boxing,” he said. 

Dimps is fueled by the roar of the crowd.

“I love it. When you hear those chants and you hear those cheers and you hear those roars, you’re  doing something right. In my head, those people pay good money to come watch us. In my head, if  they weren’t paying that money, we wouldn’t have this platform. In my head, they are another  prime example of who we are there performing for.” 

“I just want to say a big thanks to everyone and anyone who follows the local combat sports scene in  Australia and even worldwide – but the local shows mostly because we’re not that big, we’re not that recognised.  

“The more people that do tune in, the better it is for everyone involved in the business – the  fighters, the promoters, the trainers, the gyms, the coaches and everyone. We all play our part and  it’s a part we should play to make we get the best out of combat sports in Australia.” 

Kuhne vs Gillies main card will be streamed live and exclusive March 7th on UFC Fight Pass.

Know Your Fighter: Lachlan “Deadshot” Stitt

Eternal MMA sits down with exclusively signed athlete – Lahclan “Deadshot” Stitt for a quick-fire  Q&A ahead of his professional debut at Eternal 65. 

Age: 22 

Where were you born? 

Mackay, Queensland 

Where are you based now? 

South West Sydney 

What gym do you train out of? 

XXX Fight Academy 

Lachlan describes his fighting style as a mix of Jon Jones and Lyoto Machida.

Who are your coaches? 

My head coach is Mohamed Mousalli – AKA Coach Moey (as well as) Nathan Reddy and Zein Saliba

Where does the ‘Deadshot’ nickname come from? 

Moey gave me that, my head coach. Just from the way i finish fights, my accuracy and finishing  abilities. 

What sports and activities did you participate in growing up? 

I started Karate when I was six years old and pretty much did that up until twelve. Then i started  playing footy for a couple of years, got into MMA at about fifteen and have been on the same  journey since. 

When did you first decide to dedicate yourself to the sport of MMA? 

I finished my trade as an electrician at the start of 2021. From that point forward I’ve pretty much  committed my whole career to fighting. I do security on the weekend, run my own electrical  business on the side and just fight/ train full time. 

What can fans expect to see from you when you step inside the cage? 

Expect violence and also a quick finish. 

What do you see as your biggest strengths as a martial artist? 

Definitely my striking – my striking accuracy. 

Could you compare your style at present to a UFC athlete? 

My style would be a mix between Jon Jones and Lyoto Machida. I have a karate background and I’ve adapted that to MMA.

Who is your favourite fighter at a professional level? 

I get this question a fair bit at work. Definitely in his prime – Georges St-Pierre, all day long.

Lachlan’s ready to make waves after signing exclusively with Eternal MMA.

What belts or rankings do you currently posses as a martial artist? 

I’m a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu under Zein Saliba. 

What are some of the accolades you have achieved as a combat sports athlete? 

I have two state titles – New South Wales titles. One in kickboxing and also an MMA state title. I won  the Beast Australian Welterweight title mid last year – That was my last fight before turning pro. 

What are your goals for both the immediate and long term future as a combat sports athlete? 

Definitely work my way up the Eternal MMA rankings, get some good fights, stay active, get some  good finishes and then get my shot at the UFC. 

How do you see yourself getting your hand raised at Eternal 65? 

Definitely a KO or TKO. I’m KO’ing this guy. I can definitely see that. 

A message to the fans and your supporters? 

Jump on board now, because I’m just gonna keep going at this. I think I have a very bright future in  the sport of MMA and representing Australia world wide. We are going straight to the top.

Lachlan makes his professional MMA debut on May 7th at Eternal 65 against JayJay Te Huia.

Phar Beyond Driven: Featherweight champion Jack Jenkins looks to the future after dominant title defence at Eternal 64.

Watch me.” 

The resounding message was loud and clear from Jack Jenkins during the post fight formalities following his successful title defence at Eternal 64. 

A dominant five-round display from the champion was punctuated with a statement of intent, as he took the opportunity on the microphone to remind the naysayers that this is just the beginning. 

The consensus was that Rod Costa was going to be by far and away the biggest test for Jenkins up  until this point in his professional career and at least on paper, that was an accurate assessment. What transpired in the cage however, painted somewhat of a different picture.

Just the beginning, for Jack Jenkins.

Let’s not get it twisted, Rod Costa is as high level as it comes in terms of what Eternal MMA and by  extension, what Australian MMA in general has to offer. A world champion Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with a much-improved striking base, coupled with an unwavering in-ring confidence and a  recent catalogue of impressive wins, Rod Costa was the clear number one contender to Jenkins’ belt. 

By the end of the night on March 19th we were reminded just how true the adage is – there are levels  to this game. The sheer fact of the matter is, Jack Jenkins has evolved levels above his competition in  Australia within his weight class. That’s not hyperbole – that is fact, proven with a superior display of  technique, power, speed, cardio and fight IQ against one of the toughest veterans in the country. 

From the opening bell until the closing curtains (save for a late takedown from the challenger in the  final minute of the fight), it was all one-way traffic from the champion. The opening round provided  early answers as to what direction the highly anticipated bout was going to take – elite level boxing from the champ seamlessly mixed in with patented calf kicks, constant stance switching, head movement and range management all had Costa on the back foot from the get-go.

Jenkins’ calf kicks had a noticeable effect early.

For the viewers at home and at cage side, it was apparent that Jenkins had raised the bar in his  striking game once again. Landing head and body shots at will, Jenkins put on a master class with his  hands with deadly accuracy while never overexerting himself. The jab was precise, the combinations  were ever present and the extensions on the body shots from both hands were a sight to behold,  finding a home for them to the liver and rib cage of Costa on multiple occasions. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Jack Jenkins fight without the use of devastating leg kicks to his  opponent. It should be noted that prior to the fight, Costa went on record stating that he would  never quit as a result of the heavy leg kicks he may endure from Jenkins. Credit to the Scrappy MMA  product, he held true to his word, but by the end of round one it was clear that his lead leg was  already severely compromised due to the onslaught of shots they had received from Jenkins. 

The leg kicks would be a reoccurring theme through the remainder of the fight, with only the heart  of Costa keeping him on his feet as both legs were severely damaged by Jenkins in each round. It  was the perfect plan from Jenkins, the damage sustained by Costa to both legs would cause him to  adopt a square posture in the later stages of the fight, seemingly without a lead leg in his stance for  much of the remainder. 

On the occasion that Costa was able to find himself a window of offence, it was largely dealt with by  the slick head movement and distance management of Jenkins at almost every juncture. Takedown attempts were turned away with relative ease by the champion, thwarting any chance of Costa  getting the fight to the ground where he is known to do his best work. 

But therein lies another challenge for anyone who faces such a well rounded mixed martial artist as  Jenkins. For as good as Costa is on the ground, it’s seemingly a matter of “pick your poison” when it  comes to where the biggest threat lies when facing a man of Jenkins’ skill set. He doesn’t have any  perceived weak spots in his game at this point in his career. 

Distance-management and takedown defence was on full display at Eternal 64.

It wouldn’t be until the dying minutes of the final round before Jenkins found himself facing any kind  of adversity from his opponent. The relentless will of Costa to battle through four and half rounds  out on his feet saw him able to mount one final act of desperation with a takedown against the cage.  It was a case of too little too late however, Jenkins merely had to cause a stalemate in the dying  seconds as he cruised to a unanimous decision victory. 

A country boy at heart, Jenkins was on the first flight back home to Victoria the morning after his  title defence. The big city lights of the Gold Coast may set the perfect scene for the champion to  show what he is made of in the cage, but it is back home in the quiet countryside where Jenkins  finds himself again. 

Now back in his hometown of Bacchus Marsh, Victoria – Jenkins was able to reflect on his  performance from the serenity of his own home. Speaking with Eternal MMA, Jenkins cut a figure of calm confidence as he summed up his big win while setting his sights on the immediate future. 

“My mindset hasn’t really changed from the immediacy after the fight through till now. It only took  me five minutes after the fight before I turned to one of my friends and said, ‘this is want I want to do, I need to get back to training by Wednesday-Thursday and start getting ready for whatever’s  next.’ 

“My attitude hasn’t really changed on (my outlook on the fight) since the fight itself to be honest.  I’m really happy with that performance, but this is just the start for me so there’s no time to take the  foot off the gas, so it’s just straight (back) into it.” 

The challenge that was put in front of Jenkins at Eternal 64 came as nothing as surprise to himself or  his team. Rod Costa has made a name for himself as being one of the hardest opponents to put away  in the sport, a prospect the champion was more that ready to deal with. 

“It played out pretty much exactly as my coaches prepared me for, to be honest,” said Jenkins. 

“We (our team) spoke and we knew Rod was tough and wasn’t going to go away easily, so we  trusted in the fact that my conditioning would hold out for the full five rounds – If I needed to take it  to the end of the fifth, I would still be there and still be able to stick to my game plan, which was to  use my hands to keep him on the outside, then punish him with my kicks when I got a chance to. 

“So, it went pretty much exactly as we prepared for, I just don’t think that you can ever prepare for  someone to take as much damage as Rod did and keep coming (forward). So, credit to him for that,  he was as tough as they come.” 

As impressive as the striking display was from Jenkins for the entire length of the fight, it was  nothing new in the eyes of the team from Absolute MMA. While the sharp-handed skills were on full  display for the full twenty-five minutes, Jenkins believes that while this may have been his best 

performance to date, the heavy arsenal he possesses has long been a part of his tool belt behind  closed doors. 

“Definitely it’s the sharpest I’ve felt,” he said. 

“I think Cam O’Neill from Eternal made a comment to my striking coach Andy, he said ‘wow, that’s  the best Jack’s ever looked, he’s improved so much’. I think Andy replied and said, ‘he’s been that  good for a long time, I think that was just his first chance to really show it.’ 

“But there were definitely minor improvements. It wasn’t (as if) from the last time everyone saw me  I’ve just turned my boxing around and done a one-eighty and gained all these skills, that’s not the  case at all. It’s just probably the first time I was able to find the range early with my hands instead of  my kicks and put the pressure on with them.” 

“That’s what I’m most happy with about the fight – that I got to fully show what my hands are  capable of. The fact that I was able to mix up the levels, changing from the head to the body to the  leg. The stances – going from southpaw to orthodox and just giving him all those different looks, it  just showed the variability of my skill set and that I can do it at a high pace for five rounds.” 

Jack says his Eternal 64 performance was “the sharpest I’ve ever felt.”

Perhaps the only thing as powerful as the performance itself was the message that Jenkins had for  his detractors in the post fight interview with in-ring announcer – Luke Toohey. There was no waiting  around for a line of questioning, Jenkins simply had a strong message for the doubters he believes  have followed him at every juncture in his career. 

“I felt that I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder,” said Jenkins. 

“I felt like some of the pundits and these MMA pages were talking about this fight like Rod was the  favourite and that this was Rod’s fight to lose. I just felt that it wasn’t the case at all.” 

“I was doing a lot of running as I always do to get ready for a fight and every time I thought about someone saying, ‘Rod’s the favourite’ or ‘Jack’s running from Rod’, all of that sort of stuff, I just  thought ‘wait and see in this fight, watch me, you’re going to see.’ 

And “see”, everyone did. An eye-opening performance for not only local fans, but dedicated fight  fans all around the world eager to see the new breed of international fighters coming through the  ranks. With Eternal MMA now being broadcast across the globe on UFC Fight Pass, it was the perfect  platform for Jenkins to showcase his abilities to a wider audience. 

Of course, it is no secret as to where Jack Jenkins sees his long-term future. Long standing  aspirations to fight with the best in UFC are still at the forefront of his plans – an uncompromising  mindset that is unlikely to waver any time soon. With his recent dominant displays on home soil and  a belief that he is the clear best Australian featherweight on the local scene, Jenkins believes his  chance may come sooner rather than later. 

“I’ve never fought anyone younger than me,” Jenkins professed. 

“I’ve always fought dudes older than me. Every single one of my fights, they’ve all been older than  me. 

“If you look at anyone younger than me, there’s not a coach in Australia who’s going to let one of  those young up and comers at featherweight fight me before I leave. The writing is on the wall that 

I’m going to get a UFC shot, so why would you let a young kid who’s coming up fight me if you can  just wait for me to get my shot and go? 

“As far as I’m concerned, since the pandemic started, I’m the featherweight that showed up at every  chance and took on the challenges and won the fights and won them all dominantly. 

“I’m not just beating these guys – I’m breaking them, so I think it’s my turn to get my shot.” 

If there are still any doubters after his latest performance, one may simply turn to the current  reigning UFC featherweight champion for his opinion on Jack Jenkins. Fellow Australian – Alexander  “The Great” Volkanovski relies on Jenkins as an occasional sparring partner in preparation for his  own fights.  

With Jenkins slated to return to New South Wales to help Volkanovski prepare for his next title  defence at UFC 273, it was the champ himself who was one of the first to send Jenkins a word of  congratulations after his big win at Eternal 64. 

“Alex messaged me after my fight and said that he thought it was a flawless performance and a  masterclass, so I was really happy to get that feedback from him. Obviously getting praise like that  from the champion of the world means a lot. 

“In the coming days if I can get of this swelling out of my hands, I’ll probably head up to Wollongong  and help him finish off his camp.” 

With his shot at an international career seemingly on the horizon, Jenkins has a firm understanding  as to how his skill set matches up with the current crop of talent on the UFC roster. An avid fan of  the sport itself, Jenkins has always kept an eye on his future competition and who he believes he is  comparable to as a mixed martial artist. 

“I think I’m top fifteen ready right now,” said Jenkins emphatically. 

“You’ve got to go in there and earn your stripes, but I think I’m top fifteen ready right now. So, it’s  just a matter of getting in there and proving it.” 

“I probably sit somewhere between a Chad Mendes and a Jose Aldo,” said Jenkins when asked who  international fans could compare his style to. 

“I probably kick like an early version of Jose, but I probably move a bit more latterly and go to the  body a bit more like Chad Mendes. Those were the two main guys when I really started getting into  the UFC – I think I blend a style between those two.” 

There’s a lot to like for fight fans when it comes to Jenkins both in terms of his acumen as a combat  sports athlete and as a human being. A professional who carries himself with an astute confidence  without ever being cocky, a humble competitor who will always give his opponents credit where it’s  due. Jack Jenkins really does embody what it means to be potential representative of Australian  MMA on the biggest stage of them all. 

The current state of MMA in Australia is being touted as being in somewhat of a “golden age” by  media and fans alike. Jenkins plans on being a part of the new wave to join the ranks and put an  even bigger stamp on the map for this corner of the world. 

“I think I’m top-fifteen ready right now.”

As for his own legacy, Jenkins knows exactly what he wants to leave behind when it is all said and  done. 

“I want to be a world champ,” he said. 

“First and foremost, I want to win that UFC belt. I want to fight in Vegas, I want to fight at Madison Square Garden, and I want to sell out Marvel Stadium.” 

Any doubts that Jack Jenkins will achieve all his lofty goals? 

Watch him.

SPOTLIGHT: JENKINS VS COSTA

The premiere mixed martial arts organisation in Australia is finally back in action for the first time in  2022 after a monumental run of stellar fight cards in the previous year.  

Eternal MMA navigated the uncertain waters of 2021 within the COVID pandemic to put on eight events in three different states across the country, featuring seven title fights inside four different  weight classes, four of which saw new belt holders emerge. 

One of the combatants who managed to retain the gold around their waste during the 2021 period  was the man who will once again look to defend his title in the upcoming Eternal 64 main event – featherweight champion, Jack Jenkins. 

Jenkins retained his title back at Eternal 57.

A surging Australian prospect on the regional scene, Jenkins has quickly made a name for himself as  a well-rounded fighter with a solid cardio base, high level defensive awareness and proven finishing  abilities, stopping four of his last five opponents while riding a five-fight win-streak. 

Much of Jenkins’ success up until this point in his career can be directly attributed to an unwavering  dedication to his craft. A country boy at heart out of Bacchus Marsh, Victoria – two-hour round trips  from home to his gym in the Melbourne suburbs – as well as often sleeping at the gym, point directly  to a man driven to succeed at the highest level. 

Currently sitting at 8-2-0 in his professional career, Jenkins will be looking to add some polish to his  record with a second title defence when he steps inside the cage at the GC Sports Precinct against  rising contender and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion – Rod Costa. 

Speaking with Eternal MMA, Jenkins gave his thoughts on the upcoming title fight and his career  trajectory until now and beyond. 

“I’m clearly the number one as I am right now, and Rod’s clearly the number two with the body of  work that he’s put in in the last couple of years. So, we’re going to get to it and then I think if I win  this one, I should be right to get to the UFC.” 

“I think it’s a good matchup for me. I’ve tried to build my style around not having a kryptonite – not  having one style that’s going to throw me off. My last three matches have been against grappling  specialists. To put that into account, I think that Rod is the best grappler (out of all of them). But in  saying that he’s been cracking people with his hands as well. 

“I’ve just got to be sharp and work my way in, but I’ve got five rounds to do it and that works in my  favour.” 

“If I win this one, I should be right to get to the UFC.”

A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt in his own right, Jenkins believes that he will feel comfortable  controlling the fight no matter the direction it takes, but it’s his gas tank and stand-up game where  he feels he has the clear advantage. 

“I think the cardio is one thing that will work in my favour, but I know Rod is fit too, so I’m not  discounting that. I think the cardio and the fact that I will be one step ahead on the feet will be the  difference.” 

“My biggest strength is that I don’t get hit much. You can go back and look through my ten fights and  you could probably count on two hands how many times I’ve taken a significant strike.”

Anybody who follows the social medias of the two combatants will perhaps be familiar with some of  the virtual stones that have been cast ahead of the match, with some accusations of looking for  “easy fights”. As far as Jenkins is concerned, it has been all one-way traffic in that respect. 

“If Rod and I had any kind of history or if we knew each other, I might get involved in it a little bit,”  said Jenkins of the online barbs. 

“I’ve spoken to Rod one time, I walked past him and shook his hand and said, ‘good fight, mate’ and  he said, ‘yeah thanks mate’, and then I had a word to (current Eternal lightweight champion) Jack  Becker who was standing next to him. I don’t know if he thinks he can just make it up on the spot  and I’m just going to bite at it, but I’m not really interested in that. 

“Rod’s a good fighter, I’m a good fighter and we’re going to and have a f**king scrap, so we’ll figure  it out from there.” 

The confidence levels for the Absolute MMA product are at an all time high and for good reason. At  twenty-eight years of age, the man they call “Phar” Jack is barely entering the prime years of his  fighting career in a rich vein of form. 

A submission finish over the supremely talented Diego Pereira in 2020 to win his first title, was  followed by up by two dominating TKO victories in 2021, one of which was his first title defence and  an avenged loss against fellow featherweight – Jesse Medina. 

Jenkins’ first title defence came at Eternal 57.

The overwhelming factor in both recent fights was the sustained pressure and devastating leg kicks  that neither of his opponents could keep a poker face to. If Jenkins is to retain his title at Eternal 64,  he knows his heavy leg kicks are something he can always rely on to set the tone early, before he  sees himself getting his hand raised mid-way through the five-round fight. 

“I see it as a third round or fourth round finish,” he said. 

“I’ll have to keep my base pretty low early on and watch out for his left hook. He throws a nice left  hook off the break, and he’s got a good strong double (leg takedown) that he gets low on, so I’ll have  to keep my frame low early on. 

“I think I’ll touch his eye enough with my jab to set my distance early, and once that’s on it will just  be about taking my time. But that’s the beauty of a five-round fight. I look at the five-round fight as a  positive, not a negative, because you just get more time to work.” 

“If the finish is there, I’m going to jump on it and take it, but my plan is to do the damage over the  rounds that I’ve got rather than trying to get it done quick.” 

Of course, the man meeting Jenkins across the other side of the cage has a different scenario in mind  for the outcome of this highly anticipated title matchup. 

Riding his own hot form with five wins in his last six fights, Scrappy MMA’s Rod Costa is ready to put  his evolved skill set to the test against the reigning champ. 

If not for an extremely close decision loss against Jenkins’ teammate – Kaan Ofli (a fight in which  many fans were split down the middle in terms of who they thought won), Costa would currently be  sitting on a six-fight winning streak of his own.

Costa VS Ofli was a closely contested split decision.

Not one to dwell on what could have been in terms of win streaks, Costa’s focus is completely set on  the challenge that lies ahead and whatever obstacles Jenkins may present as an opponent. 

“I’m going to go out there and feel him up standing, if he does something that I feel presents a  takedown to me, I’ll take it,” said Costa. 

“If I go in there and he starts catching me with punches, I’m not that proud that I’m going to (feel  like) I have to prove that I can stand with Jack Jenkins. I don’t give a f**k. 

“But I don’t see that he’s got anything different than the other guys (previous opponents) had, to be  honest. He’s a little bit more powerful, I think. If you’ve seen him fight the last few times, he’s got  that calf kick that he hurt people with.” 

“For everyone that knows whats happening in this fight, it’s a matter of ‘is he able to hurt me with  those calf kicks? Is his striking going to be enough to overpower me?’ 

“On the floor, I’m not really worried. If he ends up on top, if he plans to take me down, it doesn’t  really matter. On the floor, I’m just comfortable wherever it goes.” 

Dedicated fight fans will be familiar with the evolution of Costa’s arsenal during his time as a  professional mixed martial artist. A world class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with his own gym, Costa  has shown off a much-improved striking game in his recent fights, demonstrating a fearless attitude  to stand and bang with the other elite strikers the Eternal MMA featherweight division has to offer. 

A grappler at heart, Costa is now happy to stand-and-trade, too.

It is this mindset coupled with a now highly dynamic skill and recent run of wins that has earned  Costa his first title shot, though he can’t help but speculate as to why this matchup took so long to  come to fruition. 

“I’ve only ever had one interaction with Jack Jenkins face to face. It was after I fought Kaan (Ofli),  and he was super nice to me – super respectful.  

“I’ve got nothing against him, I just just want to fight him. I think I’ve said this stuff a few times, I  don’t want to be repetitive, but I wanted to fight him and either him or someone on his team kept  refusing.” 

A recent venture for Jenkins to another MMA promotion outside of Eternal MMA also saw Costa  questioning Jenkins’ motives when it comes to fighting local competition. 

“Why would you rather fight a guy that’s 4-4, hasn’t fought in two years, in a show that no one  knows, that doesn’t bring any views, that the UFC doesn’t know what it is – rather than fighting me  on an Eternal show for a belt? 

“That (Rogue MMA) belt means nothing. Who the f**k cares about (a) Rogue MMA belt? It’s the first  fight they had. The dude is the champion of a shit promotion, who gives a f**k? He should have  fought me. If he’s that confident that he’s that good that he should be in the UFC, he should have  fought me.  

“And he might beat me, but he didn’t want to take that fight and that’s a fact and that’s all I care  about.”

The Rod Costa that fans have come to know and love during is time with Eternal MMA is one that is  willing to take any fight, anywhere at any time, even on short notice. Costa is as real as it gets. While  conceding that Jenkins has the tools to beat him, he just doesn’t believe the champion outweighs  him when it comes to heart. 

“I think he’s got a lot of doubts in his head,” said Costa. 

“Either because of him, or because of his team not wanting to fight me. He might be a tough fighter,  he might f**k me up, he might hurt my leg heaps, but I think I’m just way tougher than he is.  

“I’ve got a lot more heart, and it doesn’t matter what happens in the fight I see myself raising my  hand for sure. Not even because I’m a better fighter or anything, I just think I have more heart than  him and I’m going to find a way to win.” 

“I think he’s used to people who quit, and I’m not going to quit. He might knock me out, he might  f**k my leg up to pieces, but not going to quit, I guarantee you this. 

“I don’t think he has what it takes to go to the deep waters with me, but we’ll see. Maybe I’m wrong.  That’s the beauty of MMA.” 

Stylistically speaking, this is one of the most intriguing title fights in recent Australian MMA history. Both athletes can boast a deep toolbox of skills to rely on.  

On paper it may appear that it’s a classic case of striker vs grappler, and to a degree that is accurate.  But with submission victories on the champs record and the recent evolution of the challengers’ striking abilities, this is certainly a matchup that could have it all from both sides. 

On March 19th, we will get the answer as to who the number one featherweight in the country truly  is.

Eternal MMA announces Neds as official wagering partner

Eternal MMA, Australia’s premier Mixed Martial Arts organisation, today announced a partnership with Neds. The new deal makes Neds the official wagering partner of Eternal MMA. Ned’s is among the fastest growing wagering brands in Australia and offers a range of innovative products to their clients. It also forms part of the Entain Group, one of the largest sports-betting and gaming companies in the world.

Eternal is the only Australian based MMA promotion that offers official wagering and this partnership has been developed to give Eternal fans markets on all Eternal fights that are streamed on UFC Fight Pass – giving fans a convenient and engaging experience that can’t be found elsewhere in Australia. These markets will be available from Eternal 64 on March 19.

Eternal MMA returns to the Gold Coast on March 19.

Eternal’s founder, Cam O’Neill, commented on the recent partnership, saying; ‘Eternal’s focus is always on providing our fighters with exposure to new audiences and premium sponsors. Our relationship with Neds takes this one step further by providing a fan focused experience that will fast track Eternal’s growth as we provide the most professional platform for fighters to build their reputation on the national circuit”.

This type of partnership can’t be found elsewhere in Australian MMA.

This disruptive partnership is a big step forward for national MMA in Australia and promises to bring new opportunities to the sport of MMA and Eternal fighters. For more information on Eternal MMA, visit: eternalmma.com

Eternal MMA announces ENGAGE as 2022 exclusive outfitting partner

Eternal MMA, Australia’s premier Mixed Martial Arts organisation, today announced that street inspired fight wear brand ENGAGE, will become the new exclusive outfitting and apparel partner for the 2022 and 2023 season. The new two year deal comes after ENGAGE became a main sponsor of Eternal MMA back in 2020.

The team at ENGAGE have just debuted the new fight kits for the upcoming season, available in red and blue colour-ways to coincide with the corner of each respective fighter. Eternal MMA Fighters will be able to choose between a number of different styles based on their personal preference, including ENGAGE’s world renowned Grapple & Hybrid Cut shorts.

“We’ve been standing by Eternal since 2018 and to watch them grow over the years has been very rewarding. We’re very happy to be apart of Eternal for the next 2 years and beyond. No one does it better than Eternal and ENGAGE. We’re looking forward to watching combat sports continue to flourish in Australia and New Zealand.” said ENGAGE founder, Ash Belcastro.

“It’s a partnership that really excites us, two Australian born companies with big ambitions that are making a name for themselves on a global scale. The support that ENGAGE has provided a lot of up and coming fighters in this region has been paramount to their success and this is another huge step forward” said Ben Vickers, Eternal MMA co-founder. 

UFC Middleweight Champion and ENGAGE’s major shareholder, Israel Adesanya also weighed in about the partnership, stating: “Grass roots MMA can be a ruthless game – I’ve seen fighters do it the hard way too many times. Eternal is a breath of fresh air. They’re pushing the fight game up levels at a time… ENGAGE have been with me since the beginning and this deal will help them support the next generation of UFC champs. Two of the realest in the game.”

The ENGAGE Fight Week and Fight Night kits will feature ENGAGE’s highest quality garments. Like all of ENGAGE products, the fight kits have been tested and developed by world-class trainers, fighters and UFC champions. Years of dedication to making the best fight wear on the planet. The range is packed with Core-Tech features that have earned them a reputation as one of the best fight wear brands in the world.


For more information on ENGAGE, visit: engageind.com.

Hail to the King: UFC newcomer of the year – Casey O’Neill sets sights on 2022

Despite the ever-present threat of a global pandemic, the year 2021 was a massive year for the UFC by every conceivable metric. Record PPV buys, unforgettable matches, endless highlight-worthy performances, you name it – the leader in mixed martial arts had it all and then some.

It wasn’t just a year in which the company’s most established superstars continued to shine despite all the adversity, but also a time in which a plethora of rising talent would step up and announce themselves as the future of the sport.

Leading the charge of the new breed was none other than former Eternal MMA women’s champion – Casey O’Neill. Bursting on to the scene with three finishes in three fights, ufc.com crowned O’Neill at the top of a list of future stars that included two other combatants from her own division, as well as a host of other exciting international prospects.

Speaking with Eternal MMA, O’Neill reflected on her recent accolade and its significance at this point in her professional career.

“My whole life fighting for my dad (Eternal MMA promoter, Cam O’Neill), everyone always said I had cherry-picked opponents or easy fights, (it) sort of took a little bit away from the wins and everything I was doing as a fighter. So, to go into the big leagues and prove everyone wrong and go 3-0 with three finishes and then get some sort of recognition for once – that was really nice.

“A lot of people agreed with it, a lot of people didn’t agree with it but, it’s just nice to get a little bit of recognition.”

If there were any doubt as to the legitimacy of her award, one only needs to look at how O’Neill stacked up against her peers in the top 10 newcomers’ of 2021 rankings. Aside from Bruno Silva – O’Neill was the only fighter to make her UFC debut in 2021 and go on to three finishes from all three of her fights.

“A lot of people agreed with it, a lot of people didn’t agree with it but, it’s just nice to get a little bit of recognition.”

The comparison doesn’t stop there. At the time of writing, O’Neill currently holds the longest active win streak of any women’s flyweight on the roster, with her three in the UFC adding to a run of four in total. What is even more impressive is the fact that O’Neill not only currently stands as the lone flyweight with a one hundred percent win-rate in her professional career, but also remains the only female fighter in the entire UFC aside from strawweight contender – Tatiana Suarez, who can boast that fact.

It is a remarkable turn of fortunes for a young fighter who began their MMA journey with two losses as an amateur after debuting at the age of just sixteen. Self-belief was never an issue, however. Since those two losses, O’Neill went on to win her next five amateur fights before turning pro and never looking back.

Making her debut as a professional at Eternal MMA 43, the woman they call “King Casey” became the first Eternal MMA women’s champion with a decision win over ONE FC veteran – Amira Hadzovic. O’Neill would then go on to defend her strawweight twice at Eternal MMA 46 and Eternal MMA 48 respectively, before continuing her winning ways at Eternal MMA 51 against Caitlin McEwen in the flyweight division – the weight class she now calls home on the international stage.

For O’Neill, it has always been a matter of perseverance in the face of adversity, and with that came an inevitable growth in mentality as she found her way in the sport.

“I’ve always been someone who listens to people a little bit too much,” O’Neill confessed.

“I’ve never really struggled with the self-belief thing. I know that I can work hard enough to make something happen. I went on that win streak in Australia, and I sort of felt like I was untouchable. But then you still had all those voices in the back of your head telling you otherwise.

“I always believed in myself, but then with more eyes came more people doubting you. That was new.”

The transition to the UFC is undoubtably a daunting task for most who make the jump, regardless of prior success on the regional scene. While self-belief has always been a staple of her mindset, O’Neill admits that she had her nerves before making her octagon debut.

“The first fight in the UFC; obviously it is my first fight with the big leagues,” said O’Neill.

“It (was) my first fight in America which everyone talks about being this whole different league, so I was just a little bit nervous for how I was going to go in that jump up. I’d only had five (professional) fights and that point, and a lot of people have a lot more fights going into the UFC, so I was just a little worried.

“Obviously I got the first win out of the way, I got all the nerves for the UFC debut out. The second fight, I still had a little bit (of nerves). But by the third fight I knew I could beat these girls just as easy as I was beating the girls on the regional scene.”

In a further testament to the magnitude of O’Neill’s 2021 newcomer award, two of the top five who placed behind her are combatants from her own division in the form of former Muay Thai campion – Manon Fiorot, along with standout Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner – Erin Blanchfield. While she doesn’t yet see flyweight as the strongest women’s division at this stage, O’Neill believes that the future at 125lbs is in good hands, with herself ready to lead the charge of the new breed.

“It’s exciting being here at this current stage where it’s starting to become a very exciting division.”

“There’s a lot of new blood coming into this division. I think that it’s at the stage where strawweight was five years ago when Joanna (former strawweight champion – Joanna Jędrzejczyk) was running through everyone, and everyone was clamouring to be better so that they could beat her.

“I feel like we’re all in that same sort of position right now with Valentina (current flyweight champion – Valentina Shevchenko). Obviously, everyone’s eyes are set on her so we’re all becoming a lot better, a lot faster, because you have to – to be able to be the one that takes over.

“I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying seeing a lot of new talent come through, and I know that eventually all of us young girls are going to clean out the old girls in the division and make it our own.”

Not one to rest on her laurels, O’Neill has her sights firmly set on making her sophomore year with the UFC an even better one than the last. By her own admission, however, the journey into 2022 needs be met with a more tactical approach. With a professional career moving faster than anticipated, O’Neill believes that the time is now to focus more on improving her skill set in order to set herself up for the harder challenges that lie ahead.

“Sometimes I have a little bit of ‘impulsive syndrome’ and feel like I’m watching myself do these things from the outside, and then afterwards looking back and (thinking) ‘that was actually crazy’.

“2021 was a busy year. It was my first year living in the (United) States, working with a new team, working with new coaches, first year fighting in the UFC, first year being away from my family and a couple of times (without) having my dad in my corner, which is the first in a long time that I haven’t had that.

“There was a lot of firsts and a lot of things to get used to, but it was a fun challenge for me. Looking back at it now, I’m glad that I did everything that I did that year. But this year I definitely want to slow it down a little bit, get some extra training in and build some new skills because I feel like I just had three very similar fights in 2021, so I’m hoping to bring some more exciting stuff to 2022.”

The march into the new year will present O’Neill with a few more firsts. February 12th will not only mark the first time she has fought on a pay-per-view card, but also her first time fighting in front of a capacity crowd inside an arena as a UFC fighter.

With the Toyota Centre in Houston, Texas playing host to the much-anticipated rematch between middleweight king – Israel Adesanya, and former champion – Robert Whittaker, O’Neill is relishing the chance to shine on the biggest stage as a naturalised Australian on a card filled with multiple ANZAC fighters, many of whom have also competed under the banner of O’Neill’s former stomping grounds at Eternal MMA.

Across the other side of the octagon will be retiring women’s MMA mainstay – Roxanne Modaferri. The woman known as “The Happy Warrior” will be making the walk for an incredible forty-fifth time in her professional career – a career in which she has shown an incredible durability factor across an almost twenty-year span, having only been finished three times in all her bouts.

During the more recent period of her run with the UFC, Modaferri managed to put a halt to the momentum of some of the younger rising talent in her division. Most notably was her dominant decision win against rising star – Maycee Barber, a young prospect many had tipped as a potential future champion.

None of these factors have been enough to put O’Neill on red alert, however. While she respects the longevity and achievements of Modaferri’s career, O’Neill believes she will be the storied veteran’s biggest test to date.

“She’s definitely a tough veteran, she’s been around for a long time, and she’s done a lot of great things, but nothing like Maycee Barber.

“Maycee Barber is all hype-train and not really as good as what she’s made out to be, and I believe that I’m better than people make me out to be. I could fight Maycee and Roxy back-to-back and beat them both, so I’m not really worried about what she’s done to those sorts of girls.

“She’s definitely going to be a hard one to put away, but I think that I’m the person who does it. My fight style is aggressive and I’m strong. She won’t be able to take me down and just hold me down the way she did to Maycee, I’m too good on the ground. I think she’ll be very hesitant to take me down but standing with me is no easy task either.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge, but I really believe that it will be another ‘finish’ night for me, an easy night.”

The match also presents something of “full circle” moment for the Scotland native. Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia played host to the first meeting between Adesanya and Whittaker at UFC 243, an event in which O’Neill attended as a fan prior to her rise to international prominence.

The event itself was yet another spark that further fuelled O’Neill’s desire to make it as a professional in the UFC.

“I was sitting in that arena thinking ‘I want to fight here’.

“Nadia Kassem was fighting at the time, and I was calling her out on Instagram because I thought she was s**t, and I wanted to fight her that night.

“She ran away from me the whole time we were fighting on the same circuit. I kept thinking ‘damn she’s in there? That should be me!’, and this time it is me. So, manifest and just keep working and eventually it all works out. Now, I’m fighting on their second card, I’m super excited for that.”

It is clear to anybody who spends any time speaking with Casey that while she has always had the ability to manifest her own confidence, she is certainly a product of her upbringing and the people she chooses to surround herself with.

Being named the 2021 newcomer of the year was not achieved alone, nor was it by luck or happenstance. While the buck stops with O’Neill in terms of outcome on the day, her journey has been presided over by a number of key mentorships that have been vital to her growth as a person as well as a competitor.

From the early beginnings with Pasha Stolyar at Southside MMA and the Hickman brothers at Tiger Muay Thai, to now Eddie Barraco at Xtreme Couture and Casey Halstead with 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, O’Neill has leaned on some of the very best minds in the game to help realise her potential inside the cage.

Arguably as important was the tutelage she has received outside of it. Growing up as the daughter of a combat sports promoter gave O’Neill a rare inside look into the world of competitive mixed martial arts long before she stepped foot inside the cage herself. While handing out tickets at the door for patrons in the early days gave her a taste for the logistical side of combat sports, the occasional dance with the promotional side of the business was enough to confirm for O’Neill that her future resided underneath the bright lights of the cage, not behind the scenes.

What was gained from these early experiences, however, was wealth of knowledge and guidance that helped pave the way for future success, regardless of the path O’Neill chose to take. Having her father by her side has not only been an invaluable resource in O’Neill’s journey in discovering who she is as an individual, but also a pivotal asset of support when it comes to fight day.

“I love having my dad around when it comes to fight time to be honest.” said O’Neill.

“Watching his work ethic throughout my life and the way he built Eternal (MMA) was the way I went about doing my career. I was like ‘if you’re going to do it – you give it everything’, and watching my dad give everything showed me how to do that. So, I did it on the fighting side while he did it on the business side.

“Having him around, it pushes me a little bit more, because I want to work even harder when my dad is in the room. It would be nice to get him out here for a whole camp one time but having him here for a fight is always great. He’s a great emotional support and he’s obviously been with me since fighting as a kickboxer when I was four years old.

“He knows me inside and out. He knows when I’m having a good day, when I’m having a bad day. He knows when everything’s going well in my head on fight day (or) when everything is going to s**t. He’s seen me go through hard weight cuts and easy weight cuts.

“Just having him there, I know that no matter what goes on, I’ll be okay, and I’ve got someone who’s got my back.”

Of course, without the unconditional support of a doting mother to lean on, the long and arduous journey to fulfilled dreams is often not possible. When it comes to Casey O’Neill, this notion is quite literal.

“My mum booked all my flights for me. She supported everything that I’ve ever decided I wanted to do. When I was moving to Thailand, I booked a one-way flight on twenty-four hours’ notice, and she came to my house and helped pack my bags and booked my flight for me. (She) took me to the airport (and) picked me up every time I came home.

“She’s been to every one of my fights apart from the ones in America, due to COVID. She’s a really big support system, she’s the first person I call when anything goes wrong.”

“She’s a super hard worker too. I got my work ethic from both of them.”

With February 12th just around the corner, the 2021 newcomer of the year looks set to make her fight with Roxanne Modaferri the perfect launch pad for her run into 2022. For the current #15 ranked flyweight, it’s just a matter of time until she takes the next big step on her road to championship contention.

“I think I’m going to knock her out in the first round. I think that she’s got one foot out the door and I’m just going to give her a little push and get her out of there. I can tell that she doesn’t like to be hit, I can tell that she’s not very strong and I can tell that if she doesn’t get me to the ground, she’s going to start to panic.

“I truly believe that this is my coming out party as a fighter. I know I’ve had three finishes, but I think this is the one where I do everything right and put a stamp on it and people will start to take notice of me after this fight.”

Stay tuned.