Eternal MMA sits down with Abdalla Biayda for a quick-fire Q&A ahead of his eighth professional fight at Eternal 73 against Alan Philpott.
Where were you born:
I was born in a city in Sudan called Khartoum.
Where are you based now:
I live in Perth, Western Australia – in Bassendean near Morley
What gym do you train out of:
I train out of Kickass MMA in Morley.
Who are your coaches/main training partners.
The main team is (made up of) Steve Kennedy – the head coach. I also have a boxing coach – Bon. Also, my Muay Thai coach which is Oliver Olson. My strength and conditioning coach, that would be Luke Johnstone. Also, my Jiu Jitsu coach Scotty and my wrestling coach Tom Barnes.
What belts or rankings do you currently possess as a martial artist:
I’m a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue-belt – that happened after my recent bout when I submitted Josh Kuhne. Because I’ve been doing Jiu-Jitsu for two or three years, I never thought I was going to get the blue-belt. But after that fight that were like “hey, you’re kind of ready”. So, I got it.
What sports or activities did you participate in growing up:
Believe it or not, I was terrible at all sports. I was no good at any sport. I am surprised that right now I am in a sport for a career. I was just terrible! I was just terrible at every single sport, so, I never tried. I did like basketball, but I was terrible at it. Now I’m in (MMA) as a career – life is weird.
When did you first decide to dedicate yourself to the sport of MMA:
After I won my first (professional) lightweight belt. I was just cruising with this career, to be honest. The reason why I stuck with it was because it really calmed my mind. When I started having a couple of bouts, started winning, started understanding myself, starting character building and started understanding about respect and discipline, it really worked for my mind. So, I just continued doing it. After I won my belt, I thought “I’m going to take this as far as I can”.
Favourite aspect of training:
I like doing ‘teeps’ in training. I do a lot of pad work with my Muay Thai coach. I realised it could be my ultimate weapon because of how long my legs are – they’re like spider legs!
What do you consider to be your greatest strengths as a mixed martial artist:
I would say cardio. That helps me. I would say it’s my biggest strength.
What can fans expect to see from you when you step inside the cage:
I like throwing everything. I like being an artist. I like painting a painting. I like mixing it up, doing different things. But, in this fight, if he wants to grapple then you will see me grapple. But nobody has ever wanted to just grapple with me. They (usually) like to try and stand up with me, then they turn in to grapplers.
Can you compare your style to any high level mixed martial artist:
I would say Jon Jones and Rafael Fiziev. Also, Terrance Crawford’s boxing and switches. Put all three together, you got me.
Who would you consider to be some of your favourite combat sports athletes:
Rafael Fiziev and also Jonathan Haggerty from One Championship, I love his Muay Thai. I love that dude. (Also) DJ – Demetrious Johnson.
Which fight do you consider to be your standout performance so far:
I would say when I had my first (professional) lightweight fight. I was spot on with my striking, my movement, everything was just on point.
What are your goals for both the immediate and long-term future with mixed martial arts:
For my immediate future, my goal is to try a three-division champion in one promotion. It doesn’t matter what promotion it is; I don’t care. My long-term goal is to get into a big promotion like the UFC or any other promotions and try to be a three-division champion there as well.
How do you see yourself getting your hand raised at Eternal 73:
I don’t really envision those kinds of things. I don’t make predictions. I just go out there and give it my all and whatever happens, happens. If I fight hard, I know that good things will happen. But if I have to predict I’d say first round stoppage or knockout.
A message to the fans and your supporters:
All love, to be honest. My fans, people who have been supporting me, my friends, my family, the ones who have been with me from the start – I appreciate all of you. It’s just love. They have no idea how much I appreciate it.
Abdalla Biayda vs Alan Philpott for Eternal 73 can be viewed Saturday, February 11th live and exclusive on UFC Fight Pass. Fans can visit eternalmma.com to purchase tickets for Eternal 73.
As Australian combat sports primes itself for a highly promising 2023, Eternal MMA reflects on a year gone by in which so many positives came to fruition for the country’s leading mixed martial arts entity.
2022 was certainly a banner year for the Gold Coast based promotion. A year that saw incredible match-making lead to even better fights, highlight-reel finishes, new champions in several weight classes and former local stars find success on the international stage.
In total, Eternal MMA produced nine fight cards across the states of Queensland and Western Australia, visiting three different venues in the process including four shows at Eternals spiritual home – Southport Sharks.
During this run, Eternal MMA saw a total number of one hundred and fifteen fights take place across seven different weight classes for both professional and amateur athletes.
Of those fights, six new champions were crowned against one successful title defence across five divisions, with the lightweight belt changing hands to the challenger twice in the same year.
It would be in the very first event for 2022, however, that would see the championship-level cream rise to the top and prove their pedigree once again. In what would ultimately be his final fight inside the Eternal MMA cage, Jack Jenkins put on a five-round masterclass to retain his featherweight crown against the now Eternal MMA bantamweight champion – Rod Costa.
A striking display of considerable virtuosity from Jenkins in the main event at Eternal 64 earned him not only his second title defence, but also a shot at a UFC contract as a contender on Dana White’s Contender Series; an opportunity that he would make good on with a decision win against his opponent.
The following event in May would see the Eternal 65 main event go down in history as one of, if not the greatest fights in Australian MMA history. With no belt on the line, Dimps Gillies and Josh Kuhne took centre stage in a three-round main event showdown that saw neither fighter concede ground until the final bell.
An onslaught of striking from both combatants left each of them battered and bruised at the fight’s conclusion, with Gillies ultimately getting his hand raised via decision.
While there could only be one winner, there were no losers as both fighters stock rose astronomically in the aftermath of the bloody war, earning themselves ‘Fight of the year’ honours for Eternal MMA.
More impressively, the bout would also earn fight of the year accolades at the UFC Fight Pass awards show – a fine recognition for both athletes on the world stage and a further testament to the Eternal MMA match-making prowess.
Ahead at Eternal 66, a devastating injury to Jack Becker would see him lose his lightweight title to challenger Aidan Aguilera in the opening seconds of the first round. A broken leg suffered by Becker as the result of a checked kick by Aguilera saw the title change hands in jarring scenes, with Aguilera himself left feeling unsatisfied to win in such unfortunate circumstances.
It was a bitter blow for Becker. Seemingly on the verge of his own call-up to the UFC with another win on home soil, the former champion instead left to pick up the pieces during a lengthy rehab stint – A challenge he immediately faced head on with typically positive mindset.
Eternal 67 was staged as the scene to crown the successor to now UFC prospect Jack Della Maddalena’s vacated welterweight championship. Kaleb Rideout would emerge victorious in a five-round thriller against City-Kickboxing’s Kevin Jousset; a performance that would see Rideout establish himself as one of the country’s most exciting talents.
Punctuated by some highly unorthodox – yet highly effective techniques, Rideout orchestrated a high-octane striking performance to outlast a highly dangerous Judoka in Jousset in one of the most entertaining fights of the year, earning himself his first professional title win in the process.
Rod Costa would use Eternal 68 as the table-setter for his eventual championship win at Eternal 71. Up-and-coming Victorian prospect Michael Mannu would face off against Costa in the main-event for what was viewed as a number-one contender match for the Eternal MMA bantamweight title.
Riding out the on-display kickboxing talents of Mannu for the first round and a half, Costa would eventually drag Mannu to the bottom of the lake to secure a second-round submission win – a signature guillotine finish for the former IBJJF worlds medallist.
The result would see Costa move on to challenge returning former Eternal MMA bantamweight champion Shaun Etchell for the title at Eternal 71. Doing what he does best, Costa weathered an early storm from Etchell and claimed an impressive comeback victory via rear naked choke submission in the second round. The victory would be a just reward for Costa’s decision to move down in weight class after an unsuccessful bid to capture the belt in his usual featherweight domain.
Sandwiched between the two aforementioned events, Eternal 69 would play host to Aidan Aguilera’s first title defence since capturing the belt at Eternal 66. Unfortunately for Aguilera, it would be a short-lived title reign.
Known for his superior grappling, the challenging David Martinez overwhelmed his fellow BJJ black-belt opponent to win via rear naked choke submission in the second round – his second reign as Eternal MMA lightweight champion now in full swing.
The final event for 2022 would see the Australian leader play host to a pair of rematches in both the middleweight and featherweight divisions at Eternal 72.
In a rare circumstance, the two fighters in the middleweight title fight main event would square off again immediately after previously fighting each other at Eternal 69.
With their previous matchup a late notice catchweight bout, the rematch would see John Martin Fraser put his middleweight championship on the line in the main event against Mat Myers after besting him in their previous outing via decision.
This time around, however, Myers would square the ledger with a first round TKO– a devastating spinning back kick to the liver of Fraser ended the championship fight in the first round. For Myers, it would be his first title win in his first attempt at silver wear.
The co-main event would also see a rematch with a championship belt on the line, though in contrast, this particular rematch was more than five years in the making.
Having previously been finished by Diego Pereira at Eternal 27 in 2017, Justin Van Heerden would also get revenge on his rival and former teammate to claim the featherweight championship left vacant by the departing Jack Jenkins – winning a hard-fought contest via decision at the bout’s conclusion.
The title belt around Justin Van Heerden’s waste would punctuate a stellar 2022 for the South African native – four wins in four fights would also earn him ‘fighter of the year’ honours under the Eternal MMA banner.
It was a run that saw Van Heerden finish all three of his opponents in 2022 in the lead up to his first title fight, with submission wins over Joshua Riley, Alan Philpott and Mohammad Alavi showcasing a level of growth as impressive as anybody can claim fighting in Australia today.
In conclusion, 2022 would see the following fighters end the year as a champion:
Bantamweight: Rod Costa.
Featherweight: Justin Van Heerden.
Lightweight: David Martinez.
Welterweight: Kaleb Rideout
Middleweight: Mat Myers.
It wasn’t just on home soil that major accomplishments were achieved. In a testament to the platform that Eternal MMA provides its athletes, several of its former fighters also found varying rates of success at an international level.
Certainly, from a competitive standpoint, it is no secret that Eternal MMA has consistently provided Australian MMA with the highest level of competition to its participants – giving each fighter who chooses to complete their fighting apprenticeship under its banner the best chance of preparing themselves for the big stage.
Former Eternal flyweight champion, Shannon Ross would earn himself a contract in the UFC via the route of Dana White’s Contender Series. In a fight that Ross would lose by decision, he still showcased more than enough for the UFC boss to award both himself and the winner a contact.
Ross would eventually be slated to make his debut at UFC 284 in Perth alongside fellow Australian DWCS contract winner – Jack Jenkins.
Staying with Australian DWCS alumni, former Eternal MMA middleweight champion Jack Della Maddalena put together a historic 2022 to remember. A three-fight winning streak to start his UFC career cherry-topped by three first-round finishes was enough to earn him both UFC and ESPN rookie of the year honours.
A true rising star of the sport, Della Maddalena burst on to the scene and captured the imagination of MMA fans all around the world, with many circles touting him as future contender for a UFC championship.
Fans will also recall 2021 as the year that former Eternal MMA strawweight champion Casey O’Neill would break through and claim for herself the UFC rookie of the year title.
With Della Maddalena following O’Neill’s lead, it would make it two years in a row that two former Eternal MMA stars simultaneously went 3-0 to begin their UFC careers and go on to claim the award for rookie of the year – again making it hard to deny that Eternal MMA creates the best opportunities for Australian fighters to turn themselves into international success stories.
With a monumentally impressive year in the rear-view mirror, Eternal MMA turns its attention to what promises to be an even better 2023, starting with a stacked line-up at Eternal 73.
Adding some flair to the occasion, the card will take place the day before the UFC makes its return to Perth for UFC 284 – a spectacular double-header for fans looking to take in a full weekend of MMA littered with both present and potential future local stars of the UFC.
No doubt each fighter on the Eternal 73 card will be looking to make a big impression as the biggest combat sports show on wheels rolls into town.
The title fight main event for Eternal 72 will play host to a rare circumstance.
Not only have the two men involved already faced each other but did so in the very last fight they competed in prior to the middleweight title fight they will square off in this coming Friday.
Eternal 69 saw Middleweight champion John Martin Fraser step in on weeks’ notice to face New Zealand native – Mat Myers, who needed a new dance partner after his original fight was scrapped due his opponent sustaining an injury.
According to Eternal MMA promoter Cam O’Neill, there was absolutely zero hesitation from either camp when it came to accepting the late notice catchweight bout.
On paper, it was a risky proposition for Fraser to accept. A year and a half removed from his last fight and with no training camp to sharpen his blade, the Welsh export put all but is championship belt on the line to save the fight and get himself back inside the cage.
Speaking with Eternal MMA, Fraser shared his sentiments on stepping up to plate and facing Myers for what would ultimately be the table-setter for a future, higher stakes fight between the pair.
“I one hundred percent wanted to take that fight,” said Fraser.
“I’d had eighteen months off after the Kitt Campbell fight; that was the last time I fought. I’d had two training camps that were wasted. When I went back to the UK, I was training to fight on Cage Warriors, that (fight) fell through because the guy had a sickness. The second one, I had an injury. Three months later I ended up having hand surgery.
“I wasn’t planning on fighting until December because of my hand and I hadn’t had the (training) camp. But as soon opportunity was offered to me, I just thought that this was a sign that I need to take this. I’d be daft not to.”
“I just want to fight. You get sports fighters, and you get ‘fighters’ fighters – I think I’m a fighter’s fighter.”
A fighter’s fighter no doubt John Martin Fraser is. After a battle of attrition with Kitt Campbell at Eternal 58, Fraser ground and pounded his way to a stoppage victory in the fourth round that subsequently earned him his first Eternal MMA title.
What proceeded the championship winning fight would be a sixteen-month stint back at home in Wales. Training at Shore MMA, Fraser rounded out his skillset to become a more complete fighter.
No longer just a striker, Fraser worked hard on his grappling game. Levelling up in all facets of MMA in order to better prepare himself for the challenges that lay ahead – both abroad and at home.
Now back in Australia, Fraser feels he is as prepared as ever to meet his first title defence head on.
“You’re just going to see a different fighter,” he said.
“Watching that last fight; I don’t like watching it in terms of seeing my performance on the feet. I was fat and slow.
“It was literally the Monday after that last fight that I was back in the gym, back hitting pads and just getting prepared for this next fight. I’m the fittest and strongest I’ve ever been at the moment, so, you are going to see the better version of myself.”
Anyone who has spent five minutes talking to John Fraser about mixed martial arts know that he is about as real as it gets.
A straight shooter with no presumptive notions about his recent victory over Myers, Fraser is taking no extra confidence outside of him own improved abilities into their title fight on December 2nd.
“I think this one is just a brand new fight,” he said.
“A few people have said (to me) that I must be going in there full of confidence because I’ve beaten him before, so it must be an easy fight? Not at all. At the end of the day, fighting is fighting. We’ve both got a chin, we’ve both got a pair of arms and legs and a neck to choke each other.
“You just never know what’s going to happen. That for me is the most exciting thing about fighting. You can do everything right, you can have the best camp, you can go in with a hundred and ten percent belief and confidence in yourself. But you could make slip and you end up getting put to sleep.”
“I have helped my own confidence, but that’s the reality of fighting. That’s why fighting is exciting to me. The way I have prepared for Mat this time; it’s like a completely new fight.”
The time between fights has been not only beneficial to Fraser’s skillset, but also his mental approach to the game. Months on the sidelines grinding in the gym while simultaneously missing fights due to injury, the fire inside Fraser continued to burn as he marched towards a return date.
Now with a first title defence in his sights, the 6-2-0 champion has clarity on what a win against his familiar foe could mean for his long-term career.
“I think it’s undeniable that I’m the best in Australia and I think there’s a pretty good argument to be made that I hold my place in the UFC. I don’t think I’d look out of place there at all. That’s going to happen, whether it’s after this fight or the fight after that.
“Whenever it is, I’m going to end up there.”
Not one to look past an upcoming opponent, Fraser assures Eternal MMA fans that they will be without doubt getting their money’s worth for the high-level main event that will close the show for Eternal 72.
“You are going to see a high-level performance, it’s going to be an exciting fight,” he said.
“It’s just not one to missed. We both come to bring the fight. Mat’s a game opponent, I’m a game opponent. I’m going out to finish him and he’s definitely coming out to finish me. So, it would be a mad one to miss.”
“I’ve prepared for everything. I’m ready to go five rounds but I definitely see it in my head that I’m going to knock him out in the first round.”
Meeting him across the other side of the cage in the blue corner will be the man who would argue to the contrary.
A native of Whangaparaoa, New Zealand now residing in Victoria, Australia – Mat Myers has been forging his own path in mixed martial arts on route to his first fight for a title.
After moving to Australia with his parents at the age of seventeen, Myers was seeking a fresh start in a new country that would put him on a better path than he was heading down back at home.
It would be in Australia that he would meet his now head coach at Adrenaline MMA – Cris Brown.
For Myers, it would be a major turning point in his life and the biggest contributing factor in becoming the man who is is today.
Fast forward ten years later after attending the gym every day since, Myers is slated to headline an Eternal MMA card against a man that he was more than familiar with prior to their first meeting.
“I’ve been watching John for a while,” said Myers.
“I was a welterweight before this last fight that we had, and I had planned on moving up (to middleweight) for a while. But I didn’t expect to be fighting guys like John straight away.
“I remember watching John multiple times with my mates at barbecues, getting on the piss and watching Eternal fights. My best mate: John was his favourite guy to watch.
A fan himself of Fraser’s work inside the cage, Myers concedes that being in awe of the Welshman’s performances in the past resulted in him needing to overcome some mental hurdles when he was eventually tasked with becoming his next opponent.
“It was the unknown monster,” he said.
“You watch him knock all these people out and he’s this scary Welsh guy. Standing toe to toe with Kitt Campbell – someone I’ve trained with before and beating him at his own fight. That’s Kitt’s bread and butter; stand in front of people and trade. John beat him at that.
“He was this guy that I’d watched for a long time and rated highly – I still do. Just to get in there with him, be me and not have that fear was what I took away from it (the first fight) most. He’s a human being. He’s just a man.”
“I’ve probably watched the fight five or six times. That fights done, he got me, I’ll hold myself accountable for that. We’ve made adjustments to the mistakes that I made in that fight that ultimately got John the win, I think.
“It’s just another fight. It doesn’t matter if it’s the same guy or not. That’s the way we are taking it.”
It’s hard not to make comparisons to the two men involved in the main event for Eternal 72, especially when it comes to a fighter’s mentality. As has been stated on record many times in the lead up to the contest, both men were willing to face each other on a moments notice with zero questions asked.
It’s the same way that each have carried themselves from the start of their career up until their scheduled title fight.
While the concept is not foreign to Myers, he believes that the region has an issue of fighters being too selective with their potential opponents.
“Fighters fight. I’ll fight anyone,” he said.
“I think that in Australian MMA we have a really bad culture of ducking people and picking and choosing our fights. I understand that this is a business, and you need to build your way up. But at the end of the day, if you’re good enough to be in the UFC – you’re good enough.”
“That’s just the way I live. I’d rather be that guy in thirty years knowing that I gave it a good crack. I didn’t just pick and choose. I’d rather know that I gave it everything I could. I tried my best to be the best and put myself out there.”
It’s a refreshing attitude not often seen at this level in mixed martial arts. This is a cutthroat business. A split-second lapse in judgement can alter a fighter’s career trajectory without warning. The reverberating effects of wins and losses are the lifeblood of a combat sports athlete.
It’s what makes the mentality of fighters like John Fraser and Mat Myers that much more special. It’s a part of the reason why the two will get to square off again at Eternal 72 immediately after their first fight. A middleweight championship bout on the biggest stage of Australian MMA is just reward for two fighters willing to put it all on the line when the opportunities come knocking.
For Myers, it’s an opportunity to not only win his first championship, but also a chance to repay the faith that he has been given by his coaches and training partners since he first arrived at the gym.
“As fighters, we make a lot of sacrifice,” he said.
“For me, (the title) would mean a lot. But even more so for my coach and the people at the gym – it would mean everything. I came into our gym as just some skinny little Kiwi fresh off the boat; a tough kid that liked to punch-on.
“Ten years later, I’m fighting for the most prestigious belt in the country.”
In order to claim the belt, Myers knows that he will need to summon the best performance of his career. Having already faced the hard-nosed Welshman, Myers feels that he is ready to showcase the necessary improvements made when the lights are at their brightest.
“Knowing John; he’s a tough customer,” he said
“I was hitting him with a lot of big elbows underneath. Even on the cage, I felt like I hurt him once or twice in that (first) fight. He just doesn’t stop. He’ll keep going, he doesn’t care, nothing fazes him. He’s just really tough.
“I don’t see one certain way (to win), but I do see myself rocking him at some point and that being the decider. I can’t sit here and say I’m going to put him away flat out, because many have tried, and many have failed. But I know I’m going to win.
“That’s the only thing that I know for certain. I’ll be getting my hand raised at the end of it. Whether he’s got his consciousness or not, I’ll be getting my hand raised.”
“To my friends and family; I’ll apologise is in advance because I’m ready for a war, I’m ready for violence.”
Eternal 72 can be be viewed on Friday, December 2nd live and exclusive on UFC Fight Pass. Fans can visit eternalmma.com to purchase tickets for this event.
Eternal 27 saw a young Justin Van Heerden make the walk for just his second professional fight after winning his debut by submission in the first round at Eternal 26.
Fighting against a more experienced opponent in Diego Pereira – who at the time had already competed in four professional matches, Van Heerden would suffer his first defeat at the hands of the Brazilian by way of first round knockout.
Fast forward more than five years later, the former training partners are set to face each other once again. This time, they are set to battle it out for the now vacant Eternal MMA featherweight championship.
With a professional record that now stands at 10-5-0, Van Heerden’s recent resume boasts an impressive three-fight winning streak. During this run, all three wins came by way of submission, with his most recent win coming via a signature rear naked choke against an opponent seemingly no one else was lining up to fight.
Now with his first chance to become an Eternal MMA champion, Van Heerden is primarily focused winning the belt itself, rather than avenging a previous loss to his fellow title challenger.
“Obviously being that it’s a title fight – that’s pretty cool,” said Van Heerden.
“It’s big that’s it’s on Eternal, it’s the biggest promotion in the country. It’s got that meaning behind it. Obviously, its shown that if you win that title and hold that title, it can open some pretty big doors.
“In terms of the rematch with Diego and trying to get one back – I’m going to relish the opportunity to do that. But, in terms of me sitting there and thinking like I need to go out of my way to do that? No, not really.”
“I’m happy. I’m getting in there and fighting for a title and I’m fighting someone else that’s been around for a hot minute doing their thing. But do I think that it’s something that I needed to get back? Not really.
“The only loss that really stings when I look at it would be the (Rod) Costa fight. The Diego loss was early in my career, it was my second pro fight. Back then I was barely even training any striking. I was just relying on what got me to the dance and that was my wrestling. I went in there with a more experienced guy, a more well-rounded guy at that time.”
“When I called him out after the (Alan) Philpott fight, it just made sense at the time. I wouldn’t say I’ve dwelt on it and thought that I need to get that one back. But I have an opportunity to do that and (also) win a belt. So, it means a bit more than the first fight.”
Five plus years removed from their first meeting; it is fair to say that both athletes who will be competing for the now vacant featherweight title have made considerable growth as mixed martial artists. Both men have since gone earn their place amongst the most popular and widely respected athletes in the country today.
For Van Heerden – a native of South Africa who now calls Australia home, the man who faced Diego Pereira in just his second pro fight is all but a distant memory. The man who will step into the cage to fight for his first championship belt will reflect years of dedicated obsession to the craft – a complete transformation from the boy who couldn’t count on the resources he has at his disposal today.
“Vastly, completely different,” said Van Heerden of his metamorphosis.
“Obviously, I’m older – I’ve matured not only as a fighter, but as a man. I was a young guy getting into MMA and I was just relying on a one-dimensional approach. I didn’t have the knowledge and the approach I have now. I didn’t have the help of my nutritionist; I didn’t have the help with my strength and conditioning; I didn’t know anything.
“Now, the man that’s walking into that cage is a well-rounded mixed martial artist – I think I’ve shown that fight to fight this year, especially in my last fight with (Mohammad) Alavi.
“If (Diego) is coming into this fight and thinking that it’s going to be the same type of fight and it’s going to be the same type of guy (from the previous fight) you are getting in there with, you’re in for some nasty surprises because I’m dangerous everywhere.
“If there’s a lapse at any point, I’m going to put you away.”
Training out of Freestyle MMA, it must be almost impossible for any fighter who wants to dedicate himself to the sport to not make exponential growth within their respective skill sets. At the same time as receiving his tutelage under the legendary Joe Lopez – Van Heerden has the enviable resource of training alongside the UFC pound for pound greatest fighter on the planet in Alexander Volkanovski, who of course currently holds the most prestigious featherweight title in the world.
With Van Heerden looking to follow suit and claim Australia’s most prestigious belt in the same weight class, he admits that the advice he receives from Volkanovski has been invaluable to his career aspirations.
“I take a lot from the example that Volk sets, and he is always someone that has said ‘you have to be undeniable’ – I feel like that’s what I’ve done this year. I’ve worked very hard to take the tough fights and take the people that no one wants to fight – go out there, get the wins and not only get the wins but get the finishes in these fights and make myself undeniable.
“I feel like I’ve done that, especially with the Alavi fight. He was undefeated, I beat him and made myself the undeniable number-one contender – made myself the undeniable number-one featherweight in the country by a mile.
“This fight here (with Diego) is my fourth fight inside ten months. Another win, another finish – that’s four fights, four wins plus an Australian title… Its pretty hard to argue that I’m not the best featherweight in the country and not the most deserving of what’s next.”
Undeniable is certainly the most appropriate phrase that comes to mind regarding Justin Van Heerden’s claims. His surging run of late has painted a picture of a fighter who is beginning to scratch the surface of his high potential – a dedicated student of the game who is yet to enter the prime years of his fighting career.
With Eternal 72 just around the corner, Van Heerden assures fan he is looking to keep the momentum in his favour.
“I believe I’m going to get a finish inside the distance,” he said.
“I’m going to find a finish and it can come at any point. It could be on the feet, it could be in the grappling, it could be anywhere at any time. I’m trusting in my ability; I’ll just stick to what I need to do – go out there and perform the way I perform, and the finish is going to come. I don’t need to rush anything. The better part is I’ve got an extra ten-minutes to do my work, if needed. So, we’ll just go on that.”
“Anyone watching this fight, anyone attending the show, they can expect that it’s going to be an action-packed fight. They can expect that they are going to see a very high-level of mixed martial arts and they can expect that they are going to see a finish – that’s what I’ve brought this year, that’s what I’ve brought fight to fight. I’ve showcased improvements fight to fight, so it’s going to be no different (in this fight).
“If you’re watching this co-main event, it’s not going to be boring and it’s going to be a finish.”
Eternal 72 can be viewed Friday, December 2nd live and exclusive on UFC Fight Pass. Fans can visit eternalmma.com to purchase tickets for this event.
Eternal 72 carries more than one storyline for Diego Pereira, as he continues preparation to fight for the Eternal featherweight title on the Gold Coast in Queensland.
A former title challenger already in his career, Pereira will be looking to make good on his second attempt at championship status. Across from him also contesting the now vacant championship will be his former teammate and streaking contender – Justin Van Heerden
A man he has already knocked out in devastating fashion.
The last four years has seen Pereira fight a virtual who’s who of the Australian MMA scene, a path that has led him back to once again compete for a title. A win against the highly regarded and well-travelled veteran Alan Philpott at Eternal 69 cemented Pereira as one of the contenders to the belt vacated by the UFC’s newest Australian signing – Jack Jenkins.
It was a statement win for Pereira. A build up to a fight that was rife with animosity from both parties, culminated in Pereira submitting Philpott with a rear naked in the second round after a back-and-forth contest in the opening stages.
Speaking with Eternal MMA, Pereira gave his thoughts on what it means for him to be competing for an Eternal MMA championship once again.
“It means a lot. I’ve been with Eternal since the early days,” said Pereira.
“I still hold the record for fastest knockout and other fight of year (contenders), I’ve done a tonne with Eternal and seen them grow over the years. So, I feel privileged in a way, and very happy that I was able to contribute to it. I am still around and am now able to see them as the number-one promotion in Australia and New Zealand. I have also grown with them as an athlete in the company. I have become the top guy now, getting my second shot at the title.
“It feels good because I am going to capture it. I am going to become that champion and I know that I am going to be the one that is really going to carry the flag and raise Eternal to new levels.”
In order to be the one to carry the flag going forward, Pereira must first get by a man he already bested five years ago at Eternal 27.
A fight that occurred in the early stages of their careers, Pereira took the win with a highlight-reel knockout over Van Heerden in the closing stages of the first round – a vicious right hand that left the South African native unconscious on the canvas.
Fast forward five years and the pair are set to meet once again, only this time, with much more at stake. Both competitors have made exponential leaps in their combative abilities since then, each blazing a trail on their path to the top of the Eternal MMA rankings – the previous meeting seemingly a distant memory.
It is Pereira’s staunch belief, however, that time does not heal old mental wounds.
“Whenever something impactful happens in your life and it causes a traumatic event, or something hurts and impacted you in a moment in time, you never forget that.
“You can move past it; you can certainly do that. But somehow, someway, it is still lodged in your brain. That’s just how human beings are programmed.”
“Now, bring it back to the fight itself. Think about how significant that was. A professional mixed martial arts bout in front of a huge crowd – big moment, live event, there a many people watching. You prepared for that moment for months. You knew that thing was coming, you thought about it every day, you went to the gym daily – training and working towards it.
“You get to that moment and a thing happens such as a KNOCKOUT – you get face-planted by a punch in front of a crowd. You don’t think you are going to remember that? Of course, you are going to remember that.
“Now, do I think he has moved past it? Yes, I do. His previous performances have shown that. But to say that doesn’t affect him in some type of way or trigger some emotion; that’s a lie. So, that will definitely play a factor in this fight. Especially when he feels that power again, because I’m going to catch him.
“When I touch him again, all those memories are going to rush right back, and he knows this.”
With six of his seven wins under the Eternal MMA banner finishing inside the distance, the man they call ‘El Pantera Negra’ has developed a reputation as finishing machine.
A dangerously well-rounded mixed martial artist with fast hands, dependable footwork and a solid grappling game, Pereira has the tools to finish a fight at a moment’s notice in any fashion he pleases. It was Pereira himself who stated prior to his last fight that he had no intention of the fight going the distance and he kept good on his word.
This time around, however, Pereira is aware that the stakes are much higher. Tasked with facing a former foe who has made his own elite level strides in the game, Pereira knows that a more measured approach may be needed in order to secure the first championship of his career.
“I’m looking to put on a good performance as I always do,” he said.
“I have trained a lot for this. I have prepared just like I know Justin has prepared. We both come from strong camps. So, this is going to be a spectacle for the people.
“We have five rounds with which to work, and there is a lot riding on the line here. I’m not going to be throwing myself in the fire. I’m going to be methodical in my approach, I’m going to impose my will and apply my martial art.
“I’m not going to be (reaching) for a finish, that will materialise itself as the fight plays on because we are going to be looking to finish each other (at some point). We will be looking to impose our wills and, in that process, one of us is going to get caught and I can tell you; it’s not going to be me.”
When it comes to the potential of claiming championship status, it isn’t lost on Pereira that a title belt around is waste is a virtual key to unlock new opportunities.
Always methodical in his approach to the game outside the cage as well as inside, Pereira has always been a man who ponders the future, whilst never looking too far past his next opponent.
“I think it (championship win) puts me in a very good spot, especially with the UFC coming around in February,” he said.
“I’m not thinking past (Justin), I just think it puts me in a very good spot. Like I said, Eternal being the number-one promotion in the region; they have put many guys on the map. So that puts me in a very good position.
“I carry myself as a champion, because that’s just what I do. It is like me to go out there and act, walk, talk and do as a champion would daily. Whether I have the belt around my waste of not, it doesn’t really matter. It’s a mindset. But of course, the status in a way does matter when we talk business.
“So, having that will really catapult me and put me in a very good position when we are talking about potential UFC (opportunities).”
Ever a man of the people, Pereira assures fans that they are guaranteed to get value for their money.
“This fight is going to be good, like, really good unlike any other,” he professed.
“Whenever there’s a rematch, there’s always a lot more on the line. You have two people who are familiar to each other on a competitive level having fought each other once – then becoming teammates and have that experience on a personal level.
“Five years on, we go and face each other again having both gone on a very good streak. And now, there’s a vacant title on the line that could potentially catapult our careers.
“This fight has the makings of fight of the year one hundred percent, if not the decade or even the history of Eternal. So, fans should really tune into this because I am in the best form I have ever been in; mentally, physically, skillset-wise.
“I’m in my prime and so is Justin. This is going to be the people’s main event, so, you really do not want to miss this.”
Eternal 72 can be viewed Friday, December 2nd live and exclusive on UFC Fight Pass. Fans can visit eternalmma.com to purchase tickets for this event.
Eternal MMA returns to Perth this Saturday for Eternal 71 with another strong card of fighters set to impress the Western Australian audience.
Standing atop the bill for his third main event in a row will be local fan-favourite and former featherweight title challenger, Rod Costa.
Coming off an impressive submission win at Eternal 68 over an eager up-and-comer in Michael Mannu in his bantamweight debut, Costa has no doubt that he has rightfully earned his second shot at Eternal silver wear.
“I think some people were saying that they didn’t understand why it was a number one contender fight, because he hadn’t fought in a couple years,” said Costa.
“To be honest, even though I got the finish and didn’t get myself into too much trouble, he was very good. Things just clicked for me in that fight.
“I’m happy because it was my first bantamweight fight. I think I made the weight easy. I felt really good on the day, and I really do think he’s one of the best guys I’ve fought in terms of skill.
“I felt like it was a really good win because I felt his potential. I’m looking forward to seeing who he fights next and how that goes because I don’t think he sat on the couch for two years doing nothing (prior to our fight), I think he was training, and he was very sharp.”
After mounting back-to-back wins against two of Australia’s elite regional scene contenders in Justin Van Heerden and Diego Pereira, Costa would ultimately fall short in his first bid for a title belt at the hands of former Eternal MMA featherweight champion and now UFC prospect, Jack Jenkins.
Fighting at featherweight for most of his career, Costa saw an opportunity for a competitive reboot with a drop down in weight class.
In a move that paid immediate dividends, Costa shared that while the extra cut in weight was always going to be mental challenge, the physical rewards were ultimately worth the added stress.
“I felt really good,” said Costa.
“It’s what everyone goes through – the more you cut, the more training camp becomes a bit more of a daunting task. The more you can concentrate on technique and improving in other aspects instead of focusing on your weight, I think the better it is.”
“The good part is that I feel really strong for the weight. I feel like it would be hard to find someone that could overpower me. Even if they were bigger than me, it would be hard to find someone that would be stronger than me.
“I remember talking to Mannu and he was heavier than me on the day (of the fight). I felt like strength for strength I did pretty good in that division.
“On the day, I felt really good. I felt fit, I felt like I could go forever.”
With his attention now turned to another main event title fight on October 29th at the HBF Stadium, Costa feels he is more prepared than ever to make the biggest statement of his professional career.
Across the other side of cage from him will be Tasmanian native and former Eternal MMA bantamweight champion – Shaun Etchell.
Following an unsuccessful bid to earn himself a shot in the UFC with a first-round loss at ‘Road to the UFC 2’ in Singapore, Etchell will be looking to regain the title that he ultimately gave up in pursuit of the highly coveted intentional opportunity.
As far as Costa is concerned, he will be expecting to face a dangerous Shaun Etchell in search of redemption.
“I expect the best version of Shaun Etchell, because if it was me and I had come off a (lost) opportunity like that, I would be eager to jump straight back into another opportunity to prove that I’m better than my last showing.
“I think that’s what I did with Jenkins. I was so eager to come back and prove that I can do better.”
“I think if you are a competitive guy, which I think Etchell is, as soon as you lose, you just want that loss gone. So, I think he’s eager to come back, I think he’s going to fight as hard as he’s ever fought. I think he’s coming for it.
“I think I’m going to get the best Etchell we have ever seen.”
It’s no secret to any MMA fan who has seen Rod Costa fight that his biggest weapons lie within his truly world-class grappling game. A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under the world-renowned Filipe Pena as well as former medallist at the IBJJF world championships, Costa has earned himself a well-deserved reputation as being one of the most dangerous submission specialists in Australia today.
With Etchell’s recent loss coming by way of first round submission, Costa believes he will be able to find the same path to victory, though he concedes that it will be no easy task against such a high-level opponent.
“His last fight was a quick fight; he got caught with a submission and my strong game is submissions,” he said.
“I did watch that fight, people kept telling me that the way he lost is the best part of my game and so it’s a good matchup for me. But I don’t like to think that the match is going to be easier than what it’s going to be and then he comes out he’s fixed the holes that made him get caught-out in his last fight.”
“Like any fight I have, my goal is to try and get a good position with my grappling and finish from there. But also with every fight, I don’t want to rush and try to get there too quick and then make a mistake and pay for that mistake.”
“I like the match he had with Sam Hibberd, which was back and forth, and he showed a lot of heart. He basically out-paced and out-hearted Hibberd. So, I’m expecting that type of fight.”
With a renewed focus and another win under his belt, Costa is primed to make waves in the new weight class that he will compete for a championship in at Eternal 71.
As for any prospects at his former 65.7kg stomping ground, Costa is adamant that he has every intention of returning to featherweight sooner rather than later.
“I want the featherweight title after this one,” he said.
“There’s a card in February. If I’m good to go, I want to be on that card in Perth and I’d like that to be for the featherweight title. But I don’t know how quick those boys that are going to fight (for the featherweight title at Eternal 72) would want to and defend it or even if Eternal would give that shot to me. I just think it’s a really good option.”
With his previous title bout adversary having vacated the Eternal featherweight title for the UFC, Costa believes it could be the perfect opportunity to achieve double-champ status on Australian soil.
Having previously bested the two men who will compete for the vacant featherweight title at Eternal 72, Costa looks to be in prime position to see his long-term vision become reality.
“If Jenkins was still the champion, I don’t think I would get that shot, but I beat Diego (Pereira) and I beat (Justin) Van Heerden. So, I think it’s a really good story and a very good chance that I could fight for that (featherweight) title whichever way that fight goes. I think I would be a fool to not take that chance.
“If Eternal does want to give that chance to me – if I win the bantamweight title, that would be my first option. But if not, if those guys don’t want to defend that quickly, I’d still like to take a matchup in February if I’m healthy.”
Never one to overlook an upcoming opponent, Costa has always cut pensive figure when discussing his future. Never one to make brazen predictions on the outcomes of his matchups, Costa has historically laid out his plans for the long-term future while seemingly being at peace with any potential outcomes – for better or worse.
It is the kind of old school mentality of a storied combat sports athlete that is refreshing to see; an approach to his ambitions that reads something of a ‘let’s draw straws and see who’s going to dance’ type of story, while always being rightfully confident in his ability to get the job done. It is that same mentality and approach to his game that has led to Costa slowly becoming one of the most popular fighters competing under the Eternal MMA banner.
While he still harbours the dream of competing at an international level, Costa sees no other place he would rather compete on home soil than the organisation he believes gives athletes their biggest platform to shine in this part of the world.
“It’s no secret, I’m getting older, I’m trying to look for some kind of international opportunity,” said Costa matter-of-factly.
“I wouldn’t fight for anyone else here in Australia, I wouldn’t fight for any of these other promotions. I’m sticking with Eternal for obvious reasons. Not just because I train with Ben (Vickers) and the other guys – it’s the best promotion to give you a future in the sport. The more wins I get with Eternal, the better it is for me.”
“Obviously I have lofty goals. It might not happen at all, but if I’m planning the best future for me (it would be) – get the bantamweight (title), get the featherweight (title), then I (could) defend them once or twice, but always looking to the next international opportunity if I can get something.”
Eternal 71 main card can be viewed Saturday, October 29th live and exclusive on UFC Fight Pass.
Eternal MMA pays tribute to its ‘Icons’ who have contributed to the growth and success of not only Eternal MMA, but Australian combat sports in its entirety. All the way from the grass roots of local martial arts education to the pinnacle of international competition, we salute those who have been vital in guiding Australian mixed martial arts in its endeavours at every level.
This week, Eternal MMA is proud to profile Callan ‘The Rockstar’ Potter. Callan is a former Eternal MMA lightweight champion who competed three times under the Eternal MMA banner, winning all three of his bouts.
Callan: I’ve earned plenty of great memories at Eternal. As far as sticking to the fights, going through that real ‘transition moment’ that some people have had to go through in their fights; being exhausted, being bloody, being beaten up and standing up off the stool coming into the third-round against B.J. Bland is a moment that will stick with me forever. He’s a super tough guy, and I knew that my gas tank was almost on empty and his wasn’t far above (empty) either. Just knowing that it was going to be one of those rounds was a pretty special moment.
Toughest Eternal MMA opponent:
Callan: All three of those guys were ridiculously tough. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my career, but something I pride myself on is I always try to find the toughest fights. As much as they were all tough, I really have to put Brentin (Mumford) up in that slot. I don’t think I’m alone in saying this, but during that period, Brentin was the bogeyman of the lightweight division. He was big, he was knocking people out with crazy techniques. I was always chasing tough fights, but I just knew that when that was going to get booked, that was going to be a hard fight.
Current Eternal MMA fighter you enjoy watching:
Callan: I’m huge into the local scene at the moment. I love the UFC, but more so than the UFC, I love the local scene. Obviously, Eternal is the premiere promotion on the local scene at the moment. Very easy answer – I’m loving Kaleb Rideout, the ‘Krazy Horse’. That kid has won me right over. I love the way he gets about it. He took on Kevin Jousset when no one was lining up to take that fight. He didn’t take that fight (for the sake of) being tough and taking the fight, he came out with the obvious intention to win and fought his backside off. I’m a massive fan of the Krazy Horse.
Greatest career achievement:
Callan: Obviously getting my hand raised in the UFC cage, that’s really hard to beat. (There are) two things that I really hang my hat on besides obviously taking hard fights whenever I could; one is never missing weight. Never once have I missed weight on the scales which I’m really proud of. Two, my whole Jiu-Jitsu career, every belt I’ve ever received is from the same coach from start to finish. In a sport where people are shifting and moving, trying to find a better answer here and there, I’m very proud that I’ve taken every single belt that I’ve got from Jamie Murray. I like to think that that’s a highlight of the personality and traits that I have.
Current involvement with mixed martial arts:
Callan: I deal with a lot of the evening classes (at Resilience Training Centre). We have quite stable of not only a few pro athletes, but a lot of amateur athletes coming through. We have a great coach in Dan Kelly; obviously Dan’s commitments are mixed with Australian Judo. (So), there’s myself, Sam Hayward, who’s a sensational coach, he’s very educated in the sport of MMA. Ben Sosoli is there. Between the four of us, we work quite well. We have guys that have been there a little bit longer, but we all work in unison. There are things that I learn off Ben and Dan and visa-versa. We all share our knowledge together really well.
Life outside of mixed martial arts:
I’m working with a company called ‘Wormald’ – that’s all fire protection. So, I’m working within the portables department there. That’s a full-time position. Three evenings a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I go to the gym. Tuesday, Thursday I’m back home with the family. Weekends are now very open. We’ve got the caravan now and I like to spend as much time (as possible) jumping in the caravan and going out. My poor now-wife has had to spend many years being dictated by a fighter career. Now that it’s been pulled up-stumps, she’s very happy to take the lead role in what our plans are for most weekends, which I’m happy to follow.
What do you hope your legacy will be as a competitive martial artist:
Callan: Legacy is sometimes a big thing; I don’t want to say that it doesn’t mean much to me. The people that are close to me they are the ones that I worry about. The ones that have worked close to me and seen the inside battles, they’re the people whose opinions matter to me. People on the
outside are going to form their own opinions, but I hope that my body of work speaks for itself. Not (necessarily) the wins that I’ve got, the accolades I’ve achieved or the or the titles that I’ve won, but the way I’ve carried myself. Like I’ve said, I’ve never missed weight, never turned down a hard fight and sadly been put in many dubious positions in a lot of my fights that I’ve still managed to come back and win. So, I’d like to think that while I might not have been blessed with a lot of the greatest skill, I’ve shown a bit of a ‘blue-collar’ grit in my career and maybe that’s how I’ll be remembered.
For more than a decade, Australia has produced a consistent offering of mixed martial artists that have risen to international prominence. It is no longer a secret that Australia is emerging as a sleeping giant on the world stage.
Names such as – Tai Tuivasa, Jimmy Crute, Tyson Pedro, Jack Della Maddalena, Casey O’Neill, Jamie Mullarkey, Jacob Malkoun and Josh Culibao are all currently riding the trail blazed by the likes of Mark Hunt, Robert Whittaker, Alexander Volkanovski, Daniel Kelly, Kyle Noke and Jake Matthews to name a few.
The growing number of Australian exports have seen a wide variety of success that has included everything from champions, future hall of famers, top contending challengers and blue-chip prospects.
With a multitude of talent exporting at a higher level than ever for Australia, more and more fans are turning their attention to the grassroots of MMA in order to spot the next generation of fighters making their rise in the sport.
It’s a good thing too, because at least for right now, the most exciting Australian mixed martial artist is still on our shores.
For all intents and purposes, Kaleb Rideout is perhaps the most accessible combat sports athlete currently competing on the regional scene of combat sports – a stark contrast to the otherworldly showmanship that he exhibits as a competitive martial artist.
A natural-born entertainer, Rideout has made a priority of giving the fans a show every time he steps foot inside the cage, and it is far from a case of style over substance.
YouTube Kaleb Rideout, the results speak for themselves.
July 16th, 2022, saw Eternal MMA produce one of, if not its biggest card in it’s almost ten-year existence, with Rideout slated to close the curtains in his championship fight against City Kickboxing product – Kevin Jousset.
Coming off a spinning back-fist knockout over his previous opponent at Eternal 64, Rideout was primed to make another statement in is young professional career.
With the vacant welterweight title on the line, Rideout produced a bell-to-bell performance bodied by a plethora of unorthodox striking, non-stop pressure, high octane pace and endless cardio.
Speaking with Eternal MMA, Rideout spoke shared his thoughts on the biggest win of his career to date.
“I can’t explain how I feel,” said Rideout.
“As soon as they said I was champion, I literally lost my feet and just collapsed in the middle of the cage. It’s something I’ve been training so hard for. Not just in this camp, but all the camps before that, ever since I was 2-2 as a pro.
“I’m still on the comedown from it, really.”
The long-lasting comedown from Rideout’s performance has been a mutually felt feeling for those in attendance as well as watchers tuning in on UFC Fight Pass.
Fans were treated to an exceptionally unique display of striking at a relentless clip that included countless spinning back-fists, spin kicks, overhand hammer fists and several other techniques that oozed with style points.
One such technique that Kaleb pulled out of his handy toolbox was something not many of us can say we have seen before – hammer-fist strikes to his standing opponents’ knee?
“This is just the start of my style,” said Rideout.
“I have got plenty more tricks in my bag that I didn’t even get to show. You have only seen little glimpses.
“The standing hammer-fist at the start of the fight that caused massive damage to his face, the damage I was inflicting in all these random positions that I was in. The unorthodox strikes that I was throwing from punches to the legs to hammer fists to the legs – its just the start really.
“I was so glad in a way that we went the five fives, because you could see what I’m actually capable of. My fitness is through the roof. I could have done another five fives after (the fight).
“The only thing that you didn’t really get to see was my ground game, which is a bit disappointing. But at the same time, in my opinion, fans don’t come to see grappling in the cage. Why would they?
“They want to see striking, so I give them everything I can with my strikes.”
“I said it at the end of this fight, and I will say it leading up to every other fight – I will stand and throw down as much as I can.
“I’m hunting for my Robbie Lawler vs Rory McDonald fight.”
There is no doubt that Rideout is on a collision course to get his wish at some point in his career. By his own admission, his fighting style and desire to entertain the fans are at the forefront of his mind whenever he prepares to step foot inside the cage. The fact that he is just so damn good at getting wins on his record at the same time has been an exceptionally welcome byproduct of his fan-friendly skillset.
It’s one thing to be flashy, it’s another thing to put it all together and become a title belt holder – Kaleb Rideout is now both.
To the surprise of many, one judge saw the contest in favour of Jousset to the tune of three rounds to two, while the other two judges saw it in favour of Rideout at 50-45 and 49-46 respectively.
A split decision victory for the first-time title challenger.
“I was very ‘fight-aware’ in that fight the entire time,” said Rideout.
“As soon as that final bell rang, and Kevin and I embraced after the fight, I said ‘it’s going to be a split decision’. I just didn’t know how the judges were going to score it.”
“I knew he had the takedowns, he had the control (time), but I was doing the most damage. So, I could see that being more favourable to the judges.”
“I knew I had the rounds with my aggression and my striking, he wasn’t landing anywhere near the amount of punches or significant strikes as I was.
“Looking back at it now that I’ve had time to reflect and watch the fight, it’s hard to see the split decision. I think I won four out of the five rounds. But the judges called it a split and I’m not going to argue with it. It’s still a win in my books.”
Back at home and now with some distance from the title fight, Rideout can see clearly now just how dominant he was for the majority of the contest. By his own admission, however, Jousset was one of if not the toughest out of his professional career.
“The best way to describe (Jousset) – he’s honestly like the French Terminator,” said Rideout.
“I was punching him hard – I mean, I was hitting him… hard. My right hand is ridiculously swollen. He just kept walking forward.
“I think I hit him with five clean punches and a clean elbow, and he just didn’t bleed! His bloody bones, every time I hit him, it just felt like steel.”
“His toughness is ten out of ten. I’ve hit a lot of people with those shots and a lot of them have dropped.”
“I knew his gas tank wouldn’t be as good as mine, (but) I was surprised in the fourth and fifth rounds that he was still very fit. You could still see that he deteriorated a bit, but the volume was on all day.
“I expected him to shoot more takedowns on me, but the longer the fight went, he very rarely did what I thought he would do. So, it just gave me free reign to stand there and throw.”
A fan of the game as well as a student of it, Rideout somehow found time towards the end of the fourth round to shoot his shot with a very familiar face at cage side.
Strategising against him was Kevin Jousset’s world-renowned coach, Eugene Bareman – most notably the long-time mentor of current UFC middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya.
Not one to miss an opportunity, even with his opponent in a dominant position against him, the man they call “Krazy Horse” seized the opportunity to have a quick word with the City Kickboxing lead man.
“It was just a spur of the moment thing,” said Rideout with a laugh.
“He (Jousset) pinned me and took me down against the cage, I looked to the left and I saw Joe Lopez there and I was like ‘oh sh*t, hey Joe!’. I was a little bit concussed; I think.
“And then (I saw) Eugene and thought, it’s not the right time but (I said) ‘hey Eugene, can I get a photo after this?!’. Then we had a bit of a banter war and he (Jousset) got up and kicked me in the ribs, which hurt.”
It’s a 2022 kicking off on the right foot for Rideout. With two wins from two fights, including his recent title win, the sky is looking like the limit for the newly crowned champ.
Splitting his time between work as a plasterer and training as a mixed martial artist, Rideout leads a typical life of a regional circuit athlete. Three days after winning the championship fight, it was back to life as usual on the tools for the Picton, New South Wales resident. Only this time, with all the attention that comes with the territory of being an Australian champion.
With the welterweight title around his waist, the proud representative of his gym – XXX Fight Academy said the reception back home with his teammates was electric.
“They absolutely loved the fight because it was so entertaining” said Rideout.
“I feel like a celebrity walking around the gym right now, it’s great.”
Celebrity aside, Rideout knows that his road as a high-profile combat sports athlete is barely beginning. Now 7-2-0 as a professional, he has put together a run of five wins in a row on his way to the welterweight title.
Earning himself a reputation as one of the most electrifying mixed martial artists in the country, Rideout is ready and willing to face whatever challenge is placed before him whenever the time comes.
With a new addition to the family set to arrive in November, however, Rideout will be looking to face the next challenge either before or after what will be the most important moment in his life.
“My first child is on the way – a little girl,” said Rideout beaming ear to ear.
“I’m building a granny flat right now out the back of my missus’ parents house for me, her and the little one.”
“But as I’ve said, at the end of the day, It’s Cam’s (Eternal MMA promoter, Cam O’Neill) call. Whatever he wants to do, I’ll just turn up and do what I do best. It doesn’t bother me; a fight is a fight at the end of the day.”
Not since rising Australian star, Jack Della Maddalena vacated his title in 2021 in pursuit of a UFC contract has Eternal MMA had a welterweight champion to reign over the division.
Four successful title defences after first capturing the belt in March of 2018 would see the Perth native receive a call up to the heralded proving grounds of Dana White’s Contender Series – a chance he would take with both hands to earn himself the converted roster spot amongst the sport’s elite at 77 kilograms.
With the Eternal MMA welterweight title left vacant for would-be challengers to claim, two candidates would eventually separate themselves from the pack to earn a matchup against each other for the belt at Eternal 67. One of those contenders to emerge would be the highly touted and wildly exciting prospect, Kaleb Rideout.
Coming off a highlight-reel finish over Ben Johnston at Eternal 64, the man known as “Krazy Horse” effectively punched his ticket to a first-ever title shot inside the first round with a spinning back fist knockout.
Speaking with Eternal MMA, Rideout reflected on his recent win as he looks ahead to Eternal 67.
“I didn’t expect it to end so quickly,” said Rideout.
“Obviously, I wanted to finish the fight as quick as possible. I was cruising in (the opening exchanges), I was still feeling it out. He charged me and I just reacted to get out of the way and threw a spinning back fist.
“Ten seconds later and the fight was over.”
Originally a rugby league player as a junior, Rideout found mixed martial arts while training wrestling in the offseason.
Realising that he was destined to make a better fighter than a footballer, Rideout took up training at XXX Fight Academy under Nathan Reddy and Michael Mousalli – a move that would see him find success as an amateur before amassing a 6-2-0 record as a professional.
Prior to being awarded the main event slot at Eternal 67, Rideout admits that he initially had his eyes on a different opponent before happily taking up the offer to fight for a championship.
“I actually busted my knuckles on Ben Johnston’s f**king forehead, so I had a bit of time off,” said Rideout with a laugh.
“I was originally after the Joey Luciano fight. I wanted to fight him because he ducks and weaves all the good fighters. One thing led to another, my coach rang me and said, ‘Eternal has got you for the belt – f**k this Joey fight’
“It’s all just erupted (from there), which has been overwhelmingly good, I can’t believe it.”
With the French judoka coming off a win in a three-round war in his most recent matchup, Rideout is fully prepared to wade into deep waters should the fight go the distance.
“I never underestimate my opponents, I go in there thinking I’m fighting a God,” said Rideout.
“I’m always going in there expecting the unexpected. I don’t analyse my opponents, that’s up to my coaches (but) from what I see, it’s a pretty good matchup. He’s well-rounded with the ground game and with the striking.
“Apparently, he likes to throw people in Judo so, that’s fun, I like to go flying. It’s a match made in heaven if you ask me.”
“I’m really excited for this fight for many reasons. (I want) to show how good my striking is, because I know he’s training at City Kickboxing. If I finish this guy, this will put me at the pinnacle of Australia/New Zealand MMA, in my opinion.”
Kaleb Rideout is the type of fighter that welcomes the scrappy side of MMA. A fierce competitor with a genuine love for combat sports, it is apparent that he is always ready to walk into the fire and put on a show for the fans.
While Rideout is happy to expect an all-out war against his opponent, in the grand scheme of things, it is the prospect of winning the welterweight championship that means the most to him. It has been a journey, however, that has not been without its tribulations for the twenty-five-year-old.
“It would mean everything to me (to win the belt). I have trained my little white arse off to get to this position right now,” said Rideout.
“About a year and a half ago, I was 2-2 as a pro, not knowing what I wanted to do. I had to take some time away from the sport to get my head right, get my training right and level up.
“When I came back, I came back a different beast. I’ve grown twelve inches of hair and just started knocking people out.
“But that’s what I want – I want this belt.”
Now on a four-fight win streak – a run that included three finishes, it is clear that time away from the sport has worked wonders for Rideout’s trajectory. With a renewed focus on his life as well as his career, coaches and training partners alike began to see the growth in his game.
While Rideout is prepared for all outcomes, he believes that the progress made behind closed doors will earn him his first Australian MMA title in spectacular fashion.
“I want my hand raised over a KO,” he said.
“If I can knock this guy out, that would just show the level that I’m at – levels above everyone in Australia/New Zealand MMA.”
“What fans are going to see on July 16th is one of us is going to get knocked out, or we are both going to be standing there bloody, because that’s the way we both fight.”
“I go for the knockout or blood, and he goes for the knockout or blood. So, one of us is going to get what we want.”
– Eternal 67 main card will be streamed June 16th live and exclusive on UFC Fight Pass.
June 16th will see Eternal MMA return to Queensland with a stacked fight card at the GC Sports & Leisure Centre.
Occupying one-half of the co-main event at Eternal 67, Justin Van Heerden will be looking to secure his third victory in a row against undefeated Eternal MMA debutant – Mohammad Alavi.
A fourteen-fight veteran of the game with seven of his professional bouts taking place inside the Eternal MMA cage, Van Heerden has become one of the mainstays of the featherweight division in Australian MMA.
Known for his exceptional grappling and suffocating Jiu-Jitsu, the man they now call “Lockjaw” has been living up to his name with two impressive submission victories to kick off his 2022 season on the right foot.
The most recent of those wins came at Eternal 65 – a triangle choke in the second round against highly talented striker and widely respected UK and Australian MMA stalwart, Alan Philpott, saw Van Heerden’s stock rise considerably amongst fans pundits alike.
Speaking with Eternal MMA, Van Heerden reflected on his success that he feels has been discredited by his most recent opponent.
“He (Philpott) is sitting there on this podcast saying that he was winning the fight, he was outclassing me, he was piecing me up the whole fight, he had me hurt and nearly put away and that’s how he end up getting put in the triangle.”
“I had to respond to that (and say) ‘look man, here’s the facts. You hit air for most of the fight. You hit me cleanly probably two or three times.
“I made the adjustments at the end of the second round when I shot a takedown and got a hold of him. That sequence of me finishing that flight – that’s something that I was able to do in a calculated way because of the preparation and the work that I did leading up to that fight.
“I was in camp for my last fight and Volk (Alexander Volkanovski) was in camp for (Brian) Ortega – obviously Ortega is a very good Jiu-Jitsu guy, so throughout the whole camp I was trying to throw up submissions from all sorts of crazy positions.
“Ultimately that finish on Philpott – that came as a result of that work and the improvements that I made as I was helping my teammate improve for a title fight.”
“I have this chip on my shoulder because people keep putting me as an underdog in these fights, and that’s fine, keep doing that because I’m going to keep proving people wrong,”
2021 saw Van Heerden find a new gym in Freestyle MMA, home to UFC Featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski, as well as world renowned MMA coach, Joe Lopez. The duo of Volkanovski and Lopez would form the spearhead of Van Heerden’s coaching, before a longer than expected stay in North America would prevent the team from being in Van Heerden’s corner for his first run of fights under the Freestyle MMA banner.
A disappointing first-round TKO loss to Rod Costa at Eternal 60 would be quickly turned around over his next two outings, a run that Van Heerden attributes to finally having his main coaches back in his corner.
“Every fight, every time you compete, you want to improve, build on things, identify the things you did good, identify the things you did bad,” said Van Heerden
“Post the fight with (Rod) Costa, when I came into the fight after that with Josh Riley and then my last fight with Philpott, it was the first time I could have my coaches in my corner.”
“Joe and Alex were away for my first few fights under Freestyle and that makes a difference. I’m pretty experienced, I’ve been around the game for a bit now, but to not have your coaches with you giving those adjustments (and) identifying the things in the heat of the moment during the fight, that’s a bit of an adjustment you have to make yourself.”
“I look at that fight (with Costa and think) if I was to run that fight back with my coaches by my side, I don’t see it going the same way.
“I think that’s evident if you look at my last two performances. You could see that having Joe and Alex there with me in my corner, you could see the mid-fight adjustments that I made. I was able to capitalise and get the win and also finish the fight in both instances.”
The benefit of having such a high calibre of training partner and coaching team in his corner is clearly not lost on Van Heerden. With Volkanovski in the prime of his career and Lopez continuing to be one of the masters of breaking down situations with his fight IQ, Van Heerden believes it is the perfect melting pot for him to succeed when combined with his own wealth of experience in combat sports.
It is through these combined minds that Van Heerden forecasts an even bigger leap in his performances in the near future.
“I think that’s why people would have seen the leaps I have made from fight to fight, especially so far this year in such quick succession,” said Van Heerden.
“That’s why this fight (against Alavi) I think people are going to see the leaps of improvement again.
“The Justin that’s going to walk into the cage on July 16th would run through the Justin that fought Alan Philpott inside one round.
“It’s not even the same standard or the same sort of level. I’m not the same person, I’m not the same fighter. That’s what you want at the end of the day, and I feel like that’s the real benefit.
“I’m in a place at Freestyle with my training partners, with the team that I have, with the coaching that I have – I’m able to continue to make those improvements because I’m just approaching it the same way.
With four wins from his last five fights that have resulted in three finishes, Van Heerden believes that he is nowhere near his fighting prime or anywhere close to where he potential truly is. Still just twenty-eight years of age, the South African native fully expects to have many more fights ahead of him in his career.
Of course, his immediate future holds a matchup with surging fellow featherweight, Mohammad Alavi. While he was complimentary of Alavi’s skill set, Van Heerden believes that it won’t be nearly enough to prevent him from getting his hand raised.
“I’m a complete mixed martial artist,” said Van Heerden.
“I’m fighting a dangerous guy, he’s undefeated. But I think that this fight is going to be another opportunity for me to showcase the levels of improvement I have made across the board.
“Obviously, the wrestling, the grappling and that side of things is always going to be in my back pocket. That’s always going to be sharp – that’s always going to be something I can rely on. When it comes to my fight IQ, my distance management, my abilities on the feet now and the timing that I have.
“The speed, the power – all that stuff is going to come through.”
While Van Heerden is confident in the evolution of his complete skill set, he admits that he feels no need to reach for style points in the pursuit of victory.
“For my ego, I don’t need to go out there and try to showcase something just for the sake of it or just to impress a few people and show that I can do something, I can capitalise on the opportunity’s as they present themselves.”
“At the end of the day, if I want to take a hold of this dude, put him on his back and smash his face in for fifteen minutes, I can do that.”
It’s no secret that Freestyle MMA has got its bases covered both internationally and locally when it comes to solid representation in combat sports. Of course, Alexander Volkanovski – the crown jewel of the Windang-based gym, recently defended his Featherweight title for the fourth time with a resounding decision win against Max Holloway at UFC 276.
While Volkanovski is holding it down for the team overseas, Van Heerden is looking forward to continuing to make his own waves in his now adopted home country of Australia. A natural featherweight himself, Van Heerden believes a victory at Eternal 67 against Mohammad Alavi should leave no questions as to who the main man is in his weight class.
“It puts me as the clear number one featherweight in the country,” said Van Heerden.
“The only other fight on the regional circuit that would make sense next would be (Eternal Featherweight champion) Jack Jenkins, but as far as I know, he’s off to the races.
“I think a win over Alavi puts me in a clear position of being the number one featherweight in the country and sets me up nicely. I’ll move to 10-5, I’ll be on a three-fight win streak and hopefully another finish.
“I think people forget – I’m 4-1 in my last five with three finishes. I’m 8-3 at featherweight, a couple of my losses were up in weight on short notice.”
“After this fight there can be no excuses. He’s a dangerous dude, he’s on a win streak, 7-0 and hasn’t experienced much adversity up until this point.
“If I go out there and perform, beat him, finish him – which is what I’m aiming to do, that puts me as the best featherweight in the country.”
Questioned as to how he sees himself getting his hand raised, Van Heerden visualises two clear paths to victory, with either outcome seemingly sitting just fine with the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown-belt.
“I’m either going to find an opening early and put him away with a submission or TKO, or it’s going to be fifteen minutes of brutal, brutal damage.”
“If you haven’t already, I suggest you sort out your UFC Fight Pass, unless you are going to be at the event itself. Eternal MMA is the biggest promotion in the country for a reason. They are putting these crazy cards together and it’s an absolute privilege for me to be in a co-main slot again.”
“Pay attention, stay tuned. I’m going to go out there and put another cracking performance on, get another finish and make my friends, family and all those supporting me a whole lot of money in the process.”
– Eternal 67 main card will be streamed July 16th live and exclusive on UFC Fight Pass.