Enter Krazy Horse: The Kaleb Rideout welterweight title reign begins. 

Kaleb Rideout Welterweight

 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. 

… And he just became the Eternal MMA welterweight champion

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.” 

“I will always be here to entertain.” 

Eternal 67 can be replayed on UFC Fight Pass

The French Redemption: Kevin Jousset primed for second shot at welterweight title. 

Eternal MMA welterweight contender Kevin Jousset

 Kevin Jousset was only two fights into his professional career when he received his first title shot. 

Serving as a replacement for the injured Glenn Pettigrew, Jousset stepped up on just two weeks’ notice to challenge then reigning welterweight champion, Jack Della Maddalena

An eyelid laceration would see a doctors stoppage cut his first title bid short after the end of the second round, though Jousset was widely commended for his performance given the circumstances. 

Since then, Jousset has strung together a run of three wins on his way back to a second shot at the title – the most recent of which being a hard-fought decision against Saeid Fatahifar at Eternal 59. 

A black belt in Judo, Jousset demonstrated his elite level grappling skills, landing several hip-toss takedowns on his opponent, much to the delight of the crowd. Throughout the opening two rounds, Jousset expertly utilised his impressive height and reach advantage with teep kicks to the body of Fatahifar, while keeping the range with his jab at almost every exchange. 

The third round would see Jousset unleash a barrage of strikes from the feet in the opening seconds, almost immediately causing blood to flow from the nose of the tough Iranian. A high octane last few minutes of the fight would see the Frenchman successfully stuff several takedown attempts from his weakening opponent, putting a stamp on his performance with stifling ground control mixed in with tireless ground and pound. 

Jousset unleashes a barrage of strikes from the feet in the opening seconds of round three at Eternal MMA 59.

With the dominant decision win in his back pocket, the Eternal MMA brass had seen enough to award Jousset another shot at the welterweight strap. This time, with a complete training camp to back him up inside the cage. 

Speaking with Eternal MMA, Jousset reflected on his most recent performance as he prepares for a second attempt at championship glory. 

“I was quite dominant most of the fight,” said Jousset. 

“It was a good way for me to show everyone I am one of the best welterweights in the country. Saeid is one of the toughest guys in the country as well. Being able to beat him meant a lot for the Eternal promoters, so they wanted me to fight for the belt. 

“Obviously, all the lockdowns happened, so it had to be pushed back a bit later than what we had planned. (But) finally, we are getting there. Less than a week and I will have the belt around my waste.” 

Originally born in France, Jousset would eventually find his way to New Zealand’s City Kickboxing after spending some time both in the UK and Australia. 

Boasting some of the best combat sports athletes in the world, including UFC middleweight champion – Israel Adesanya, UFC featherweight champion – Alexander Volkanovski, as well as Dan Hooker, Brad Riddell and Kai Kara-France to name a few, Jousset has a plethora of talent to train with on a daily basis. 

On top of being able to learn from some of the region’s elite fighters, Jousset’s training is spearheaded by world-renowned MMA coach, Eugene Bareman

The importance of being surrounded by such a high-level melting pot of talent and knowledge is not lost twenty-nine-year-old as he prepares for the biggest fight of his career to date. 

Jousset deep in thought between rounds at Eternal 59
Jousset deep in thought between rounds at Eternal 59.

“Training with those guys is insane,” he said. 

“Coming from my background, I already knew that I could handle the best grapplers in the world because I’ve done it – I know how it is. But being able to train with the best strikers in the world now is great. If I can handle those guys, I can literally handle anyone.” 

“Just (seeing) the work ethic, seeing how everyone is humble and just working their ass off every single day, it’s very humbling.” 

The day-to-day learnings inside the confines of one of the world’s most elite MMA gyms are what Jousset believes will guide him to victory against his fellow title challenger, Kaleb Rideout

While Jousset is aware of the kind of problems Rideout can present inside the cage, it is his steadfast belief that “Krazy Horse” will not have nearly enough for him when the cage doors close – no matter how the matchup plays out. 

“He’s quite an aggressive fighter – very dangerous with some of his techniques,” he said. 

“It’s going to be quite an exciting fight with two (different) styles against each other. I need to be very focused and aware of all the spinning attacks and all the stuff that he does to make sure that I don’t get caught.” 

“I just need to apply my game plan and use my skills as well as possible, so I don’t get hit too much. I need to (deal) as much damage to him as possible.” 

Jousset has made no secret of what his plans are as a professional mixed martial artist. Training with some of the best athletes in the world – many of whom themselves have made the journey from the Australia/New Zealand regional scene to international waters, Jousset eventually wants to follow suit. 

While harbouring his own ambitions to one day compete in the UFC, he believes there is no better platform to showcase his abilities in this part of the world than Eternal MMA. 

“Eternal is the biggest organisation in this part of the world,” he said. 

“Once I get this belt around my waste, I will officially be the best welterweight in the country. That will definitely help open the doors to the big leagues. 

“The goal is to fight in the UFC, as everyone knows. There are quite a few guys who used to hold the belt before, who then got signed to the UFC later. So, that’s the goal – getting the belt first and then getting signed (to the UFC). 

Holding such lofty goals is standard for any fighter who wants to call themselves the best, and Kevin Jousset is no different. While he hopes to carve his own international path someday, he has no intention of looking beyond his next opponent standing in the way of him winning his first championship belt. 

Asked if he believes there is a specific area in which he holds an advantage over his upcoming opponent, Jousset was resolute in his answer. 

A response that came with somewhat of an advertisement for bad intentions to those tuning in on fight day. 

“I have the advantage everywhere,” he said matter-of-factly. 

“I’m a better striker than him, I’m a better grappler than him, I’m stronger than him. I think I have an advantage everywhere. I just need to be focused and do my thing, that’s it.” 

“Violence is what people are going to see. I will show everyone that I am levels above all the other welterweights in the country – I will be ready to fight for the UFC sooner rather than later.” 

“The main thing is, whatever happens, the conclusion stays the same – I’ll be winning this fight one-hundred percent.” 

Eternal 67 main card will be streamed July 16th live and exclusive on UFC Fight Pass

Rideout or die: The Krazy Horse forecasts a war in Welterweight title showdown.

Kaleb-Rideout-on-his-thrown-after-a-spinning-backfist-KO

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.

Kaleb-Rideout-mid-spin-at-Eternal-MMA-64
Kaleb Rideout mid-spin at Eternal MMA 64.

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.

Kaleb-Rideout-addresses-the-crowd-after-his-win-over-Ben-Johnston
Kaleb Rideout addresses the crowd after his win over Ben Johnston.

“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.”

Standing across the other side of the Eternal MMA cage will be former title challenger and City Kickboxing product, Kevin Jousset.

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.

Australian-Mixed-Martial-Artisi-Kaleb-Rideout

“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.

Lockjawed and Loaded:  Justin Van Heerden looks to continue the momentum at Eternal 67. 

 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. 

Justin Van Heerden defeats Alan Philpott at Eternal MMA 65

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. 

Freestyle MMA coaches Alexander Volkanovski & Joe Lopez

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

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.

Diego Pereira: The Rise Of El Pantera Negra

Diego Pereira (6-4) is a natural performer. Need proof? Just watch any of his past fights. The Brazilian fighter who now calls Australia home holds the record for the fastest knockout in Eternal MMA history, finishing Nix Agulto nine seconds into their bout with a vicious kick to the head. His last performance in the cage – a spirited loss to Jack Jenkins for the Eternal featherweight championship – was voted Eternal’s best fight of the year and the first fight in the promotion’s history to see a fourth round.

But in a year halted by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent fight cancellations, ‘El Pantera Negra’ (The Black Panther) makes his return to the cage this weekend when he fights Abdalla Eltigani (2-0) at Eternal MMA 61, a fight which he hopes will put his MMA career back on track.

Conventional wisdom would assume that Pereira has an easy task ahead of him on Saturday night – a consequence of his opponent’s relative inexperience – but there are dangers to fighting untried opponents. For one, tape on Eltigani is scarce, making him an unknown quantity to a degree. This is also the biggest fight of Eltigani’s young career, a prospect which makes him a dangerous opponent.

But Pereira understands this conundrum better than most and is preparing diligently for Eltigani by formulating a game plan based on the little tape available.

“We’re solid. There’s a few fights on Fight Pass, a few on YouTube. And though I haven’t fought any one as a professional with his physicality – being tall, lanky, a kickboxer – but as an amateur I have. And I feel like my IQ is on another level right now.”

Pereira also expects to finish Eltigani. “I think I’ll finish it inside two rounds, but I’m ready for everything. I’ll be ready if the fight goes the distance, but I have too many weapons, too many ways with which to win the fight, and though he’s a very talented young man, he’s never faced the high-level guys that I have, and he doesn’t have the experience that I have.”

This will also be the first time that Pereira has fought in over a year. In his last outing – the loss to Jenkins – Pereira suffered both a broken jaw and a hairline fracture in his right fibula, with both occurring early in the fight.

“We went to war in that fight; we made history; it was the first time that an Eternal fight had seen the fourth round.

“I suffered some pretty gnarly injuries, but I wanted it so bad. I had trained so hard, but it got to a point where my jaw was so loose that any touch to it hurt… I wanted to keep going but it was an instinct of survival where the body took over and shut down.”

However, the injuries sustained during the fight became a blessing in disguise, allowing Pereira to reset and evaluate the shortcomings in his past performances. He believes a major factor in his past defeats was how he approached the sport. Until now, he had neglected the mental aspect of combat and instead focused on the physical and technical aspects.

“The mind is like a computer: it runs everything, so if you know how to manipulate that feeling before you get to the event through breathing and visualization, it’s going to help the performance a lot more. Technically I was already at a high level, but it’s been about understanding things which help when it comes to situations where it feels like you’re about to jump off a cliff. It’s risky. You have that cold feeling in your stomach like you’re on a roller coaster.”


Growing up in Guararapes, São Paulo, Pereira lived with his mother, grandmother, and siblings. Throughout his childhood, money was always scarce. “Where I grew up in Brazil was a rough area. I come from poverty; we had enough to get by, but it was always a tight situation – we were always living cheque to cheque.”

School wasn’t a priority in Pereira’s life either, instead he left school to work odd jobs to support his family. “At 16 I dropped out of school and my mother told me that if I wasn’t going to go to school, then I would have to work and help around the house which was fine by me.”

Diego (far right – in the glasses) with his older brother and cousin on a rare BBQ day in Brazil.

Pereira’s first job was working part-time delivering food on a bicycle throughout his hometown, a job his mother had sorted for him. “I thought it was amazing. The restaurant had amazing food and they would feed us too, and at the end of each week I would have some money. Some went to my mother, and some went to myself so I could play video games and eat food we usually couldn’t afford like biscuits and candy.” 

As a teenager, Pereira didn’t care for MMA. In fact, he knew nothing about it. He hadn’t heard of jiu-jitsu, nor the Brazilian icon, Royce Gracie. “To me it didn’t exist. I didn’t seek it; I didn’t have friends who did it. I’m sure it was popular, but to me it didn’t exist. I wasn’t watching any TV; I was oblivious to it.”

Pereira was introduced to combat sports through capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art dating back to the sixteenth century, first practiced by slaves during Portuguese rule in Brazil.

The martial art is distinguished by its acrobatic play, its extensive use of groundwork, as well as sweeps, kicks, and headbutts. Though unlike most martial arts, capoeira is more akin to a dance than a fight. As such, music is an integral feature and functions as its soundtrack, to culturally guide its participants through lyrics which acknowledge slavery, spirituality, and the sport itself.

Later, through a government initiative which aimed to keep Brazilian youth off the streets, Pereira was introduced to kung-fu and ballet. “At the time I was only interested in doing kung fu, but to do kung fu I also had to do ballet and as a kid I didn’t want to do ballet. And as a kid you have all these misconceptions about it, but it was amazing.”

Diego after winning his first kung-fu medal.

Pereira’s journey to Australia began around this time too, a move which irreversibly altered his life. “My uncle was here in Australia already. He moved to work in the meatworks, because at the time Australia needed skilled workers in the area, so they had to outsource guys to come over here and work, and my uncle was one of those people.”

Realising how much the move would benefit Pereira and his siblings as it had for him, Pereira’s uncle planned for Pereira and his siblings to settle in the country. “My uncle was supporting us a lot at the time and figured that we could come to Australia as his dependents. To do so he had to prove that we depended upon him financially, and at first my older brother was able to leave and joined my uncle working in the meatworks.”

Two years later, his uncle offered Pereira the same opportunity as his brother, but it was dependent on Pereira returning to school. “At the time I quit my jobs and went to night school to finish my high school degree. So, I went back, started studying more; I went to a different city and started living with my aunt, and before I could complete my studies, my uncle called me and said I was good to go.”

In Australia, Pereira joined his uncle and elder brother and began working at the meatworks. This is where Pereira first became aware of mixed martial arts. “A guy I was working with told me about Anderson Silva, who was the champion at the time, and whether I was familiar and I wasn’t, and that’s how I got interested in MMA. Then when I got home I started researching and digging, finding out about Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, and I thought maybe I should do that.”

Once discovering MMA, Pereira began searching for a gym and trained around Queensland for the next few years.

With the support of his uncle, Pereira was able to quit his job and dedicated himself to mixed martial arts full time. He ventured back to Brazil to train at the legendary Rio De Janeiro gym, Nova União. Home to some of Brazil’s greatest mixed martial arts talent, including Jose Aldo and Renan Barao.

But having adjusted to life in Australia, Pereira found it difficult to live in Brazil. “I really loved the training, but I didn’t like the environment. I wasn’t living in the slums of Rio, but there was too much traffic, too many people and I began feeling lonely, so I started thinking back to life in Australia and decided I didn’t want to be here anymore.”

Afterwards, Pereira returned to Queensland and became an Australian citizen. This allowed him to begin searching for gyms in the United States to continue developing his craft, something that wasn’t possible in Queensland.

“After looking around, I came across Jackson Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They had dorm rooms which I thought sounded perfect because I could sleep upstairs, go downstairs and train. So, I figured out how much it would cost, and I contacted them and got accepted because you had to be invited.”

When Pereira arrived at Jackson-Wink, he understood how different his life would be for the next few months. “Every time you go down the stairs you see guys like Andrei Arlovski, Jon Jones, Alistair Overeem, Holly Holm, all of these stars. And then to see Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljohn, all these guys you’d see coaching in the UFC, it was like wow I’ve made it. I’m actually here.

“Living in that environment was extremely new and extremely outside of my comfort zone. For the first month I hated it, sometimes I felt unsafe, there were some weird dudes there, some crazy motherfuckers, but it was a good growth period for me personally. I figured out that I was my own man and that I could handle my shit there.”

In Queensland, the gym Pereira has called home for the past decade is Southside MMA. He credits his coaches Paul Stolyar and Damage Maea – affectionately called ‘Uncle Dez’ – for his development in the sport.

“They’ve influenced me so much, Paul’s such a passionate coach and such a selfless being and we’ve done so much growth together. Those two are the heart of Southside MMA, if not for them the team would have fallen apart. They’ve influenced me so much, not just as an athlete but also a person through how they carry themselves in and out of the gym.

“And Uncle Dez was so supportive. When I was overseas, he would help me out financially whenever I needed it and he always believed. And when I got back he was the first to stick his hand out and help me and start doing pads.”

L to R: Uncle Dez, Diego, Paul Stoyler

All these experiences have led Pereira to Eternal MMA 61 this Saturday.

“I’m now reaching my prime, I’m 29 so right now I have everything coming full circle: the mental, the physical; I’m comfortable in my own body. Everything is coherent now.

“I’m constantly running scenarios in my brain: everything from the walk out; the music; the taste; my heartbeat; can I feel those emotions? Can I hear the people screaming my name?”

‘Will there be any signs of rust?’ I ask. “No rust.” Pereira tells me.

Stream the Eternal 61 main card live on UFC Fight Pass – Saturday Sep 11.

A True Contender: Jack Della

When Jack Della (9-2) lost his second fight in a row to begin his career – a submission loss to Australian middleweight Darcy Vendy – he trudged back to the locker room defeated, ruing the errors which ultimately cost him the fight. 

After hearing the news, his trainer Ben Vickers, who couldn’t make the journey to Queensland to be in his corner, called Della to remind him he wasn’t an 0-2 fighter. Instead, Vickers told a then 19-year-old Della that he’d win his next 10 fights. 

And here we are: nine wins later, with a tenth to potentially secure a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series.

Jack Della and his team, after extending his win streak at Eternal 48.

The fight, scheduled for 14th of September, will see Della fight Ange Loosa (7-1), another highly touted prospect who has made his name throughout America’s regional MMA scene. 

Speaking about his opponent, Della believes Loosa matches up well with his skillset. 

“I think his style matches up well to mine,” said Della, “he’s the type of guy to pressure and come forward which is what I want. 

“I want to try land counter shots and damage him as he comes in” 

It’s no surprise Jack is receiving this opportunity with the UFC now. In his professional career, all eleven fights have ended in stoppages, something which has not only endeared him to Australian MMA fans, but evidently to the UFC as well. 

“I’ve never gone into a fight to win a decision. I can last a whole fight and keep doing what I’m doing, but my style creates finishes. I want to get clean finishes, that’s what I’m chasing,” said Della.

Jack has a fan-friendly style, with all his wins coming by KO.

This opportunity has been a long time coming too. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant fewer opportunities for international prospects such as Della. He was first touted to make his UFC debut in June of last year, as part of UFC 251 – the pay-per-view scheduled to take place in Perth, Della’s hometown – only for it to be cancelled. 

After receiving his call up to Dana White’s Contender Series, Della has committed to training full-time, something that wasn’t possible in the past. Previously, Della had juggled his fledgling MMA career with a job in finance, a far cry from his life as a mixed martial artist.

But despite juggling two occupations, Della has always been an astute student of mixed martial arts, a fighter who takes his preparation very seriously. His trainer believes this is what separates his student from the rest.

“I’ve never met an athlete like him before. I’ve got guys who are probably just as talented as him, but they don’t work as hard as Jack. He lives it, breathes it, and sleeps it.”

“I wish I could say ‘I’m the world’s best coach’ but I don’t think it’s true. I just think he’s really good.” said Vickers.

In the cage, Della is a no-nonsense pressure fighter with the ability to finish fights wherever they end up. He’s able to overwhelm his opponents by relentlessly coming forward; not allowing his opponents to catch a breath. Most importantly, he’s able to sense blood in the water too. 

“I know when to pull the trigger, I don’t pull it too early, I don’t pull it too late. I have a good idea of when I need to step on the gas and take my opponent out.” said Della.

Della has consistently improved throughout his young career.

In Della’s first professional fight he fought local rival Aldin Bates in a competitive affair which was ultimately decided in the final round when Bates overwhelmed Della, finishing him with ground and pound strikes. 

In his last outing, Della was able to avenge that loss by emphatically knocking Bates out early in the first round, ending any doubt of who was the better fighter between the two. 

Della avenged his first pro loss in a rematch at Eternal 53.

I asked Della whether he felt like giving up after beginning his career with two straight losses. 

“To be honest, no. I really enjoy competing and I knew I was better than those performances 

“Losing is part of this sport and you’ve got to be able to swallow the pill and move on. We put the losses on the back burner and figured out how to win so it was a good learning curve,” said Della. 

It’s not unusual for great fighters to lose in their professional debut. Legendary fighters including Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva and Amanda Nunes all lost in their professional debuts, but losing your first two fights is unusual. It’s a beginning that would make most reconsider their career and call it a day, but instead Della persisted. 

A 9-fight win streak, and now on the cusp of a UFC contract.

Della’s nine-fight win streak is a testament to his approach to mixed martial arts. He’s a calming presence, someone who relishes in the opportunity of competing without feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders.

This attitude has made the longest reigning welterweight champion in Eternal MMA history, and one of Australia’s best MMA fighters as well.  

Della’s next fight represents the biggest fight in his young career, a life changing opportunity to pursue his dream on the biggest stage but speaking to him you wouldn’t realise it. Instead, Della’s treating it like any other fight.


WATCH Dana White’s Contender Series on ESPN/Kayo Sports or UFC Fight Pass on September 15th to see Eternal MMA alumni Jack Della fight for a UFC contract.

Eternal 2020-2021 Financial Year Review

With Australia’s COVID-19 situation under tight policies and travel control, Eternal MMA proves that it is Australia’s number one MMA organisation by delivering eight events to live audiences in the 2020-2021 Financial Year.

Eternal director Cam O’Neill says, “It’s very exciting to see the growth that Eternal MMA has made as a company in the last financial year, a year that saw a pandemic decimate sports leagues worldwide. Eternal again delivered eight nationwide shows to live audiences as well provided opportunities in a difficult time for athletes.”

The last twelve months were unprecedented for the company with challenges to overcome, but with these challenges, Eternal has gone from strength to strength. With eight events over three major cities, fight fans in Perth, Melbourne and Gold Coast (Brisbane) were able to attend and watch live the best Australia MMA fights to date.

“We are still in uncertain times with travel and attendance at events uncertain as Australia slips back into a series of lockdowns and increased travel restrictions. The company will continue to deliver, as we’re constantly working to react, adapt and overcome” stated Cam.

Along with record attending audiences nationwide, new records were set from financial payouts to the athletes, numbers on worldwide audiences viewership and a numerous athletes on the Eternal roster making it to the international fight scene.

“One of our goals when establishing Eternal MMA was to build Oceania’s number one MMA promotion and provide a pathway to the world’s number one organisation, the UFC. It’s been satisfying to sit here, nine years later after setting these goals to see more athletes that have plied their trade and carried out their apprenticeship on Eternal graduate to UFC and debut in the last financial year.” – Cam O’Neill, Eternal MMA Director

“It has been a great year for the Eternal team; actions speak louder than words. These numbers to me are a testament to the work we put in, raising the bar for Australian MMA. Personally all I’m concerned about is rolling my sleeves up, getting back in the trenches and making these numbers look silly in twelve months time. None of this is possible without the support of fighters, coaches, family, fans and the Eternal team. I cant wait to put on some amazing fights for our fans in the 21/22 FY.” – Ben Vickers, Eternal MMA Director

With that goal checked, Eternal MMA also set a new one for the books with “King” Casey O’Neill (2-0 UFC) being the first fighter to go through the pathway from debuting as an amateur on Eternal, progress through to as a professional and win an Eternal MMA championship title and now begin the journey to define her legacy on the world’s biggest stage.

LIVE Eternal, REIGN Supreme.