SPOTLIGHT: Kuhne VS Dimps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fans are in for a treat this Saturday night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kuhne feels right at home with the team at CMBT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dimps is driven to perform for his gym.

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

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

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

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

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

Dimps is fueled by the roar of the crowd.

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

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

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

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

Know Your Fighter: Lachlan “Deadshot” Stitt

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

Age: 22 

Where were you born? 

Mackay, Queensland 

Where are you based now? 

South West Sydney 

What gym do you train out of? 

XXX Fight Academy 

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

Who are your coaches? 

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

Where does the ‘Deadshot’ nickname come from? 

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

What sports and activities did you participate in growing up? 

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

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

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

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

Expect violence and also a quick finish. 

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

Definitely my striking – my striking accuracy. 

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

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

Who is your favourite fighter at a professional level? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A message to the fans and your supporters? 

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

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

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

Watch me.” 

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

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

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

Just the beginning, for Jack Jenkins.

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

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

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

Jenkins’ calf kicks had a noticeable effect early.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch him.

SPOTLIGHT: JENKINS VS COSTA

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

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

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

Jenkins retained his title back at Eternal 57.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jenkins’ first title defence came at Eternal 57.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Costa VS Ofli was a closely contested split decision.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eternal MMA announces ENGAGE as 2022 exclusive outfitting partner

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

Kamikaze Rising: The Josh Kuhne Story So Far

Three hundred and seventy-nine seconds can either be a long or short period of time depending on  the context. Long, if you are waiting for the light to change green on the commute to work. Long, if  you are waiting for your leftovers to reheat in the microwave. 

It is short however, if you are counting the total amount of time a combat sports athlete has spent  inside the confines of a mixed martial arts cage, no matter how many fights they have competed in. 

For Josh Kuhne, three hundred and seventy-nine seconds is the precise amount of time he has  clocked in for across all six of his MMA bouts to date. In other words, barely longer than a single five minute round. A career that has been equally divided thus far between three amateur and three  professional fights have all largely finished the same way; all via knockout or technical knockout, all  ending inside the first round, all but one never made it longer than the two-minute mark. 

The most recent of these highlight reel wins came at Eternal 63 on his home turf of the Gold Coast. A vicious onslaught of striking from the opening bell against a game opponent in Taela Kelly, would see  Kuhne earn himself his third professional win in just forty-nine seconds via TKO. 

Kuhne capped off his 2021 with another first round KO victory.

Speaking with Eternal MMA, the man they call “Kamikaze” gave some insight into his pre-fight  mindset as well as the play book that contributed to another quick night at the office. 

“The plan’s always the same and I think it’s the same with not just me, but any fighter,” said Khune. 

“I think everyone’s trying to get that early night, everyone’s trying to close it in the first round, I’m  just the only one going out and doing it. That’s the difference.” 

Of course, the game plan is only a part of the picture when it comes to finding success in any combat  sport. If there is one aspect of Kuhne’s DNA that he is so well known for outside of his fast-finishing style in the cage – it’s his mentality and preparation. A fighter who is already well versed in dealing  with the emotions and adrenaline that accompany any high-risk task, Kuhne brings a fearless  approach with him every time he makes the walk to the Eternal MMA confines. 

“Obviously on fight night, you’ve got to find something that switches within you. It’s not (necessarily) anything that I switch in to, it’s not a persona as such that I play.” 

“When you’re about to step into the cage or you’re about to step into fight or you’re about to do  anything like that, I think you’ve just got to find a place in your head where you’re totally focused  and totally dialled in. 

“Sometimes I’ll just scream, and I’ll just hype myself up and do crazy things and just punch shit – just  do whatever it is that I’m feeling in the moment.” 

“I’ve always been a thrill seeker; I’ve always put myself into those crazy situations where crazy s–t pops off. I’m so aware of the adrenaline dump. I’m in there, I’m super composed. I don’t feel  nervous, I don’t feel scared, I don’t feel anything like that. There’s nothing in that cage that’s going  to happen to me that I haven’t seen before.” 

Josh Kuhne surrounded by his teammates before his walkout.

Possibly the most fascinating aspect about Kuhne’s meteoric rise so early in his mixed martial arts  journey is the fact that he only started hitting pads little more than four years ago. With no previous 

experience and no desire to pursue a career in combat sports, the story up until this point for Josh  Kuhne is nothing short of remarkable. 

The son of a builder, whose humble beginnings started in eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, Kuhne’s father would eventually seek greener pastures within the building industry after experiencing frustration with his career at home. A move to Brisbane was implemented to broaden  the family’s horizons, and with that, the foundations of success would eventually be laid down for  Josh in his professional career both inside and outside the combat sports world. 

The deadly hands of Kuhne would first find a love for the tattoo gun long before they would grace  the Eternal MMA cage. Already armed with a creative flair and artistic mind from his early childhood,  Kuhne credits the move north as what spawned a lifestyle as a successful business owner with his tattoo studio – ‘Phresh Ink,’ as well as a competitive mixed martial artist. 

“My old man was in the builder’s industry, and he was just getting buggerized in Victoria with it, so  he just made the decision to pack up and move to the Gold Coast. And then shortly after a lot of our  family actually did the same thing, a couple of uncles have all moved up here now. 

“My parents naturally gravitated here for my dad’s work, and it’s just built up and we’ve stayed here  since. And I’m glad that they did. I’ve been lucky enough with tattooing and everything that I do, I’ve  travelled most of the world, I’ve seen a lot of the parts of the world – I’ve seen everything. 

“The Gold Coast is one of the best places that I’ve ever been. I love to call this place home and I’ll  always come back here, so I’m super thankful (for the move).” 

School was a mixed bag for Kuhne growing up. While he excelled at a sufficient level, the academic  side of education was not particularly where he focused his attention. 

“In school I was always three pages of bookwork from the front and then from the back page it’d just  be doodles and drawings that’d meet those three pages of schoolwork. I really paid attention in art  and sports and athletics and stuff like that, everything else I wasn’t too phased in.” 

Kuhne’s time at school was cut short a little unceremoniously, the irony of which is clearly not lost  on him. But it was from that moment on that he was able to focus his efforts on a passion that  would see him become the high achieving figure that he is today. 

“I got kicked out of school for fighting believe it or not, in grade eleven.” Kuhne conceded with a wry  laugh. 

“I got into tattooing pretty much straight away from then I was hooked on it.” 

While the artistic side to Kuhne’s makeup as a person served as a creative outlet to his obvious  talents, sport was also a large part of his DNA from an early age. Growing up as the younger brother  of a competitive – and highly successful motorcycle rider, the seeds were planted from the get-go that would eventually see Kuhne evolve into something of a renaissance man later in life. 

“My family – we’ve grown up around motorcycles our whole life. 

“My older brother was a professional motorcycle rider. From a very young age he was pulled out of  school to travel the world through Europe, through Japan and through everything (while) racing  professional motorcycles.

“I think he is still the youngest Australian to ever ride in the world GP. So, to see my brother be a  professional athlete from a young age, that was really our drive (to succeed as athletes).” 

It was within the same competitive motorcycle world that tragedy would strike the Kuhne family when Josh was only sixteen years of age, with his brother Matthew suffering a career ending injury that left him as a quadriplegic – just nineteen years old himself. 

“That was a big hit to the family,” Kuhne confesses. 

“But I think growing up around motorcycles and seeing what dedication it took to put into yourself  as an athlete to perform that well in a sport – I got a bit of an early insight on that. 

“My brother was my hero growing up. I was never ‘Josh Kuhne,’ I was ‘Matt Kuhne’s brother.’ I was  the little brother of someone who was already achieving great things. And I was proud of that, I was  never upset with that at all. 

“I think seeing how much dedication he put into being the best that he could, I took a lot from that  when I decided to do sports myself.” 

The big brother influence of Matt has evidently been a major contributing factor towards the high  standard in which Josh holds himself to. The tattoo industry is one that requires undivided attention  and dedication, and Kuhne was throwing himself in headfirst to achieve his dreams with the highest  level of success. 

Hours spent honing the craft would often mean a sacrifice in leading a healthy lifestyle, which lead  to an increase in unhealthy eating and unwanted weight gain – something Kuhne knew he had to  change. It was this notion that would unknowingly be the spark of a new passion outside of the  tattoo studio. 

“I got a point where I was twenty-six or something, and I said ‘I’m going to start doing some boxing  or some training, just for my fitness’. 

“I think about six months to a year into my training I started finding a real passion for it. I started  sparring at the amateur classes, and I told my coach that I wanted to get a matchup. We tried to do  that for ages in the boxing industry and it just never eventuated for one reason or another. Whether  it was injuries or opponents pulling out or opponents just not stepping up for whatever reason. 

“I got the first crack at competitive sports on Eternal with MMA. I got the feel for that, I got the first round knockout there and I was just hooked.

Kuhne kicked off his MMA career back at Eternal 49.

“It wasn’t something that I had planned on doing from the very start when I set out training, but  after I had that first fight, I knew that I had to continue to pursue this. 

“I’d already sort of made my way in my tattoo career so I was pretty happy to sideline that for a little  bit and have a new direction where I’m starting at the bottom and I’m rebuilding myself. I’m drawn to that sort of struggle as well. I like anything where it’s hard and you’re not the best person in the  room, and you’ve got to close your mouth and open your ears and be that person to be learning. I  got past that point for a little bit in tattooing and when I found that again in combat sports, I was  hooked.”

Of course, every combat sports athlete needs a team around them in order to get the very best out  of themselves they possibly can. While Chris Carden from Platinum Boxing Club was and still is the  man sharpening the fast hands of Kuhne, it will be none other than former Eternal MMA legend and  title challenger – Brentin Mumford, who will assume the role as head coach going forward. 

While Kuhne has had the support of his team and coaches at CMBT Training Centre throughout his  fight camps, this will be the first time in his career that he will have a dedicated man at the helm of  his training to solely focus on every aspect of his progression. With the knowledge that the  challenges from here on out will only get greater, Kuhne certainly sees the value in having an  experienced veteran of the fight game taking the reins full time as he looks to make bigger waves  with Eternal. 

Kuhne has found his home with CMBT Training Centre.

“He’s (Mumford) been a massive ticket to the growth in my game. 

“Now that he’s stepping away from fighting himself, he’s going to be my coach. I haven’t had a coach  since I started training. I haven’t had a head coach; I haven’t had anybody guiding me in terms of  (identifying weak points) and giving me that honest feedback. 

“Sure enough, we’ve got coaches at CMBT, but those coaches are usually fighters as well. It’s hard to  train a fighter when you’re a fighter yourself. So having a head coach now, I think that’s going to be  (another way) to cement myself and really start getting those levels up.” 

Outside of the of his mixed martial arts training, Kuhne has a support network that is arguably just as  vital to his success as his team and coaches are. Balancing a full-time job six days a week is no easy  task, especially as a business owner – but especially as a full-time business owner who is  simultaneously training as a professional athlete. 

Not one to consider his plate ever too full, Kuhne is also a father to twin boys – a full-time job within  itself. It is within this chaotic but no doubt rewarding schedule that Kuhne considers himself lucky to  have some of the best people imaginable in his corner to help shoulder the load. With a team at the  tattoo studio holding down the fort whilst in fight camp, Kuhne also has the unconditional support of his wife Amy who forms one half of the dream team both professionally as well as privately. 

“We’re definitely a team, and a f—–g good one at that,” said Kuhne on the relationship with his  wife. 

“That didn’t come easy. Like with any relationship, with any partnership, it takes time. 

“We’ve worked together in the studio for years. The first year that we did that, I fired her. I just said, ‘you go back to doing what you do, and I don’t want you to come in here with your opinions.’ And  then after time (went by) I took a step back and let the pride down and let her back in, and it was  the best thing I ever did because she can run the business when I’m not there. 

“She helps me manage my time; she’s taking things off my plate. She watches the kids for me, she  does all the ordering, she does all the accounting. She does so much behind the scenes and does it (with no intention) to put herself in limelight, not for any gratitude or reward. She just does it  because we’re a team. I take my hat off to her so much and there’s no way that I could be here  doing what I’m doing without her doing that.”

“Having her having my back and being able to take a lot of responsibility and tasks off me that I’ve already set up for myself, like being a business owner or having staff that require certain things, it’s been great, I couldn’t do it without her.” 

The many helping hands in the life of Josh Kuhne are clearly paying dividends on every level both  professionally and privately. As a mixed martial artist, the strides Kuhne is making inside the cage  may not always be obvious given how quickly the curtains are drawn on each of his fights. 

Behind closed doors however, the gains are being made at a rapid rate in all facets of MMA far  beyond his dangerous striking abilities. The work is translating well to the cage. In his last two fights,  Kuhne was finally given a chance to show fans how he would deal with at least some adversity. 

“Seventy percent of our camp is wrestling, just because it’s such a fundamental. 

“I know my striking’s there; I know that I’m super heavy handed. I know that once I start putting  guys heads on the end of my f—-n’ punches, they’re not going to want to stand there with me.  They’re going to be wrestling me, they’re going to be taking me down, they’re going to be trying to  slow me down, they’re going to be clinching (and) grappling. So, I’ve been prepared for that in every  fight. 

“It was good that I got to show it in my last two fights that I’m not so easy to take down and I am  working those other areas. 

“I’m not going to go and big-note myself now and say what I’m capable of or let people in on my  game. They’re just going to come and see what I’ve been working on and test me (in those areas)  and see what I can do there.” 

For those who have come so far, they have certainly seen. Kuhne’s devastating approach to the  fighting has set him on a trajectory for superstardom, with no previous challengers coming  anywhere close to halting the justified hype that surrounds him. 

It is an approach that Khune does not plan to abandon any time soon. It is his belief that the  aggression he exhibits in the cage comes naturally; it isn’t forced, nor is it a tactic that he leans on  for any other reason besides the fact that Josh Khune just loves to fight. 

By his own admission, fighting isn’t something that he does for the money. This isn’t a sport that he  wants (or needs) for any type of financial gain. The training, the education, the weigh ins, the fight  days with his teammates – this is all purely for the love of the sport. Tattooing is where Josh Khune makes his bread – the fight game is where he butters it. 

It goes without saying that Kuhne’s fan friendly style has made him a huge hit with the Australian  crowds, but it is on the Gold Coast where his star shines the brightest. The hometown support is  evidenced by the fact that no matter where Kuhne is placed on the card, it is his name that gets the  biggest pop of the night. It is this level of support that Kuhne does not take for granted. 

Kuhne frequently gets the biggest pop from the crowd.

“It’s huge,” said Kuhne. 

“It fills me with energy. I love putting the pressure on myself. I find that I perform the best under  pressure.”

“In those moments when you step into the cage, and I’ve invited all my friends, all my family, all the  supporters are there. Everyone’s there to see me perform. So, I can’t let my people down. I have to  go out there and I have to perform, so putting that pressure on myself makes me work even harder  and it makes me even better in that moment.” 

Like any up-and-coming fighter on the local scene starting to make a name for themselves, Kuhne  has ambitions for international competition. The UFC is the number one destination for most mixed  martial artists, and by Kuhne’s own sentiment, he is no different. Blazing the trail that he is in red  hot fashion, Kuhne believes it is an ambition that he will achieve in the not-so-distant future. 

For now, his eyes are focused on what lies ahead on home soil, with a hopeful return to action when  Eternal MMA returns on the Gold Coast in March 2022 for Eternal 65. Relatively untested at any  notable length up until this point in his career, Kuhne expects his next opponent to be someone who  can challenge his resolve and give him the chance to showcase his abilities on a wider spectrum. 

“Throw me a name,” Kuhne said when asked who his next opponent could be. 

“A lot of people are out there promoting themselves that they’re not getting fights and they’re not  getting people to say yes. But behind the scenes, I’m saying yes to everyone. And these fights aren’t  getting made. 

“There are a few people that I don’t want to fight because they’re either my mate, or I don’t feel  they deserve that shot. But anyone from here on out should be a test. It should be an elite striker, an  ex-champion, the next best thing, or a f—–n’ title shot.” 

The prospect of a shot at the belt feels like it could be sooner rather than later for Kuhne. With ex contender and now head coach – Brentin Mumford no longer in the title picture, Kuhne believes the  path to gold is becoming a little clearer. 

“I considered the belt (to be) out of the picture for the next two or three fights, purely because I  thought Brentin would be the belt holder. But now that that’s taken a different path and the belt is  in other hands, I don’t mind taking my shot at it. Whether that be one or two fights before I get  there, or if I’m gone by then, so be it. 

“I’m down for whatever the promotion throws at me. At the end of the day, Cam, and Ben – they’re  the matchmakers. They know what’s exciting, they know what the fans want to see.” 

Until such time as a match is confirmed – Josh Kuhne will be ready and waiting for his number to be  called.

SPOTLIGHT: COSTA VS PEREIRA

Fresh off a successful road trip to Perth – Eternal MMA heads back home to the Gold Coast to close out the year with another intriguing card filled with both established veterans and fresh talent  looking to put their stamp on the tail end of the 2021 calendar.  

The GC Sports Precinct will play host for Eternal 63 and its solid list of matchups, with one of the more entertaining prospects coming in the way of a bout featuring two athletes ready to take the  next big step in their professional careers. A co-main event slot that was originally slated for a  bantamweight title fight featuring champion – Shaun Etchell, will now see would-be challenger Diego  Pereira, face-off against the ever-ready late notice replacement in fellow Brazilian, Rod Costa.  

With the current title holder in Etchell recently suffering an injury to force him out of the fight, the  always game Diego Pereira was more than willing to take on any and all-comers without hesitation. A dreaded phone call from his manager confirming the bad news was absorbed and quickly turned  into a mission to salvage his spot on the card.  

“(I) immediately told my manager ‘Bro, I’ve been putting in so much work for the past eight weeks,  nine weeks. I’m not gonna let that go to waste and sit and wait for Shaun’s ass to heal. Find me  somebody else. I’m ready. It doesn’t matter whether I’m risking losing my shot or not, I’m ready.  Whoever they put in front of me I’m gonna merk them and still get my shot next year so, line them  up’.”

Pereira was quick to accept any opponent available.

A subsequent conversation was had with Eternal MMA promoter – Cam O’Neill, who went to work  on finding Pereira a willing late notice replacement. With veteran Brazilian Jiu Jitsu standout – Rod  Costa more than happy to answer the bell, a catchweight bout was agreed to by both parties to  cement the last-minute new look co-headliner. While it wasn’t the title-shot he had originally trained  for, the always game ‘El Pantera Negra’ was never going to let an opportunity slide to show the  world that he is ready to face any challenge that is thrown his way.  

“He (Cam O’Neill) said Rod can make ‘X’ weight. And then we agreed on a catchweight of 64 kilos. It  was a no brainer. No hesitation from me. I said, ‘Anybody. Just find them’. If they can find a  bantamweight, perfect. Because that’s what I’d been working towards. But if not, I’ll even accept a  featherweight. But (in the end) we ended up agreeing on a catchweight bout.” 

“I’m a competitor, doesn’t matter who. I don’t prepare for anybody specifically. I’m always training  all facets of MMA, improving my skills, working towards bettering myself. So, whoever, you know? I  was ready so, I’m glad we have an opponent and I’m glad I’m still competing this weekend.” 

While it is an opportunity to keep his place on the card at Eternal 62 and still compete at home on  the Gold Coast, Pereira is aware that Costa presents a different set of challenges compared to his  original opponent. With a cerebral mentality and dedicated team of coaches is ready to formulate  any game plan necessary, the Southside MMA product believes he has more than enough tools to  overcome the late change.  

“I’m constantly, daily, primarily focusing on myself, on my skills, bettering myself and my skillsets.  But whenever we get an opponent, we definitely have a look at them. My coaches break them down  where we talk about it and develop a game plan towards combating them. 

“This is a thinking game. I consider myself a martial artist, so I definitely approach it with a thinking mindset – thinking approach, to where I want to set them up for things. I want to impose my will and  utilise my strong suits against their weak suits.” 

“For Shaun, it was going to be one thing (game plan). For Rod, (it’s another) considering that he is a  world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor and thinking about his pedigree as a Jiu-Jitsu player and  what he’s done. We obviously know where our chances of success mostly lie. Where we can explore  looking at his previous fights, strengths, weaknesses.  

Pereira is an experienced grappler in his own right.

“We have a strong game plan for him. We are not in any way shape or form hesitating on whether  ‘hey, should we grapple with this guy, should we not grapple with this guy’. Wherever this fight goes,  I’m extremely confident in my skillset. I have no issues going to the ground with him if it goes there.  It is a mixed martial arts fight.  

“He can be a world Jiu-Jitsu champion, (but) when it comes to mixed martial arts, I believe I’m the  best guy around in the bantamweight and featherweight division. He can bring ADCC, IBJJF world  championship calibre (skills). Who he trains with, where he’s been, where he’s from, what he’s doing  – I do not care. I care that I am prepared, that I’ve done all the work and that come fight night I will  implement my game plan and I will get my hand raised. That’s what it’s about.”  

It’s hard to ignore the confidence that Diego Pereira has in himself. Fans are already well  accustomed to his high-octane as well as his larger-than-life personality. The charisma and  showmanship that he exhibits are merely part of a larger picture of an athlete who has grown as a  man under the guidance of a close-knit team and family. It is not through reckless abandon that  Pereira is willing to throw himself into the fire on late notice, but rather the confidence he gains  from that symbiotic network and tutelage of a family who have been there from the beginning. 

“Ever since I joined Southside it’s been like finding a new home and joining a new family. People  have come and gone but the key players have stayed; my head Jiu-Jitsu coach – Vicente Cavalcanti,  my head MMA coach – Paul Stolyar, my head striking coach – we call him ‘Uncle Dez’. We have our  management team – Liz and her partner Reon and her kids. 

“The key players have stayed around, and those key people have embraced me like one of their own  from day one. For a decade, I’ve grown tremendously. I’ve spoken about; not only as a martial artist  but as a person, as a man, as a human being. I’ve learned through the martial arts, but also through the example that they have set to be a better person; selfless, show love, show care – try to  demonstrate and show the same level of attention and giving to those that were coming after me  like those that came before me.” 

“We have a family environment within our gym and that’s what we cultivate. That’s why the energy  is so good. Every day in the gym it feels like we are having fun, we are enjoying (everything) and  that’s why we continue to evolve.”  

Pereira has a close relationship with his gym at Southside MMA.

Riding the momentum of a second-round heel-hook submission against Abdalla Eltigani at Eternal  61, Pereira will be looking to build upon that success with an even more impressive display. Looking  ahead to the fight at Eternal 63 – Pereira was steadfast in assessment of what a win against Rod  Costa will mean in terms of the next move in his career. 

“Winning this definitely will give me a title shot. Like I said, I had the title shot. I could sit and wait  for it. I chose to compete and gather more experience. After I win this, that will just put a stamp on  who the number one contender is. There’s no other name out there. I’ve made that clear not only at  bantamweight, but also at featherweight.”

“We had the opportunity to compete for the featherweight title back in March 2020 that didn’t  (result in a win). The guy who got the championship – Jack Jenkins, is still the champ today. So, I will  one hundred percent chase that rematch.” 

“My goal is to become a double champion and even triple champion. However many weight classes I  can get to; I will chase that because I am a competitor. I do believe for as long as I’m healthy for as  long as I’m young, hungry and I’ve got these skills, if there is somebody else out there claiming to be  the best; let’s compete, let’s find out who is actually the best. I carry that Max Holloway mindset.”  

“I will call out for both of those things (bantamweight and featherweight title fight) on Saturday  night, trust and believe. I will be on that mic, I will be calling for Shaun Etchell, I will be calling for  that Jack Jenkins rematch and whoever answers first, gets it. That’s the plan.”  

On his predictions for the fight this coming Saturday, Pereira’s demeanour took a pensive stance as  he pondered the outcome and what he is sure will be a must-see matchup for fight fans. 

“I see this being a very entertaining bout. Rod’s a tough dude, he’s from Brazil, man. He’s got heart, I  can tell, but he’s getting up there in age. I don’t see him being able to withstand my shots (and) the  way I’m going to pick him everywhere, all around. Legs, body, head, everything. He’s going to feel it.  

“Within the first round he might be able to survive and do his thing while he’s fresh, but I don’t see  him being able to get past the second round. If he does, I’ll be very surprised but he’s getting done  within that three rounds for sure.  

“It’s a second round TKO for me.” 

Pereira calls for a 2nd round TKO.

In the opposite corner, the man who will be looking to rain on the parade of Diego Pereira and  mount his own case for a title shot in his own right is as ready as ever.  

Hot off his recent TKO victory over Justin Van Heerden at Eternal 60 – Rod Costa is quickly becoming  known as the man to call when a fight needs salvaging. A short notice away game in Queensland was  not enough to deter Costa from accepting the last-minute request. Fighting out of Perth, Western  Australia, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt was ready to pack his bags and make the journey east to  make a statement.  

“I try to always keep training. Every gym, there’s those guys that come in, do the training camp, do  the fight, win, or lose they (then) disappear for a few months. Then they come back (and) do another  training camp. I try not to do that. I’m always training.  

“Every day I train. It might not be with the same intensity of course, as if I’m preparing (for a fight).  But I try to keep active with my training in between fights.” 

Costa is coming off a huge TKO victory at Eternal 60.

It’s not only the “always ready” attitude of Costa that should have fans eager to see him back in the  cage. Costa’s recent win showcased a continued evolution in his mixed martial arts career that is  becoming a scary prospect for any potential opponent he may face in the future.  

Considered by many as primarily a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist, Costa punctuated his victory over  Justin Van Heerden with an impressive display of stand-up striking, knocking his opponent down  three times before closing the show with vicious ground and pound in the dying seconds of the very  first round. It is the growth in this area of his game that he credits with a move to the acclaimed  Scrappy MMA and Fitness complex and its vast array of in-house knowledge. 

“One hundred percent it’s all due to Scrappy (and) all the guys at Scrappy. Even a little bit before I  joined, Jack (Eternal MMA lightweight champion, Jack Becker) started helping me because he was  already at Scrappy. You know, getting some good training in, getting some new concepts with  striking and trying to improve the striking.” 

“It’s a different type of training. It’s just more realistic striking stuff that I’ve never done before. I was  never a striker, but I’ve done a little boxing here and there in between my jiu-jitsu training. I used to  think I wasn’t half bad, but I was basically just doing boxing for fitness stuff. 

“Scrappy is a pretty hands-on, realistic MMA style striking-training. (So) it’s due to them one  hundred percent. Ben (Eternal MMA co-promoter and Scrappy MMA coach, Ben Vickers) is an  excellent coach, he surprised me so much. Not because I didn’t think he was good, but his style of  coaching and the way he does things is very similar to mine and they all have the knowledge there to  get someone to be able to be confident with striking.” 

“It’s been about a year since I moved there, since I started training with Ben and being a part of the  team. And that’s it, it’s from there, it’s from nowhere else. Before that I was just a tough dude that  didn’t mind getting hit and I think hits relatively hard, but there was no technicality. 

Costa credits his growth to his time at Scrappy MMA.

With Costa dividing his time between Scrappy MMA and his own Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu centre – Costa  Academy Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Fitness, it’s been the close relationship that Costa has with  lightweight champion – Jack Becker that has been the catalyst for a harmonised training schedule between the two gyms.  

“Jack’s one of my closest friends. We literally started training as white belts within a couple months  of each other. We’ve been training since 2010 together. He’s at the gym here every day (Costa  Academy) and we go to Scrappy every day as well.” 

“Some of the Scrappy guys come here, we have a really good relationship. There’s no competition or  any politics. Some of my guys go there, too. It’s a f*****g awesome relationship, it’s great.” 

For Costa, the Jiu-Jitsu academy is a culmination of dedicating himself to his passion twice a day,  every day for the past decade. Originally born in Brazil, it wasn’t until Costa moved to Australia that  he began to take up training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu himself.  

“I was always a fan of fighting. And then I moved to Australia. I remember always thinking about  starting. Not that it was in my mind every day. But every once in a while, I would be like ‘I wish I  could…It would be good to do Jiu-Jitsu’. I’d watch fights all the time. And then one day I just came in  and went with a friend like five years after arriving in Australia.  

“I arrived in Australia in 2005 and in 2010 after thinking about it every once in a while, I got a friend  together and we went to a gym, and we started in March 2010 and never stopped. I was at uni, I  stopped going to classes, I failed all my units (much) to the disdain of my father and my mum.  

“I started just training twice a day, every day literally from the get-go as a white belt. I had such a  narrow focus, I just loved it so much. I kept doing it, I got my blue belt within six months. I got good  really quick. Not good, but I got to a good level for a beginner really quick. That’s how I started. I’ve  never looked at anything else. I didn’t know exactly that I wanted to follow this as a career and open  a gym.  

Costa has a myriad of Jiu-Jitsu experience.

“But that’s all I was doing. I was just like ‘f**k everything else’ until I find what I want to do at uni or  until I find something I love. I like doing this. So, I’m going to do this. 

It was this fire that Costa had inside of him that catapulted him on a ten-year journey filled with  various accolades and achievements that included travelling internationally to compete in the most  prestigious tournament in the world – the IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championships. It would be here that  Costa would win bronze as a purple belt, making him the first Australian ever to accomplish that  feat. More international success would follow in various other tournaments over the next few years,  as the crowning moment in his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu journey would see him awarded his black belt by  long-time coach, Filipe Pena.  

Injuries would eventually catch up with Costa while he was competing, and so his attention turned  to sharing his ten years of jiu-jitsu experience by opening the Costa Academy in Myaree, Western  Australia. A passion that he continues to this day while competing as a mixed martial artist  competing under the Eternal MMA banner.  

With his focus now entirely on the fight against the highly talented, Diego Pereira – Costa gave his  thoughts on his opponent and how he feels he measures up against his fellow countryman.  

“I don’t like to stress myself with how (the fight) is going to go. But I have watched him before I  knew I was going to fight him. He’s one of the few guys at the top of the division in Eternal MMA. I  watched his fight with (Jack) Jenkins a while back. I saw his last fight with (Abdalla) Eltigani, I was  there in the stadium. So, I’ve seen a l little bit.”  

“But I think my jiu-jitsu is just on another level (compared) to him, and all of the guys to be honest in  the featherweight division. Anything can happen, I can get submitted, he can crack me and then  submit me. Anything can happen to anyone. But in terms of, if I do everything right, I think there’s  honestly no danger in the jiu-jitsu.  

“But again, you never know. I might go in there and he just surprises me, and he does better. So, I’m  not thinking it’s going to be easy when I get the ground. But I don’t have easy rounds, man. I train  hard jiu-jitsu with hard people.”  

“In the striking, I know he’s good. He seems to be really explosive; he’s got power, I think. He’s got  really good movement. But again, I think I can keep myself safe and if he gives me the opportunity, I  can do some stuff as well. But that’s why the fight is good, that’s why you get nervous. I’m not sure  what’s going to happen.  

“One thing that I hate is we’re in this stage everyone is trying to talk s**t. Everyone’s just trying to  say they’re going to smash this guy; they’re going to do (this and) that. No one knows how it’s going  to go. I think I’m going to win, I’m very confident. But if there wasn’t that little bit of fear of like ‘man  is this guy going to be better here, am I going to be able to deal with this to deal with that’, it  wouldn’t be as exciting as it is. So, I’m confident, but I know anything can happen in a fight. I’m  ready for everything, I’m ready to go into deep waters.” 

With two Brazilian fighters finding the range in their skillset and eager to make a statement in front  of a capacity crowd on the Gold Coast; this one cannot be missed.  

BRENTIN MUMFORD: A DECADE IN THE GAME

After a year delayed by fight cancellations and border closures, Eternal MMA’s perennial lightweight contender, Brentin Mumford finally gets his shot at the Eternal lightweight championship this Saturday at Eternal MMA 63.

Originally scheduled to challenge former champion Dan Hill at Eternal MMA 61, Mumford was forced to pull out of the fight due to Australia’s COVID-19 border restrictions. 

In his place stepped Perth lightweight, Jack Becker, who managed to defeat Hill in a one-round firefight which ended when Becker stopped Hill with a devastating barrage of punches that folded the former champion on the canvas.

Mumford has been forced to wait, before making his next walk to the cage.

Having come up short in his last two attempts at winning Eternal gold, Mumford will be hoping that third time’s the charm when he challenges Becker, but the 34-year-old veteran knows time isn’t on his side, and that this fight could be his last. 

“If I do retire, It’ll be nice to go out with a win. I’m 34; I’ve poured 10 years into this sport and this will be my nineteenth fight, so this could be it. But I’m only focusing on this fight, and when the dust settles on Sunday we’ll see what’s next.” Mumford said.

When asked how he felt about sharing the cage with Mumford for what could be his last outing, the champion Becker was in no mood for sentimentalities. 

“Fairytale endings and narratives are irrelevant; sometimes you don’t get what you deserve. You take what you can on the day and that’s why I love this sport. It makes men.” Becker said.  

Mumford, who trains at CMBT Training Centre, is also excited to share the card with his teammates. 

“Having the six of us on the card – me, Josh Kunhe, Darcy Vendy, Tristan Murphy, Jayden Tillinger and Jesse Yada – is going to be unreal! The energy and the vibe of the gym has been amazing… we’ve all been helping each other prepare and game plan for our fights.

Brentin’s looking forward to the home-crowd energy

“We’re fighting at home, in front of our home crowd and that always brings another level of energy! What better way than to ride off into the sunset headlining a card with five of your team mates. It’s going to be a great night.” Mumford exclaimed.

If this is to be Mumford’s last fight, it’ll be a sad day for Australian MMA. Mumford has been a constant presence in the Australian MMA scene for the last decade, sharing the cage with some of Australia’s best lightweights. This weekend’s fight will also mark his eighth appearance for Eternal MMA, making him one of the promotion’s most dependable and durable veterans. 

Stephen Erceg: The hometown (Astro)Boy wins big in Perth

HBF Stadium in Perth, Western Australia was not only the scene of an incredibly entertaining fight card featuring both up and coming as well as established talent, but also ground zero for a statement made by one of the hottest prospects in Australian mixed martial arts today.  

Eternal 62 saw defending flyweight champion and Perth native – Stephen Erceg simultaneously  retain his crown as the best 57 kilo combatant in the country, as well as establish himself as one of, if  not the premier mixed martial artist fighting within Australian shores, regardless of weight class.  

With a capacity crowd eager to see another high-level performance from their local hero, the stage  was tailor-made for a champion like Erceg to shine. 

The packed out HBF Stadium played host for Eternal 62.

And shine he did. If there were any questions as to who the better man was after Erceg had already beaten his once again opponent in Paul Loga back at Eternal 47, they were no longer by nights end this time around. Make no mistake, Paul Loga is a high level mixed martial artist who on his day can mix it up with the best Australia has to offer and come out on top. Unfortunately for him, Stephen Erceg has his number. He has now stopped Loga twice in the first round in two fights. It’s no accident nor is it a fluke. This is a man who is on top of his game with an elite set of skills that are a class above his competition.  

It wasn’t just Erceg’s ability to once again negate the fleet footed Loga’s high octane style, but also  his obvious pedigree in the fundamental facets of MMA offence that lead to his first successful title  defence; the foot work, the cage control, the ability to physically wear on his opponent combined  with the utilisation of knees within the clinch were all keys to slowing down his lively adversary.

Speaking to Eternal MMA while on a well-deserved getaway, Erceg himself alluded to the fact that these were areas in which he and his team identified in preparation for the fight that would lead to  victory. 

“His most dangerous time of the fight is the first three minutes and after that you can see his  technique start to go away a little bit because he’s a bit tired. After he hit me, and sort of forced the  clinch himself I thought ‘we’ll just use this opportunity to sap his arms a little bit and we’ll come out  of it in a much better spot’.”  

Erceg was more than happy to engage in the clinch.

“He was heavier (at the time of fighting) than me, I think. I was taller than him. It didn’t matter if he  was stronger than me. I was just trying to make him use his arms. If he has to use his arms, he has a  little less power which takes his percentage of winning from 30 percent to 20 percent.” 

“As soon as we exited the clinch, he stopped, put his arms down and went (exhales deeply).” “We’ve got five rounds – he’s getting tired and doing that…It’s going to be a long night forhim.” 

It would take Erceg little more than a minute longer than their previous match to once again finish  his rival in their second fight, this time with a ruthless mounted guillotine that gave Loga no choice  but to tap out and further confirm the defending champion as the number one flyweight competitor  in Australia. A glancing counter right hook seemingly caught Loga behind the ear and briefly dropped  him to his knees. The split second it took for him to get back to his feet was all Erceg needed to close  the show. With Loga’s neck briefly exposed on the way back up, Erceg latched onto it with deadly precision, dragged him back to the canvas and called the game with a mounted guillotine at two minutes and thirty-one seconds in the very first round.

Erceg capitalised on an early opening.

An accomplished Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner with a brown belt ranking, the guillotine choke is a  weapon that Erceg is more than capable of pulling out given the smallest of opportunities to do so. 

“He got up so fast, he obviously wasn’t dazed or rocked or anything like that. It (right hook) off balanced him to some degree. I’ve been known as a guillotine guy for a long time so, if you let me on your neck it’s definitely danger.” 

The choke itself was very reminiscent of an instance in the recent UFC featherweight title match  between fellow Australian, Alexander Volkanovski and Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Brian Ortega. Volkanovski  of course somehow survived a very tight mounted guillotine attempt from Ortega to go on and win  the match; a memory that flashed through the mind of Erceg in the seconds he found himself delivering the very same submission to Paul Loga.  

“When I had the choke, all I could think about was Volkanovski getting out. – Erceg said with a laugh. “I was like ‘I’ve got to make sure that I do everything possible so that he can’t slip his head’.”

Erceg’s finish was reminiscent of Volkanovski VS Ortega back in September.

At just 26 years of age, Erceg is arguably years away from his prime as a combat sports athlete.  What’s remarkable about his achievements up until this point is it seems the champ himself is still  trying to figure out in his own mind just how good he truly is. With a healthy respect for his  opponents and a humble approach when talking about his own abilities, it seems Erceg’s results and  impression of himself are starting to align more and more with each fight.  

Feeling fresh after a title fight in which he was able to reflect upon his win with a clean bill of health,  Erceg cut a pensive figure regarding the leadup to first successful title defence and what his  performance means in terms of his stature among the elites of Australian MMA. 

“A few days before that (the fight) I was s*****g myself. I was ‘scared’, is probably the best word;  worried ‘blah blah’, you don’t know what’s going to happen. 

“And then on the day of the weigh-in, all the nerves went away, it was really odd. I saw him (and) it  didn’t feel like I was fighting, almost. I just saw some guy who I knew I was about to fight but I wasn’t  nervous at all. Most of the actual day of the fight I wasn’t nervous and then obviously when I rocked  up to the building, I started feeling those anxious butterflies in my stomach.” 

“But as it got closer, I was nervous that I wasn’t nervous enough. It was an interesting feeling. I knew  that if I didn’t take him seriously enough, he’s good enough that he can definitely end my night. So, I  had to be aware that it wasn’t an easy fight, and if it was, that’s great but, I had to mind my P’s and  Q’s.”

“Originally, I was over-hyping him in my head, and then I was worried that I went too far the other way and thought too much of myself.” 

“I definitely didn’t expect it (the fight) to go that fast again. I don’t know what it means, whether  I’m better than I thought or I got lucky again, I don’t know what to make of it completely yet. It is  nice to sort of put out there that this stuff isn’t necessarily just luck – it’s happening for a reason.”

“I’m always weary of those fighters that sort of get too full of themselves and get too big for their britches, if you will. And I don’t want to be that guy, so I’m trying to compartmentalise everything  and make sure that I have a healthy regard of my skill set and not a fabricated one.” 

Erceg does his best to stay grounded before and after a fight.

One factor that certainly helped put a smile on Erceg’s face was the ability to fight at home. A huge  crowd packed into HBF Stadium west of Perth and the majority made their voices heard in support  of their hometown hero; something Erceg does not take for granted.  

“It seemed like the most support I’ve ever had in the building before. My supporters are always really loyal. I don’t know if it’s because a lot of them are FIFO workers too and stuff like that, so I  don’t know if maybe it just worked out on a swing where everybody was back or maybe I won a lot  of fans in the last fight. But it seemed like the whole stadium was packed with people that wanted  to see me do well.” 

“Of course, it means heaps to me. I love talking to people and helping people when I can. To have  people support me back – it’s very special.” 

Erceg had his biggest following yet inside HBF Stadium.

With a professional career still in relative infancy, it seems Erceg is at a point in his life where his  performances are starting to make a believer out of himself. Having now notched six finishes from  eight wins and four of those in the first round – it is a record worthy of admiration, but Erceg is not  one to rest on his laurels. Always eager to improve himself, Erceg admits that he is likely his own  biggest critic when it comes to post-fight analysis, even when he manages to exit the cage virtually  unscathed and a win in the bag. 

“Every time I have a fight, I’ll go backstage and almost always the first thing I do is say ‘oh this s**t  happened’ or ‘oh I did this when I should have done that’. There’s always something in my mind  straight after the fight that I thought I didn’t do very well. So, I’m always trying to improve on my  technique.” 

“First thing I said after this fight was ‘I can’t believe that right hand landed.’ (Loga’s first successful strike to Erceg’s eye). I was trying to figure out exactly what I was thinking and what I was doing as  to why that happened. 

“It shouldn’t have happened that early. If that’s all I was worried about (Loga’s hands) I should have  at least been out of the way for the first minute, right? So, I’m trying to figure out what I was doing  wrong there. I think I was just trying too heavily to counter it with my kick, and I got a little too high.” 

It’s exactly that kind of critical mindset that has yielded the success that it has up until this point in  his career for AstroBoy. With the Australian MMA scene very much on the rise, there is plenty of  competition when it comes to who has the right to call themselves the best, regardless of weight  class. As it stands, Erceg feels he now belongs in the conversation. 

“I honestly can’t think of another guy that could be number one, just because I feel like I’ve fought  more than the other guys that are in the conversation.” Erceg said, thoughtfully. 

“Obviously Jack Della was the other guy (number one) deservedly. And he’s made the UFC now.” 

“He was unquestionably the best guy, I thought. When I looked at Eternal MMA it was Jack Della for  sure. And now that he’s gone, hopefully, I’m that guy.”

“Out of the other Eternal guys, maybe (current Eternal MMA lightweight champion) Jack Becker.  He’s fought for a long time, but I couldn’t really name another one that I thought was above me, so  to say.” 

Of course, with Erceg’s current run of success, talk of an international MMA career is inevitable.  With a host of local fighters making their way overseas in recent times, Eternal MMA is quickly  proving to be a breeding ground for the best home-grown talent looking to take the next big step in  their combat sports journey.  

We have seen the likes of the aforementioned Jack Della – a former Eternal MMA welterweight  champion, earn himself a contract with the UFC on Dana Whites contender series. Other names like  Casey O’Neill, Jacob Malkoun, Chelsea Hackett, Carlos Ulberg and more have all fought under the  Eternal MMA banner and gone on to find varying rates of success internationally. Stephen Erceg is  no different when it comes to similar aspirations.  

“I honestly can’t think of another guy that could be number one.”

The current Eternal landscape still holds plenty of challenges for Erceg, though. During a  conversation prior to his recent title win, Erceg himself went on record suggesting that he has  interest in fighting current Eternal bantamweight – Shaun Etchell. Erceg has found recent success at  bantamweight – fans will remember well his three-round war with rising star Cody Haddon. With  Etchell now slated to defend his title at Eternal 63 against livewire contender – Diego Pereira, Erceg  is more than happy to face the winner of that fight should he be given the chance.  

“One hundred percent.” Erceg remarked, when asked if he would want to face the winner.  

“I don’t really think there’s many people at flyweight at the moment. The only other guy – that’s sort  of inactive – is Shannon Ross, and he hasn’t fought in a while. I think he’s injured to be honest. So,  the one that makes most sense is the winner of that fight.” 

When questioned about who he views as the better fighter between Etchell and Pereira right now,  Erceg was complimentary in his assessment about both of his potential future opponents but is still  unsure as to who presents the bigger challenge. 

“I had a really high opinion of Diego before he fought (current Eternal featherweight champion) Jack  Jenkins. And then I thought Abdalla (Eltigani) looked really good against him until he got caught. So, I  don’t know what to make of Diego at the moment. And I thought Shaun Etchell didn’t look that good  until he fought his last opponent and then I thought he looked phenomenal. So, I want to see that fight.” 

Always keen to learn more about his competition’s skill set as well as improve on his own, Erceg has  been keeping a close eye on both Etchell and Pereira. 

“I’ve studied Shaun Etchell a whole heap. I’ve watched every single one of his fights. I’m very familiar with his fighting style and what I think he does well. I just didn’t think he was as good as he was until  he fought his last opponent. And Diego Pereira – I watch a lot of his fights but less intently. He, I  thought, was better than maybe I suspect he is now, but we’ll see.” 

There is a lot to like when it comes to the prospects in Stephen Erceg’s future and the challenges that will inevitably present themselves to him. For now, he is enjoying his first successful title fight  with a short holiday before getting right back on the horse. Not one to stay away from the mix for  too long, Erceg sees himself back in the gym sooner rather than later.

“We are here for a week so, I get back on Tuesday, and I’ll be back in the gym on Tuesday. I don’t like  taking too much time off, if any. Usually, I’d be in on Monday but I couldn’t do that this time.” 

“So many things to work on – so little time.” 

With Eternal 63 less than two weeks away, and with that a title fight that may produce the next  opponent for Stephen ‘AstroBoy’ Erceg, it may not be long before we get to see exactly what tools  he has added to his already impressive arsenal, as he continues in search of further glory with  Eternal.