New Zealand is quickly becoming one of the premier MMA hubs in the world, with UFC champions like Israel Adesanya inspiring the next wave of local talent.
Four Kiwis will feature on the upcoming UFC 253 fight card from ‘Fight Island’ in Abu Dhabi, headlined by Adesanya.
After living and training together under one roof while Auckland was plunged back into level 3 lockdown recently, the quartet of Adesanya, Kai Kara-France, Brad Riddell and Shane Young are now all in Abu Dhabi, getting through their final preparations ahead of the blockbuster card.
The meteoric rise and success of the famed City Kickboxing (CKB) gym in Auckland has inspired a host of local talent to set their sights on the bright lights of the UFC too.
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And Hamilton’s Matt Vaile (10-2) is thought by many in the sport to be the next man up.
Vaile fights for the lesser-known XFC promotion, and boasts an impressive 10-2 record with eight finishes.
Kiwi UFC lightweight Dan Hooker said the 29-year-old is overdue for his own shot with the premier American fight promotion, adding fans won’t be disappointed when he does get there.
“He’s (Vaile) got the skills to fight in the UFC, there’s no doubt about that, he just needs his opportunity,” Hooker said.
“Every time Matt is in there, he puts on a show. You only need to look at his record to see that.
“If he wins this next fight, then he’s right there knocking on the door. His record speaks for itself.”
Still working fulltime as an electrician in the Waikato, he said while inspired by the success of Adesanya, Hooker and others, he knows he will have to be patient.
“What those guys are doing is amazing. They’re putting us all on the map,” he said.
“My time will come, hopefully it’s soon by my focus is always on the next job and for me that’s the upcoming fight in Dunedin.”
Vaile is booked to take on Sean Redgrave (1-0) on October 17 in Dunedin, and knows another win would make him hard to ignore for the UFC brass.
“I’m a life-long martial artist, and without getting ahead of myself there’s no denying that the UFC is the goal – it would be a dream come true,” he said.
“I was close a few years back (from earning a contract) but lost a tough fight to a savvy veteran when I was pretty raw in terms of my wrestling and that.
“But now I feel I have a much more complete, well-rounded game. I’m still a pressure fighter, all my fights are action-packed and I come game to fight. But I’m working on controlling that a bit more and fighting smarter.”
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