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King of the Ring champion chases UFC dream with move north to join City Kickboxing

A growing number of fighters are coming from far and wide to be part of one of the world's best MMA gyms, Auckland's City Kickboxing.

Not many have arrived with as much expectation as Wellington's Navajo Stirling though, who is chasing a second King in the Ring kickboxing title this weekend while he works towards a UFC dream.

Stirling threw all his belongings into his car and made the move to Auckland in March, where he is now surrounded by UFC champion Israel Adesanya and other top fighters.

The 23-year-old said it was a no-brainer.

“It's a proven process, I guess,” he said.

“They already have middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and probably many more to come.”

Representing Wellington's Lion Pit gym, the Māori cruiserweight became their first King in the Ring champion in December.

Now at City Kickboxing, he's suddenly surrounded by five other tournament champions including Mike ‘Blood’ Diamond to help take him to the next level.

“That's how we get better,” Diamond said.

“Everyone from everywhere comes with some sort of skills, something different.”

Stirling was inspired to become a pro after watching Carlos Ulberg, another CKB product, win King in the Ring in 2017. Ulberg is the latest of four Kiwis to reach the UFC from the tournament.

Just like other CKB teammates, Stirling is moving up a division to have a crack at the heavyweight belt this weekend.

Stirling told 1 NEWS he fears no challenge in the ring because of an experience he had outside it as a teenager, when he was attacked by five men while trying to help a friend.

“When it happened to me, I was like, 'woah', I could have lost my life here,” he said.

Since then he's never looked back.