Auckland’s City Kickboxing has guided yet another Kiwi fighter to the biggest combat sports promotion in the world.
Mike ‘Blood Diamond’ Mathetha has been awarded a four-fight contract in the UFC’s welterweight division, becoming the sixth fighter to debut out of the central Auckland gym.
City Kickboxing team-mate, UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, surprised him with the contract during a sparring session on Saturday.
“My phone has just been going crazy, my battery is low now,” Mathetha told 1 NEWS.
“A lot of my close friends, all those people who’ve been supportive, they’re just like ‘no one deserves it more than you do.”
Born in Zimbabwe, Mathetha arrived with his family in 2003. He grew up in Blenheim and attended Marlborough Boys College before moving to Auckland to chase his dream of becoming a professional fighter.
“No one else has been through more struggles than him,” said City Kickboxing coach Eugene Bareman.
“From financial struggles, to family problems, to personal problems – he’s had everything thrown at him over the years.
“This is a man that lived, for a year, underneath a cage in my gym. Just to get by. And just backing himself that he could make something of this.”
He made a name on our shores as a two-time champion of kickboxing tournament King in the Ring. Mathetha has also fought extensively overseas, amassing a similar record to that of Adesanya who joined the UFC with 80 kickboxing fights, 10 mixed martial arts fights and six boxing bouts to his name.
“I believe Israel is the most experienced combat sports athlete in the UFC, with the amount of fights he’s had across all sports” said Bareman.
“Well guess what, he’s not anymore. Because Blood Diamond has had more fights.”
When Adesanya defended his UFC title against Paulo Costa in Abu Dhabi in September last year, Mathetha was brought along by the UFC as a reserve fighter, along with fellow CKB team-mate Carlos Ulberg.
Neither fighter was called up to fight on the card at UFC 253 but Ulberg was given an opportunity to audition in January this year, earning a contract in the Contender Series while Mathetha was left to wait another six months.
“Actions speak louder than words,” Mathetha says in regards to why the UFC finally offered him a contract.
“And my actions did enough talking, I guess.”
He is now expected to make his UFC debut on Adesanya’s next fight card, understood to be in December. A venue is yet to be confirmed.