I started Taekwondo in early 2009 and I was really bad at patterns. I was worried I wasn’t going to grade to Yellow Belt so I worked as hard as I could to learn Basic Pattern. Looking back on that time is funny to me now, I am so comfortable with my patterns and have even entered and won a couple of competitions (something my fighting teammates made fun of at the time). This memory is what is driving me forwards with my UFC Dream. I may not have the best boxing in the world now and I am not a Black Belt in BJJ (I’m a White Belt) but that doesn’t mean I never will be, not being good at something straight away isn’t important, in fighting and in life. What’s important is how we handle that adversity.
I graded to Yellow Belt and entered the Sparring Program at Halls Taekwondo. I was lucky enough to be mentored by some amazing coaches while I was there. Zoran, Ross and Jerry were my weekly coaches for years. Zoran’s first lesson to me was that I should never talk back to the referee when given a warning, I’ve fought guys who would be so frustrated with what the ref was doing they lost all sight of what I was going to do to them. They were all always very strict with me about closing my hands but to this day I can’t grasp the habit even after 3 broken hands and 4 broken fingers. (Sorry guys).
I fought my first match at the Victorian Team Selections, I was nervous all day and at a lot of points felt like pulling out, or faking sick. I was coached that day by Rob Dullard another great coach at Halls. I stepped on the court and looked across at my opponent, he was a little shorter than me (most guys I fight are) but he looked like a caged animal, ready to tear me to pieces. I had a day-dream of him being a black belt just wearing a yellow belt for the day and I got even more scared. This is the first time outside of Junior Football that I had been in a fight. The match started and he lunged at me, he was punching me in the body over and over and I froze before I remembered I was allowed to hit him back.
I started kicking him really hard and he was getting tired, by the third round I was up 9-4, I decided I wouldn’t risk getting hurt and tried to stay away from him, but he was losing so he kept on attacking, I kept on clinching him and he was getting really mad. With about 10 seconds left on the clock he lunged in again and punched me hard, I punched him away from me and threw the hardest roundhouse kick I could, I didn’t think about his head but my instinct took it there, my foot collected his jaw, it sounded like someone had hit a desk with a plastic ruler. I saw him go down and I saw Rob jump out of his chair, excited. He got up after a brief pause and walked diagonally across the mat. The ref waved it off and I had won my first match, by knockout.
I had qualified for Nationals and I was really excited. The day before Nationals it was announced that the 2016 Olympics were in Rio. I was hoping for Chicago, but you don’t always get what you want. At the Nationals I won my first match by DQ after a boy from Samoa punched me in the eye and I couldn’t see. In the final I got tore apart by a guy from NSW. Losing teaches you something very important, it teaches you how to be humble. After the KO win I was thinking that I could beat anyone, I was wrong. I underestimated my opponent and after that day I never did it again. That was my only loss between October 2009 and October 2011.
In October 2011 Ben Hartmann from QLD beat the absolute shit out of me at the Australian Open. It was my first Black Belt match and I couldn’t believe that I lost it after winning about 20 fights in a row. In the coming years I would lose a lot of matches like all Black Belts do. But I won heaps of matches too. I was determined to make the Olympic Team. But reality has to set in for everyone, at some point.