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'Mad Max' targets world honours


EVEN THOUGH 37-year-old Ultimate Challenge Mixed Martial Arts (UCMMA) middleweight champion Denniston Sutherland first began fighting professionally in 2007, the Jamaican-born practitioner is still confident of causing a scene on the global stage.

Since making his debut Sutherland has compiled a convincing record of 15 wins (eight K.Os, four submissions) with just six losses and won the UCMMA title by stopping former Ultimate Fighting Championship and Pride competitor Mark Weir in the first round in June.

Sutherland, from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, told the Voice of Sport that he is edging ever closer to securing his octagon aims.

“I have three goals as far as fighting is concerned,” said Sutherland.

“The first one is to get in the UFC. The second one is to get the middleweight title in the UFC and the third is to be the pound-for-pound best in the world. A lot of people might say the third one is unrealistic but I don’t think it is. All the other guys are just like me. They have two hands, two feet and train hard.”

The worldwide appeal of MMA has noticeably risen within the last decade but according to Sutherland – who was born in Montego Bay- in Jamaica the sport is yet to take “mainly due to the grappling and wrestling” aspect of it.

“It’s a bit too intimate for Jamaicans!” exclaimed Sutherland.

“It’s very sporadic at the moment, there’s not much happening there.”

CHAMPION: The 37-year-old celebrates victory

Nicknamed ‘Mad Max’, Sutherland comes from a boxing background and was taught how to punch in his teens with the use of traditional methods.

“Boxing was my first I remember doing any kind of training,” explained Sutherland.

“That’s when I was 15 or 16. I turned up to a boxing club and they put me in a corner to jab for about three weeks. All they would let me do is jab. It was proper old school training. You had to get the basics down first. I jabbed until my arm was just going to fall off and then after that I had to do crosses so just right hands. Then jab cross. I had to do all of that before they would teach me anything about footwork, moving or similar combos. You had to learn how to throw a proper punch.”

And Sutherland recognises that his striking ability is definitely where his strength lies.

“With most people as soon as I hit them they normally flinch and try take me down. Like with Mark Weir – he was never going to go to ground with me. He was thinking he was going to beat me standing up so he got a surprise.”

As well as competing inside the octagon Sutherland runs a mixed martial arts gym called Hemel Martial Arts that works on fitness and combat skills and Sutherland hopes that one day it will become a thriving business.

“Another long-term goal is to have a gym which pretty much runs itself,” said Sutherland.

“I don’t want to have to teach every class I just want a gym where I’ve got good coaches and I can get my training 24/7 when I want it.

“Trying to teach and fight at the same time is a huge juggling act. Coming up to important fights I stop teaching and focus on my training. It’s not just physical, it’s mentally draining too so it’s a balancing act.”

Winning the UCMMA middleweight belt could lead to lucrative contests in the future for Sutherland, bringing him closer to his goals and, as he explains, it might be “only just a matter of time” before we see him competing on the world stage for the biggest MMA organisations.

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