After two years of MMA training, I felt I had a decent grasp on the fundamentals and it was time to test myself once again. I went undefeated in my amateur and semi-professional MMA bouts and turned professional at the age of 23. I took on someone who would be entering our fight with a 2-0 record. Having studied footage of his previous bouts, I knew I would be victorious.
During this period, I was supporting myself financially by playing poker.
There was very little money on offer for this bout, so I proposed a winner-takes-all wager with my opponent at the weigh-ins. Although he refused the bet, it certainly helped give me the psychological edge over him, which added even more to my confidence. I won that fight in 1 minute 16 seconds, during which I delivered my trademark “windmill” punch to add extra entertainment value for the crowd along the way.
In total, my first three professional fights lasted a collective time of under five minutes, and I didn’t receive a single blow. I wondered if my time competing had come to an end and whether I’d achieved what I’d set out to do. I felt little sense of accomplishment after the third fight (even though this opponent did agree to a winner-takes-all bet).
But just as I was considering my future, fate intervened, as the UFC was about to audition in my hometown of London for the latest season of their popular reality show – The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), which would pit the best of the UK against the best of America.
This was too much of an opportunity and coincidence to ignore. After a successful day of auditioning, passing the medicals, and winning an elimination fight by TKO in the first round, I was off to Las Vegas to live in a mansion for seven weeks with 15 other fighters.