Sport

Fighting for young family

BIG HITTERS: Ipswich-based MMA fighters Zac Bennett and Michael McDaniel will be fighting in an upcoming cage fighting event on the bay side.
BIG HITTERS: Ipswich-based MMA fighters Zac Bennett and Michael McDaniel will be fighting in an upcoming cage fighting event on the bay side. Sarah Harvey

ZAC Bennett has always been a fighter.

But where once it got him into trouble, now he is fighting to provide a future for his family.

That meant getting serious about mixed martial arts (MMA) with the aim of eventually cracking the big league of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the USA.

Bennett has been training in MMA for the past three years, having boxed earlier in his youth.

Since then his weight has dropped from 115kg to the 70kg he now fights at.

The thing that got him into MMA was the death of his adoptive father in 2010.

Bennett's biological father walked out on his mother when she was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with him and Bennett does not forgive him.

Fortunately his step-father raised him as his own son, even if Bennett wasn't always the best behaved child.

"I had a pretty bad temper at school," he said. "I got into a lot of fights. When he died, I thought I'd better use it for something better."

After his first fight this year, a draw, Bennett slipped off the rails again, "doing things I shouldn't be doing". "I got in with the wrong crowd," he said.

But when he found out fiancee Tabitha Powell was pregnant, he vowed to change for good.

It meant moving to Ipswich, leaving his former so-called friends behind and dedicating himself to his fighting career.

"She grew up in Ipswich and Aratula and I didn't know anyone here," he said. "So it let me focus on training and work."

Helping guide him has been his trainer Shannon Landy, from Booval's Infinity MMA gym.

"If it wasn't for him I wouldn't be here now," Bennett said. "He's made my game so much tighter and has enhanced everything."

On November 24 Bennett will enter the cage against Jayden Eynaud, from Five Rings Dojo Nerang, at the Redlands Multi-Sports Club, Birkdale

He sees it as the gateway to some much bigger fights and eventually a ticket to the US.

"It's a pretty big one," he said.

"XFC (X-treme Fighting Championships) is a pretty well renowned show."

XFC fight promoter Justin Lawrence has been the man behind all but three of the Australians who have successfully made it to the UFC in the US.

"I've got the drive and I'm ready for it," Bennett said. "I'm not worried about my opponent. I'm not too worried about my chin.

"He's not going to knock me out. I have no doubt I'll beat him. Now that I've got a baby coming along, I've got something to fight for."

Bennett certainly doesn't lack confidence outside the cage.

"I'll take it whatever way he wants it," he said when asked about his fight plan.

"Whether it's on the ground or standing up. Sooner or later a punch will connect and he's going to go down."

Bennett does recognise the need to keep learning.

"I'm 18 now," he said.

"By 21 I want to have my purple belt in Jiu Jitsu."

A win next weekend could see him step up for an XFC amateur title fight in February or turn professional.

While confident he will succeed, Bennett is not naive enough to believe his future as an MMA star is assured.

"If it doesn't work out, I'll just provide for my wife and son," he said.

Zac Bennett

  • Sporting hero: Jose Aldo.
  • Biggest influence: My mum.
  • Best advice: It's not how hard you hit, it's how hard you can get hit.
  • Post-fight meal: Sizzler all-you-can-eat or a big steak.
  • Pre-fight routine: Get my game plan going and make sure I'm fighting for the right reasons.
  • Favourite TV show: Ultimate fighter.
  • Favourite movie: Ali.
  • Person you'd least like to get stuck in an elevator with: My real dad.

Topics:  mixed martial arts, ufc, ultimate fighting championship


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