MIXED MARTIAL ARTS
Six Illawarra fighters are on the card for the Cage Conquest 2 MMA pro-am event at the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre on Saturday.
Three of those fighters - Alex Volkanovski, Craig Martin and Blake Stage - are trained by Joe Lopez at Freestyle Fighting Arts, Orcan As is from Zen Jitsu Kai and Matt Gibson is from Full Circle MMA.
Volkanovski is a former rugby league player with the Warilla Gorillas, who won the Group Seven player of the 2011 grand final award.
He will fight Regan Wilson, of Langes MMA, in the 77-kilogram division in both the championship fight and the main event.
It will be one of three professional fights - the others are Martin against Bryan Cowell of SPMA in the 77-kilogram category and Chris Lofts of SPMA against Adam Sarkis of Lions Den in the 93-kilogram.
Volkanovski returns to the cage after some months off because of a broken hand.
He has been unstoppable in his control over the division and is looking to go 6-0.
Wilson is the toughest opponent Volkanovski has faced so far and has fought the likes of UFC's The Ultimate Fighter contestant Manuel Rodriguez.
Wilson will be looking to be the first blemish on Volkanovski's record.
"He is such a well-rounded and complete fighter," Volkanovski said.
"I am looking forward to the challenge.
"It is such a confidence-builder training on a proper professional team and seeing what level every guy on our team is. And knowing I am right there with them makes you feel like you could take on the world."
Martin will make his professional debut when he meets New Zealand-born fighter Bryan Cowell.
Martin said his decision to turn pro was not based on money.
"I have had my last five fighters pull out on me at the last minute," Martin said.
"I think fighting pro will result in more reliable and a higher calibre opponent. I don't want easy fights."
Freestyle Fight Team head coach Joe Lopez said the event, hosted by Southern Fighting Arts, "is a good platform for the local boys".
"It shows them that the local community is behind them 100 per cent. Win or lose, we are just proud to see the boys getting in there and giving it their all."