Jake Matthews‘ story is as grassroots as it gets. Complete with the grass.
The 20-year-old Australian might be a budding UFC prospect, but he comes from rather humble beginnings when it comes to training — if you consider his beginnings being as recently as last year.
Matthews told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that his training camp for his bout against Dashon Johnson at UFC Fight Night: Marquardt vs. Te Huna in New Zealand took place inside a small shed in his backyard. The shed was only about 20 feet by 13 feet in size. Matthews’ main sparring partner was his younger brother and his coach is his father.
Despite the unorthodox situation, Matthews submitted Johnson with a triangle choke in the third round in Auckland. Since then, he and his dad have purchased their own gym. His brother is still around as a training partner, but Matthews spars regularly with former TUF Nations teammates and fellow Daniel Kelly, Richard Walsh and Brendan O’Reilly in either his hometown of Melbourne or in Sydney.
“It stepped up a bit now,” Matthews said of his situation. “I’ve got my own gym, a nice facility and good sparring partners. So people can expect another step up in my level again.”
In his next fight, Matthews used a rear-naked choke to submit Wagner Rocha in the second round at the UFC’s Sydney show in November. The lightweight is one of the most promising international up-and-comers in all of MMA. Matthews said being in the UFC was always the goal, but doing it at age 20 has come as a bit of a surprise, even to him.
“When you’re putting in the work, I guess it makes sense,” Matthews said.
In Melbourne, Matthews has friends who do all different things, from pulling telephone cable to studying law. He’s the only one among them who is a fighter. Matthews’ family has a lot to do with it. Not only are his father and brother in the gym every day, Matthews’ mom acts as something of a nutritionist, making every meal for him.
“She takes care of me and she’s always front row supporting,” Matthews said.
Matthews’ brother might be on a similar path as him. He’s three years younger, but already showing promise as an MMA fighter.
“He loves training, he loves being around the gym,” Matthews said. “He loves hanging around with all the guys from the gym.
“He’s definitely gonna be a monster. He’s already giving me a hard time and he’s only 17. He’s definitely gonna be a good fighter if he chooses to go down that path.”
Matthews is not sure when he’ll be fighting next. But he knows he wants to fight on the UFC’s first Melbourne card, which reportedly could happen in November. The state of Victoria has yet to pass a law allowing MMA to take place in a cage, but the new political party in power plans on doing it this year.
“I will be on that card, absolutely,” Matthews said. “I’m gonna do everything in my power to get on it. I want to be the Melbourne guy on it. I want to be the draw card that everyone wants to come and see. That’s going to come with winning fights before that.”
Melbourne is a huge sports city and Matthews calls it “the Mecca for UFC” in Australia. He estimates that half the fans at UFC events in Sydney and Queensland came in from Melbourne. The UFC is reportedly planning a stadium show for the city and Matthews thinks that would be a wise choice.
“I believe they would sell it out and it would sell out fast,” he said.
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