Jamie "The Cookie Monster" Cookson is hoping the MMA Amateur World Champs in Las Vegas early next month will be the catalyst to kick-start his pro career aspirations.
The 26-year-old, who trains at Hybrid MMA in Tauranga, has fought his way to the top of the New Zealand amateur rankings.
"This will be my first international competition," Cookson said. "There are 48 countries competing and you will have five days competing every day if you keep making it through the rounds.
"I am no quitter and will go to the bitter end.
"I rate my chances pretty good. I back myself 100 per cent as I put in the training time and I commit to everything, the dieting and the training."
It has been a long process for Cookson to get to be ranked number one fighter in New Zealand.
"With MMA, pretty much every competition counts towards this ranking. My latest one I competed with three other fighters to get a spot in Las Vegas. It was a four-man eliminator and I got through."
Turing professional and competing on the world stage is the big goal for Cookson.
"That is the plan. I want to take out as much as I can in the amateur division and then work my way into the pro division.
"Of course they will be tougher competitors but I will have more training time," he said.
Cookson admits MMA is regarded as "a bloodshed sport" and is misunderstood by the general public.
"People don't actually understand the different disciplines that make up mixed martial arts like ground games, Brazilian ju-jitsu, wrestling, judo and boxing.
"Ideally you would want to have as much of these skills as possible to make yourself better as a competitor."
Cookson is trained by New Zealand's undefeated welterweight and middleweight pro title holder Kelvin "Crazy Horse" Joseph at his gym in Greerton.
"His strengths as a coach would be his technical ability, for assessing your own personal abilities and working on your strengths and weaknesses," Cookson said.
"He also makes sure that you will be matching your opponent's ability. So going against a stronger ground opponent we will be working on stand-up but also facing the ground a lot more so I am not going to be left in the dark.
"I am grateful to all my sponsors including House of Travel, New-Chem Ltd, Hybrid MMA, The Gym and The Chart House."
Joseph, who has a major international fight himself coming up this year, has been working with Cookson for 12 months.
"I am very happy with Jamie. He is an incredible athlete and has a desire to win and this toughness that just cannot be taught," he said.
"We can teach technique and skills and stuff but that desire and mental toughness is fantastic to see.
"This is the first time we have been to this stage and it is going to be a great learning experience.
"He has the ability to beat anybody on his day."