Rotorua's Riini Apo has claimed his first victory overseas as he follows his dream of becoming a UFC fighter.
Apo travelled to Las Vegas at the end of June to compete at the inaugural International Mixed Martial Arts Federation World Championships.
Apo was chosen to attend the international amateur event after his Brazilian jiu jitsu trainer, Leon Corbett, put his name forward for the New Zealand team.
Fighting in the heavyweight class, the 98kg athlete came up against an experienced American fighter in his opening match.
Apo won the bout with a submission in the third round. He then went up against a Polish fighter in the semifinals the next day, losing on points.
Despite being eliminated, Apo was awarded a bronze medal in the heavyweight class.
"I was just happy that I could hold my own," Apo said.
"The first guy I fought had had over 12 fights and the guy that I lost to had had 15 fights."
In comparison, Apo had only fought twice before going to the States, recording two victories in New Zealand.
He said it was a great experience and he had learned a lot from the trip.
Apo said it had made him even hungrier to follow his dream of making it in the sport and one day competing in UFC.
"I'm more hungry to get where I want to go now," he said.
"I know what level I have to be at."
Such was the intensity in Apo's two fights, he suffered a hamstring injury in his first match and a broken hand in his second match.
"I pulled my hamstring in my first fight. I couldn't walk on the morning of my second fight so I iced my leg all day."
Apo's semifinal opponent also broke a bone in the fight, and was unable to compete in the heavyweight gold medal match.
Since returning home earlier this month, Apo has been resting his broken hand.
He said he returned to training on Monday.
Apo travelled to the US with two New Zealand trainers and one other Kiwi fighter. Aucklander Logan Price was eliminated in his first match.