After fighting at amateur level for seven years, Northland MMA competitor Talor Wetere is getting ready to make the jump to the professional world. Before he can, Wetere will face fellow New Zealander Anthony Poching for the Shuriken Fight Series amateur lightweight title in Auckland tonight. It is one of his last amateur fights and one of his last chances to win on home soil.
Northland mixed martial arts fighter Talor Wetere will take to the octagon tonight with more than just an amateur belt on his mind.
Wetere, who will fight Anthony Poching for the Shuriken Fight Series amateur lightweight title in Auckland tonight , is reaching the end of a seven-year amateur MMA passion, and is ready to set the professional world alight.
Nicknamed "The Swift", Wetere trains out of the Lion's Den Ministries MMA gym in Whangārei as well as two days a week of training in Auckland. The 25-year-old, who has recorded 10 wins and five losses in his time as an amateur, said the chance to hone his skills on home soil was worth more than any title.
"The [lightweight] title would be a bonus but it's been over a year since I've fought in New Zealand," he said.
"Being in front of friends and family and just being able to stay busy and get more experience will be great."
Wetere's aim is to break into the professional MMA circuit in Australia and Asia by the start of next year, but to do so will require sacrifices from his finances and his family.
Wetere started his MMA journey in 2012 as a 17-year-old fresh out of being home-schooled. After being employed as a youth worker, he met his soon-to-be coach, Ryan Anderson, who would play a key role in opening the Lion's Den gym.
Despite having no martial arts background, Wetere became enamoured with MMA, devoting a lot of his time and resources to the sport which proved just as much of a mental challenge as it did a physical one.
"You can see it as a physical game of chess, there are so many variables and being able to solve those puzzles in real time, I love that challenge," Wetere said.
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"Everyone is so different because everyone has a different style and when you add ground work, you add more and more areas for people to be strong in."
Wetere's recent results are proof of just how committed he is to the sport.
He won a silver medal at this month's International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) Asian Open in Thailand as the only New Zealand competitor.
He also won the gold medal at the IMMAF Oceania Open without having to fight, after his two Australian opponents had to default. Winning a competition without fighting didn't sit well with Wetere but, with valuable country ranking points on the line, he accepted the result.
"I felt like I didn't deserve it, standing there with the national anthem playing, I would have rather defaulted myself but stepping back, it's about the points that our country gets."
Wetere's result at the following Asian Open was even more impressive considering the financial commitment to get to Thailand. Needing $2500 to make the trip, Wetere employed a number of fundraising efforts, including a hangi, and over a few days, he reached his target with $10 to spare.
Tonight's lightweight title fight is a battle Wetere is all too familiar with. After winning the same lightweight title in 2016, Wetere defended it twice before losing it at the end of 2017.
With a family to support in Northland, Wetere knows a move to a professional career is necessary to continue his passion for the sport. He hopes the fast-growing nature of MMA will entice New Zealand companies to support homegrown fighters.
"I've had a lot of experience as an amateur, but it's hard not being able to earn money when you are married with two kids because there are always costs to pay and you get nothing back," he said.
"A lot more people are paying attention to MMA now so it's a great opportunity for companies to get behind local fighters."
With dreams of fighting in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the United States, the next 12 months will be vital for Wetere. Whatever comes from his journey into MMA's professional world, Wetere says his motivation for the sport will remain constant.
"MMA is a medium to reach out and speak into the lives of young men and be a role model. To have that platform is a great opportunity."
• Auckland's Shuriken Fight Series starts at 6pm tonight. Wetere is likely to fight around 9pm. Live updates can be found on the Talor "The Swift" Wetere Facebook page .