Involving street fighting and gangs, Thomas Peato's life was on a dangerous path.
However, the Rotorua man discovered and fell in love with combat sports and his desire for success in the ring has given him a purpose and drive like he had never experienced.
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Tomorrow, Peato will take on Tahitian national Muay Thai champion Enoha Tauraatua for the South Pacific Super Heavyweight Muay Thai title at Budokan in Rotorua. The fight is one of 13 being held at the Tahiti vs New Zealand event.
"I've been through a lot of trouble, growing up I had a lot of street fights, since I was 13 I was fighting a couple of times a day with gangs and stuff. [Kickboxing] helped pull me away from that whole mindset."
The 31-year-old said he was looking forward to getting in the ring this weekend.
"It's probably the biggest fight of my life, I've had close to 40 but this one being at home and for the South Pacific title is pretty big.
"I need to be patient. Before I have tried to blow my opponent out of the water and ended up blowing myself up. I've learned from that, I just have to be patient and know the power is there and the knockout will come.
"I think my biggest strength is I have a massive heart, that's something you can't teach in combat sport. I have experience now as well and I have a dangerous right hand, it's just landing it which is where the patience comes in."
A former rugby league player, Peato took up kickboxing as a way of keeping fit.
"My passion for it was stronger than rugby league so I ended up going that way. What do I enjoy about it? Everything. The discipline and all that has always been a struggle but I enjoy that you can express yourself.
"I played league locally for Ngongotahā, when I was a bit younger I made the Melbourne Storm development and in 2010 me and my brother got contracts to play for the Bradford Bulls in the Super League. I ended up getting into a bit of trouble and didn't go over."
He said without kickboxing, he probably would've ended up in jail or dead.
He says violence can stem from having nothing to do and combat sports is a huge key to helping troubled people.
"A lot of it comes down to boredom and no direction. This definitely fills that void.
"Discipline comes into it and you're thinking about your actions. You realise everything has a consequence. Kickboxing has definitely been a saviour for me."
Looking ahead, once he was finished in the ring himself, he would love to pass on the lessons he has learned to others.
"Especially our youth but people from all walks of life. It's a good thing for mental health and physical health.
"This year, me and one of my good mates are bringing bare-knuckle boxing to the country. With this stuff, I'll probably be fighting for another three years, the end line goal would be maybe even the prelims of the UFC. Otherwise, I've always wanted to be a world champion and this title is two steps away.
"Then I can use combat sports to help empower people in similar situations to what I have been in the past."
Rotorua's Ngakaunui Muay Thai head coach Wayne Wairoa, who is organising this weekend's event, says there will be plenty of exciting bouts on display.
The event is being held as a memorial for Hona Robinson, the New Zealand featherweight Muay Thai champion killed in a motorcycle crash in Rotorua in 2018.
"He fought in Tahiti and got killed at such a young age. He was a two-time national champion.
"We're hoping for some exciting fights, I've told my boys 'don't muck around, go for the knockout'."
The first fight of the day is at 3pm and door sales are $40.