From the rubble of a broken city, Brad Riddell rebuilt.
The devastation of the Christchurch earthquakes were felt across the nation in 2011, but only those in the city truly experienced their impact. At the time, Riddell was working at a hotel in the Garden City. There was no hotel left after the earthquakes.
With his life left in ruins, his boss offered him work at a hotel in Auckland. Accepting the offer turned out to be the most important decision of the young fighter's life.
He hated the work, but found release in the form of City Lee Gar – a small space where some of the country's top fighter's sharpened their tools.
"It was just full of these gangster fighters, man," Riddell recalls. "There was only like 12, and it was in this smelly apartment that the owner lived in. He turned the lounge into a gym – it was small and it was stinky; it was just awesome.
"It was a work room; you just went in there and you went hard. These guys taught me how to fight. I went in there thinking I was pretty good, but they humbled me bad."
Riddell didn't socialise for the best part of the next two years, spending as much time as possible getting his ass kicked at the gym and racking up an impressive record on the kickboxing stage with a number of titles to his credit.
He soon left his hotel job to pursue a professional career in the ring and linked up with Auckland's City Kickboxing gym where he was able to train full-time with fellow professional fighters.
Five years later, Riddell is set to make his debut with the world's biggest mixed martial arts promotion on what shapes up as the biggest stage in Australasian combat sports history.
The 27-year-old will join the UFC lightweight ranks when he steps into the octagon to face Australian Jamie Mullarkey, who called out Riddell for not having fought the best fighters in Oceania before being offered a UFC contract.
"It pissed me off a little bit that he started saying that because I did try to fight everybody," Riddell says. "For the last six months I struggled to get fights.
"I got on that platform; he wanted to get there, got jealous and yelled out. I'm going to expose that guy. Once that cage locks, that's it … I'm going to hurt this guy."
A natural lightweight, Riddell holds a 6-1 professional MMA record, and has been fighting up a weight class recently in order to get bouts. At welterweight, he's learnt to wrestle and defend against bigger, stronger fighters. Known for his striking ability and knockout power, the drop down to lightweight only makes him a more dangerous opponent.
"I'm fast, man," Riddell says of the major benefit of dropping to lightweight. "I'm light on my feet, I'm quick, I react well, my brain's functioning well – everything just syncs, like this is where I'm supposed to be."
While he left the city, Riddell continues to represent Christchurch; his nickname 'Quake' being a nod to everything the city has been through, while he recently released a supporter's shirt with the dates of the earthquake as well as this year's terrorist attack in the city.
"I'm representing and portraying my city's strength. They suffered down there; they're still suffering. That guy did a lot of damage single-handedly and the ripples are big. It's like chucking a stone in a pond, it goes a long way. People stayed there and they call it their city; the quakes have happened a few times and keep knocking everything down and ruining people's lives and they stay there.
"I feel like they're going through a lot more than I am. I'm fine up here, I'm doing what I want to do and what I love. People down there are still suffering, so I feel like I owe them, like I owe it to them to represent their strength through me and this platform."
With his UFC debut next week on UFC 243 at Melbourne's Marvel Stadium, Riddell says if he gets through relatively unscathed he'll be campaigning to join City Kickboxing teammate Alexander Volkanovski on the UFC 245 card in Las Vegas in December, where Volkanovski will fight Max Holloway for the UFC's featherweight title.
Riddell has worked with Volkanovski as his striking coach for the majority of his career and says he'll be making the trip to Vegas regardless of whether or not he'll be fighting on the card, as he and Volkanovski have a job to finish.
"We're going to take the belt. It's his by right."