The last time Mark Timms fought in New Zealand he was stopped by Israel Adesanya.
It was a heated affair when the pair met in the semifinals of the King in the Ring transtasman eight-man tournament in 2015, with Timms was unable to utilise his power in the first round, before being unable to beat the referee's count after taking a knee to the chest and a right cross midway through the second round.
For Timms, the defeat at the hands of the future UFC middleweight champion was a steep learning curve.
"I could almost feel his energy in there," Timms recalls. "I could feel his experience in there, I could feel his aura – he had a star quality. When I felt that, I thought I needed to get some of it."
Timms had only been training in Muay Thai for five years at the time, dabbling in the sport while studying a degree in journalism at Birmingham City University in the UK. Having already relocated from the UK to Australia to pursue the sport, after his fight with Adesanya he knew he had to go to China to gain experience. He did just that, amassing an impressive record on the way.
About 18 months ago, Timms relocated again – joining his former foe at Auckland's City Kickboxing gym.
Lately, while struggling to get matched up, Timms has acted as somewhat of a crash-test dummy for Adesanya, who won the UFC middleweight championship late last year.
"It's been cool. I really like training with Israel, he's a really special person to be around. It's good to have a training partner my size, and he's obviously the best in the world. Nothing could prepare me better than training with someone who is the best in the world already.
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"Watching the way he moves – sparring him is a puzzle you have to solve under very intense pressure. Your heart rate's already going through the roof and you have to navigate this very difficult puzzle in front of you and that mentally prepares you for anything – a lot of other fighters feel a lot more basic in comparison to those situations"
While the 32-year-old has been dormant since joining the team at City Kickboxing, that will change this weekend when he returns to the King in the Ring stage for a Superfight against tough local veteran Hayden Todd.
Being inactive has been a big mental challenge for Timms. While he's continued to train, even venturing into building his skills in the mixed martial arts realm as a back-up plan, struggling to get matched up hasn't been easy for someone who left everything behind to pursue the sport.
"I've had to keep telling myself it's going to be good in the end when I get a fight," Timms says. "Having to not get frustrated with not fighting and focusing on improving has been frustrating, but at the same time I've just had to keep telling myself this is what I'm here to do.
"With this one, I want to embrace it as my moment. I'll never under appreciate being able to perform in front of people again. This job is a privilege that I may have taken for granted in the past."