It's been six long years since Kiwi kickboxer TY Williams claimed the inaugural King in the Ring eight-man title, unintentionally derailing his career in the process.

It turned into a bittersweet event for Williams, who sustained an ankle injury during the tournament that kept him out of action for the best part of four years.

Williams sustained the injury during the King in the Ring tournament in 2013, but was able to go on and win the title. Feeling pain in his ankle in the aftermath, he decided to give it time to rest in the hopes it would heal.

However, in 2014 the opportunity to fight for a world kickboxing title presented itself, and Williams stepped into the ring against Australian Ben Johnson. Williams won the fight, but did serious damage to his ankle and needed surgery to repair it.


"I was having issues with it (after King in the Ring), it was sore when I was walking and stuff, but I never saw anyone about it," he said. "You can just feel if it's quite serious, so I didn't take any more fights until like a year later, and that's when I really did the damage.

"I was just at the peak, really. I'd just come in and beaten all these people in the eight-man after I'd only had six fights, then I'd beaten (Ben Johnson) for a world title who was destroying everyone and has been destroying everyone ever since. But it is what it is."

His ankle had to be re-broken and reset in order for it to heal properly but now, back to full strength, he's looking to pick up where he left off. Williams will be one of eight fighters competing for the cruiserweight title in Palmerston North on Friday night, with the eventual winner having to win three fights on the night to claim the belt.

Now 32, Williams has returned to the ring a few times and the confidence in his body continues to build. He said after suffering an injury like he did, it was hard to work up the confidence to actually attempt kicks.

"It's been the toughest thing ever, I think, not committing with kicks in a fight, even up until my latest one. But it grows in every fight."

Returning to the King in the Ring arena won't be so much about the results for him, but returning to a level of performance he knows he's capable of.

"For me it's just getting back to my focus I had before and just being an artist in there, being my true self in there.

"That's what I really want, I don't care about what happens, I just want to be my true form in there, my true artist and paint the canvas, paint my picture well in there."


Williams has signalled his intention to focus on mixed martial arts going forward, with the sport offering more opportunities than kickboxing alone. He has already had a taste of the mixed martial arts arena, competing in a Lethwei fight in Japan.

Lethwei, known as 'the art of nine limbs' is a lesser popularised form of bare knuckle MMA in which, unlike most variations, it encourages the use of head butts.

"I won by knockout there in the first round. But you've got to be diverse, different and be able to cover all sorts of areas.

In the time Williams has been on the shelf, he's been able to witness the rise in New Zealand combat sports. Now, former King in the Ring champions Israel Adesanya and Dan Hooker are among six Kiwi fighters signed with the UFC, while Alexi Serepisos is fighting on the One Championship roster.

"We've just got a different flavour to everyone else; we're doing things different here. I can't really explain it…it's good to see. Soon they'll know us as a tiny country with some of the best fighters in the world – or they already do."