Sunderland cage fighter aims to be next MMA world champion

(L-R) Edson Barboza kicks Ross Pearson during a lightweight bout at UFC 134 at HSBC Arena on August 27, 2011 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
(L-R) Edson Barboza kicks Ross Pearson during a lightweight bout at UFC 134 at HSBC Arena on August 27, 2011 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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IS this the next MMA champion of the world?

Wearside-born fighter Ross Pearson is gearing up for the fight of his life, and he’s confident about returning home victorious.

The 28-year-old from Fence Houses, who shot to cage-fighting fame after winning TV show The Ultimate Fighter 9, will compete in the lightweight UFC contest in October.

If he wins against American Melvin Guillard, he’ll be in the running to fight the world champion Benson Henderson.

Ross is in the midst of final training at his regular gym, Fitness 2000 in Roker, before he jets off to his fighting camp in San Diego, California, in preparation for October’s lightweight bout in Manchester.

“I’ll be Sunderland’s first UFC champion and you can put money on that,” said the confident mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter.

“The fight camp is really intense. It’s where my head coach and management are. I’ll be there for eight weeks before the fight,” said Ross, whose fight name is The Real Deal.

Ross’s fighting career is a far cry from his previous job as a bricklayer, and sees him jetting across the world to fight in the UFC, MMA’s biggest fight promoter.

“I’ve dedicated my life to fighting, and travelling is part of that,” he said. “I share my time between Australia, America and England, but Sunderland’s home.

“I’ll always be a home person, the people here are so much friendlier than anywhere else.”

Ross is one of a number of successful MMA fighters from Wearside, including Phil De Fries and Colin Fletcher, many of whom train at Fitness 2000. Speaking about why Sunderland has become a breeding ground for prized fighters, he said: “I think it’s partly to do with the culture of the North East.

“The people are hard-nosed and hard-working, and they don’t know how to give up. That’s how I’ve got to where I am. Being a bricklayer originally has given me a hard-working background and it’s paid off.”

Ross’s contest is the co-main event of a card that sees Michael Bisping face Mark Munoz in the main UFC Fight Night event at Manchester Arena on October 26.