MILLIONS across the globe will watch Sunderland fighter Ross Pearson step into the ring in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday night for his latest UFC showdown.
CHRIS YOUNG spoke to the mixed martial artist about the transition from learning his craft in Fence Houses to tackling some of the most fearsome warriors on the planet.
LEONARDO, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael hold timeless influence on those hovering over an easel.
Yet few can claim they were inspired by their green-skinned namesakes.
For a six-year-old Ross Pearson, though, it was the quest to imitate his do-good heroes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that led him to wander into Fence Houses Community Centre to learn Taekwondo.
Within three years a black belt was wrapped around his waist and he swiftly progressed to judo and amateur boxing before ultimately trying his hand at mixed martial arts.
Now Pearson finds himself as a star of video games, mobbed when he walks down the streets of America, after becoming one of the toughest lightweight competitors in the Ultimate Fighting Championship – the world’s largest cage-fighting promotion.
In the build-up to potentially the toughest fight of his career against unbeaten Brazilian Edson Barboza on Saturday, Pearson admits his participation in UFC continues his lifelong love of martial arts.
“I was a very active kid, always jumping off things, throwing kicks and punches, just like on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which I used to watch,” he said.
“I also loved watching Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Bruce Lee in all the movies, so you could say I got into martial arts through all of them.”
Read Chris’s full feature on Ross Pearson in today’s Echo.