A South Tyneside fighter who trains in Sunderland is gearing up for a heavyweight clash after being signed up to the world’s biggest fight promoter.
James “The Juggernaut” Mulheron will take on America’s Justin Willis for his first UFC fight card at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow on Sunday, July 16.
The 29-year-old, who is already ranked as No 1 in his weight category in the UK and Ireland, has been signed to the UFC on a multi-fight deal as he battles it out to become world champion.
The fighter, who is in the midst of training for the clash at Fitness 2000 gym in Roker, Sunderland, and Power House in South Shields, said he was delighted to join the elite fighters at UFC.
He said: “I’m elated. It’s like 100 Christmases have come at once. I found out in the early hours last week, my manager gave me a call and said prepare yourself the UFC want to sign you. I obviously couldn’t sit still, this is 10 years of my life that I have dedicated to this sport and it really is a dream come true for me.”
He said the location of his first UFC fight, tickets for which go on sale on Friday, was extra special because of his dad’s heritage.
“It’s the most special thing about it,” he said. “I got into MMA through my dad, my dad is Scottish. I’ve been chasing this dream but my dad has been in my corner since day one. The dream has always been to fight in Scotland. Half of my family live in Glasgow, they are all literally so excited and are all standing by their phones waiting for tickets to go on sale.”
The British and European Champion added: “It’s been a long journey. Earlier in my career I was ready to compete in the UFC, but it never happened. If I had got signed then then it wouldn’t have been a shock. These last two and a half years though I’ve been working hard and I’m currently on a four fight win streak. In my last fight, I beat Ruben Wolf but he is the same fighter I lost to before that winning run started, so it was good to right a few wrongs and beat the guy who had beaten me.
“When the chips were down, I stayed focused and now it’s a dream come true. This is what fairy tales are made of. I’ve had to do a lot of soul searching, but I’ve trained harder than I ever have before and I’m ready for this moment.”
James is the latest success story from the North East with other UFC stars including Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson, from Fence Houses, who won The Ultimate Fighter TV show; Colin “The Freakshow” Fletcher from Washington, Sunderland’s Phil De Fries and Davey “Dangerous” Grant from Durham.
James’ manager Les Ojugbana, of GBANA Sports Management, said: “This is James’ first fight with UFC, but I’m confident he has what it takes to go on and become heavyweight champion of the world.”
•Tickets for UFC Fight Night Glasgow: Nelson Vs Ponzinibbio on Sunday July 16 go on sale on Friday, June 2 at 10am from www.ticketmaster.co.uk. Fans are encouraged to register interest for the event at www.ufc.com/Glasgow