Meet the mixed martial arts fighter from South Shields hoping to 'inspire community' after being crowned Cage Warrior World Champion

A mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter from South Shields has been crowned Cage Warrior World Champion and in doing so has become the first person in the Bengali community to hold a professional MMA world title.

Shaj Haque, 32, defeated reigning champion Sam Creasey with a third round knockout in the Flyweight bout which took place on New Year’s Eve at the 02 Arena in London.

The dedicated dad hopes his victory will now act as a springboard to follow in the footsteps of other former Cage Warrior champions such as Conor McGregor to gain a UFC contract and to fight in the sport’s premier competition.

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Shaj said: “Conor McGregor actually won the same title 10 years ago and went on to become UFC World Champion which is also my ultimate ambition. Winning this competition will hopefully have caught the eye of the UFC and will lead to a contract to fight at the next level.

"I feel I now deserve that shot. It was a hard and close fight but in the end it went the way I thought it would. It’s amazing to be crowned World Champion and something I’ve been working towards for years.”

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As well as fighting professionally, Shaj also runs his own Ace MMA gym where he trains both children and amateur fighters. He hopes his success will act as an inspiration to others.

Shaj added: “As far as I’m aware I’m the first MMA Bangladeshi World Champion and hopefully this victory will inspire other people in the Bangladeshi community to take up the sport. I’m also from South Shields and hopefully this can also inspire people at the gym and in the town to see what can be achieved."

Fighter Shaj Haque has been crowned MMA Cage Warrior World Champion.

Shaj took up the sport, which covers kick boxing, boxing, wrestling and jiu-jitsu, at the age of 14.

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He said: “I initially took up the sport for self-defence and eventually started entering competitions. The feeling after my first win was like nothing else. With the fight being on New Year’s Eve, I wasn’t really able to take part in any Christmas celebrations.

"Preparing for the fight involved a strict diet as well as running and strength conditioning. It’s all about getting noticed and my ambition is to start fighting in the UFC and hopefully one day for their world title.”

Fighter Shaj Haque, 32, going through his training regime.
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Shaj Haque, 32, won his World Championship bout by way of a knock-out in the third round.
Shaj Haque, after winning his Cage Warrior World Championship fight. Photograph: Dolly Clew
Shaj Haque said it felt "amazing" to win the Cage Warrior World Championship belt. Photograph: Dolly Clew
Shaj Haque with his Cage Warrior World Champion belt. Photograph: Dolly Clew