A MIXED Martial Arts fighter from South Tyneside has two major goals for 2015 – to become a world champion and inspire a generation of youngsters in Bangladesh.
Shajidul Haque, who is of Bangladeshi origin, is hopeful his next fight will be a shot at the world title.
The 24-year-old, who fights under the Cage Warriors promotion and trains at Fighting Fit, in Boldon Lane, South Shields, won his last bout in November as he saw off the dangerous Damien Rooney in Newcastle.
And it is hoped that a world title fight could be arranged for February or March, which could also open the door to a future in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Haque, from South Shields, said: “It was a very big win for me, and it should put me in contention for the world title, which I’ll hopefully get to fight for early next year.
“It has happened a lot sooner than I thought, as I am still quite young in MMA terms, but has always been a goal of mine.
“Since I started taking the sport seriously, my goal has always been to become the world champion in the UFC.
“None of this would be possible without my sponsors, though, so massive thanks to Revgear, Fightstore Pro, H2N Nutrition, Funky Gums and Top Throne Management.”
Haque could create history if he does eventually join the UFC, which is the major MMA promotion based in America.
He added: “To be the first person of Bangladeshi origin in the UFC is a big target of mine.
“I can’t think of any other Bangladeshi athlete who has achieved something like that.
“It would give a lot of hope to people there that it is possible, and I’d like to inspire people like that.
“It would be great to be able to give something back to people who are a lot less fortunate over there.
“I’m sure there is a lot of talent there, and it would be great if I could help people realise that.”
Haque is coached by Feruz Hussain, who also wants to help to inspire a generation in Bangladesh.
Hussain said: “Shaj has answered every question that has been asked of him so far, and he has been preparing for this since the age of 14.
“Our plan from a management and coaching point of view is to take the world title to where he was born in Bangladesh and show they have produced a special guy.
“It’s a very poor country and there is not always a lot to celebrate – it’s very rare you hear a guy of Bangladeshi origin doing so well, especially MMA.
“We want him to get the world title, and then we’ll try to promote Shaj out there, and hopefully inspire people.”