By Caoilte de Barra
At the 2021 IMMAF World Championships, a star was born when Fergus Jenkins burst onto the scene, slicing through the middleweight division in only his first tournament. The New Zealand representative defeated the likes of Hazem Kayyali and Yusup Magomedov on his path to gold.
His grappling was his main strength, and whenever it hit the mat, he was always looking to improve his position and look for a finish, as proven by the three submission victories at the competition. He has since had a bout at XFC 56, where he became the middleweight champion by defeating Jonas Grace. Now in preparation for the Oceania Championships, Jenkins explained how he is all-in and primarily focusing on MMA.
“I’ve just got more focused on MMA, but that process was already beginning before the Worlds since I finished university. Now I can fully dedicate myself to the sport. Since then [the Worlds], it’s just progressed even further. I’ve had more time to solely focus on MMA.”
Before his IMMAF debut, the kiwi contemplated going pro after only five amateur contests. However, after doubling his experience in the space of six days, he quickly realised the benefit of remaining amateur and opted against turning pro. Instead, he focused on reaping the rewards from competing in more tournaments before going pro. He said:
“Before the Worlds, I was thinking about going pro at the start of the year, but that experience of getting five matches in six days doubled my fights. So I thought if I cash in on a few more tournaments like the one this weekend, that’s two fights in a weekend. That’s already better than going for one fight. Doing the IMMAF at the end of the year; that’s another five fights. So, I feel like being able to build up that extra experience by staying amateur a bit longer and then look at going pro next year.”
After winning such a large-scale competition, it can tend to add more pressure. This isn’t the case for the 21-year-old, who is just focusing on his own game heading into the 2022 Oceania Championships.
“I imagine there’s more of a target on my back. I probably can’t go in and replicate the same approach as last time because going into the Worlds, nobody knew who I was. Nobody was preparing for me. So you can get away with your bread and butter game. Going into it the next time as the defending champion, I’ll probably have a target on my back the most. So, I’ve got to ensure I come in there with some new weapons in my arsenal that people wouldn’t expect.
“You’d think it would add a bit more pressure, but I’m not too phased by it. I just control what I can control, worry about the things I do in my day-to-day life that can have a positive influence, and I’m not too worried about any added pressure.
“My mindset is a little bit different going into this one. It feels a little more regular. For me, it’s not quite as much pressure, but at the same time, I still have the same competitive instincts and drive to win. I think that’s a good recipe for putting on a great performance.”
Ahead of travelling to Brisbane, Australia, Jenkins is looking forward to having an easier time acclimatising compared to Abu Dhabi, not to mention the fact that he has a holiday lined up after the competitions, which he is equally excited about.
“At the time of the Worlds, New Zealand was still super strict with Covid policy. So that made it really difficult. It was stop and start. We didn’t know if we were actually going to get over it. It was a hell of a trek, and acclimatising to the environment this time is a huge shift compared to Abu Dhabi.
“I’m also super excited because I’ve never fought in Australia. It’s going to be good to get out of the cold weather in New Zealand and over the warm weather in Australia, and it will be really cool to fight in that environment.”
It’s fair to say that Fergus Jenkins will have plenty of eyes on him entering the 2022 Oceania Championships. However, it is just business as usual for him, and he welcomes the challenge from the Australian and French Polynesian athletes.