As the Australian fight scene returns to action in 2021, many fighters have had to look a little further afield in search of opportunities to compete. Three fighters from Melbourne’s Adrenaline MMA have done just that, as they head to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast to fight at Coastal Combat 9 on April 17.
Aidan Aguilera (8-4) and Mat Myers (2-1) were both originally scheduled to challenge for the promotion’s lightweight and welterweight titles respectively, however Aguilera’s original opponent, Coastal Combat lightweight champion David Martinez (6-3) was a late withdrawal due to injury. Martinez is set to be replaced by former Hex Fight Series title challenger, Jack Becker (7-2).
Myers’ title shot remains intact, as he faces welterweight champion Ty Duncan (5-2).
Also on the card, up-and-coming bantamweight Val Sharipov (2-1) will join his teammates on the road, accepting a short-notice opportunity against Jake Pitfield (3-1).
The COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent lockdowns were a tough time for everyone and professional athletes were no exception. However, speaking exclusively to Fight News Australia, both Aguilera and Myers spoke of their silver lining. Training without the pressures of a fight camp, they say, granted them time to train and evolve their own skillsets.
“It was a weird time for everyone, but what it did for me was it meant I wasn’t training for a specific style or getting in good shape, it was just about training for the love of it. So I got to work on a bunch of stuff that I didn’t really have time to work on over the past four or five years. I feel like you’re going to see a very different version of me heading into this one.” Aguilera said.
“Over here in Melbourne, we had strict lockdowns for a few months. We did some secret-style training back then, we were parking the cars down the road and training. It was good, I made a lot of mistakes in my last fight, so we got to spend a lot of time working, growing, and developing a really good system at Adrenaline MMA.” Said Myers.
“It was just time spent in the gym. I couldn’t work or do anything, so we just sat in the gym and trained and trained and trained.”
Come April 17, both men will get their chance to showcase their improvements. Aguilera, while disappointed in the cancellation of his title opportunity, spoke of the similarities between his new opponent and original opponent. The 30-year-old is looking forward to the challenge against a man who he believes is one of the most underrated lightweights in Australia.
“I was pretty bummed out because I’ve never pulled out of a fight in my life, you never go in 100%. It is what it is.”
“The interesting thing about it is that grappling-wise, they kind of have the same angle of getting to the back. They both like to take backs, but I think Becker is a bit scarier of an opponent grappling-wise, and far more versatile than Martinez. Martinez has a good trick on him, I will say that, but he’s a one-trick pony. Becker is a bit more of a threat on the feet, he’s probably a bit stronger and he’s got more threats on the ground. So it’s kind of like a similar-ish style, but I think Becker is a much more difficult opponent.”
“I’m always up for the biggest names in the division, and I think he’s definitely one of the most underrated guys in the lightweight division in the country.”
Becker is coming off a layoff spanning almost three years, well before COVID interrupted the local fight scene. In that time he has changed camps and even had a stint at the famed Tristar Gym in Montreal Canada. With that in mind, Aguilera is preparing for an improved version of his opponent.
“It’s going to be a fun fight, I don’t expect it to be easy. I know he’s changed camps, so the old version of him, I think I’d have had it all over him on the feet. But he’s been at Scrappy MMA with Ben Vickers, they have some great strikers over there in Jack Della and Danial Williams, who just fought in ONE against Rodtang and killed it, he did awesome.”
“I’m expecting him to have made a bunch of improvements there, I know he was at Tristar for a little bit as I’ve got a couple of training partners that were there with him. So I’m definitely expecting him to come in there a new version of himself as well, he hasn’t fought in ages. So it’s one of those things where I don’t like to have too strict of a game plan, just go in there and get to it, raise some chaos and have some fun.”
Myers is also expecting a tough battle as he looks to return to the win column against Duncan, and reclaim the momentum he held before his loss to Kevin Jousset at Hex Fight Series 20.
“I know he’s quite scrappy on the feet, he just got his black belt and he’s very opportunistic on the ground. He’ll grab submissions, when he thinks he has them, at any opportunity. He’s a good opponent, he’s a good name for me to get coming off my first loss. To get back in that win column with Ty will put me straight back where I was before.”
As for the future, both guys as you would expect, plan to stay active and continue their push towards the big time.
“Having that long layoff wasn’t ideal, I would’ve loved to have pumped out as many fights as I could. I’ve just turned 30, so I really want to give it a good run for the next three or four years. So if I get through Becker, Martinez is next if he can man up and make it through a camp.” Aguilera said.
In the longer term, Aguilera is keeping an open mind on where his MMA journey could take him.
“It’s funny, when I was younger it was all UFC, UFC, UFC. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to make it there, it’s the biggest stage there is. It’s definitely a goal for everyone, I think. But if I can get to any big organisation and have a good run there, I’d be stoked. I want to ride this train until the wheels fall off, and there’s so many good organisations out there like Rizin, I’d love to fight in Japan so Rizin would be great. Bellator is great, and you’ve got stuff like ONE (Championship) is also good, so there’s a lot of big opportunities right now.”
“If I can travel the world, have a bunch of fights, and be known as a good fighter at the end of it, I’d be stoked.”
Aguilera, also a coach at Adrenaline MMA, and speaks of the team there with pride. Among his team is Sharipov, who he says is also one to watch.
“He’s a little Russian wrestler, taking on a short notice fight. He’s an animal. Once he gets his confidence up, he’s only had three fights now, so once he gets that confidence up and gets a good run going, he’s going to be a problem for everyone. He’s a little mini-Khabib.”
Myers, at 25-years-old, is still young in the scheme of an MMA career. He has his sights set on the big time but sees it as more a part of his journey, rather than the ultimate destination.
“I’d definitely like to fight in the UFC and just test myself against the best in the world, be at the top and just grow through this martial arts journey. I’ve grown so much as a person and it’s helped me more than anyone will really ever understand, except myself.”
“I’m pretty realistic, I’m a fair way (off). I’ve got to fight a lot of guys to get there, but I’m happy to do that. I love this journey, I love fighting, I love the whole preparation and I love everything that comes with it.”
“I’m more than happy to fight anyone I have to and I’ll enjoy that process.”