When Jamie Mullarkey makes his walk to the Octagon for UFC 243 this Sunday, it will be a dream ten years in the making. Like many fighters from this corner of the world, Mullarkey began his MMA training at 14-years-old in the offseason from playing rugby union.
“I threw a kid in an armbar and never looked back,” Mullarkey told Fight News Australia.
Mullarkey took to the sport like few else. By 21, he had already racked up nine wins as a professional. With the majority of the wins ending inside the distance, Mullarkey was a young kid on the fast track.
While it has been common knowledge locally for years, the Australian regional mixed martial arts scene is full of elite talent. With Mullarkey’s rapid rise, he quickly found himself fighting for the Australian FC featherweight title against none other than Alex Volkonovski.
Volkanovski would hand Mullarkey his first professional loss and sign with the UFC soon after. In December, Volkanovski will fight for the UFC featherweight title. Mullarkey looks back at that loss as a turning point in his career.
“The losses I’ve had were the most important fights of my life,” Mullarkey said.
“They really made me learn about myself and how I conduct myself, more so than anything the mental side. When I lost to Alex Volkanovski, I was 9-0 and he was 11-1 at the time.
“At that stage, no one wanted to fight Alex, he was really struggling to get a fight. I was undefeated, but his whole persona and his record, everything about him made me stop thinking about myself and I was thinking about what he does too much. I shifted my mindset so now I only focus on me and what I do well.
“I was only 21 when I fought him but that will never change about me, I wanted to fight the best guys then and I do now too. Throw me in front of Alex now and I believe I can beat him, it’s just how I am.”
Mullarkey’s confidence has been further strengthened by the team that is steadily developing at Central Coast MMA under former UFC fighter Ross Pearson.
In Mullarkey’s early career, he would train with Pearson when the Brit would come to spend time in Australia from the UK. When Pearson relocated permanently and opened Central Coast MMA close to three years ago, Mullarkey quickly joined the team.
“It’s unreal, there are no worries,” Mullarkey said of having Pearson as a head coach.
“I don’t have to worry about a thing because I’ve literally got a guy who has been there and done that. He has done it all and is a very smart man and his best interests are in me, he wants me and all our guys to succeed. It’s really beneficial having a guy like Ross behind you.”
Mullarkey is also confident that Pearson has set the foundation for a wave of fighters to make the UFC from the gym.
“The gym has so much potential and is growing every single day. We have a solid fight team and it’s going to take off.”
At UFC 243, Mullarkey will take on fellow UFC newcomer Brad Riddell.
Riddell’s UFC debut for Melbourne was announced without an opponent. Mullarkey saw it as his golden opportunity to make his UFC debut and stated his case, suggesting Riddell had not fought the toughest guys in Australia to get the call-up.
“I just clearly don’t think he has,” Mullarkey said.
“I don’t think he has been through the best Australia has to offer, I don’t know how else to say that.”
The strong words clearly caught the attention of the UFC and the fight was made only days later.
“I think they like guys who speak up and want to fucking make their case,” Mullarkey said.
“As soon as I saw him get signed, I thought ‘who else are they going to match him up with?’ I immediately saw it as my opportunity to make my debut in the UFC.”
Despite suggesting Riddell has not fought Australia’s best MMA fighters, the Central Coast product respects the Kiwis skills and knows he is in for a tough fight.
“I think he’s good. I think he is a tough, game opponent man,” Mullarkey said.
“It’s going to be a cracker fight. He’s a solid fighter, he’s a gamer, I know it’s going to be tough, I’m not saying it’s going to be an easy fight, but I’m getting ready for a war and I know I can mix it up better than he can. I know that the whole animal of mixed martial arts I do better than he does.”
Jamie Mullarkey v Brad Riddell is expected to take place on the preliminary card at UFC 243 in Melbourne.