BY MATT VERRI
Not many MMA fighters quit after losing their first two fights, have incredibly serious health issues, and then return two years later before earning a spot competing on Europe’s biggest MMA platform.
And yet that is exactly what’s happened to Jack Collins. The Croydon fighter entered the MMA world in 2008 at the age of 18, but after losing a couple of amateur bouts in 2011 he took a step back from fighting to move into coaching.
Six years on his relationship with the sport was put on hold, starting a journey that would ultimately see him return to fighting and with significant success.
Collins said: “In 2017, I started having heart malfunctions, essentially like having a heart attack.
“My body was shutting down. I told the doctors what I do for a living, and they said it’s probably not the wisest thing to do considering the strain it puts on my heart.
“They said I should stop if I ever feel uncomfortable, but I’ve had no difficulty since so I haven’t given it another thought.
“I just wanted to get back to coaching, but my head coach said I should get out there and try and get a win on my record to have that satisfaction, which I agreed to.
“I’d lost before so if I lost again, so what? I just smiled and enjoyed it, and within 30 seconds I had the win.”
That rapid victory over Leim Jones last February was followed by two more impressive first round successes within seven months.
His toughest test to date came in November against David Relph, and while the outcome was once again positive, the manner of the triumph was anything but comfortable.
“I sat down with my coaches, and there were some unanswered questions,” he said.
“My first three fights had lasted just over a minute combined. We knew I was durable in training, but in fights I was getting rid of people too quickly so we didn’t know what would happen if I was pushed.
“Against Relph we knew that would answer any questions. For the first four minutes and 10 seconds, I was getting absolutely whaled. It was interesting to know that I can stay composed while getting beaten up, and still then find a way to win against all the odds. My coaches said I scared the life out of them and they didn’t enjoy the fight, but it was good to find out that under pressure I don’t change anything.”
Those four wins last year saw Collins signed with First Round Management.
And it is a relationship that has had an immediate impact for the 30-year-old, getting a fight against Joshua Onwordi on March 20 at Cage Warriors 113, a huge platform that the South Londoner is determined to shine on.
“The management team told me to carry on training and to leave all the fight negotiations to them,” he said. “I had in my mind I wanted to aim for Cage Warriors, but I knew I maybe wasn’t quite there yet.
“I got a call from my fight agent saying they’d got me on for March – I said: ‘Sign that paper, I don’t need to talk about it, let’s do this.’
“Normally when a fight gets announced I’m at my most nervous, but for this one it’s just been a feeling of pure bliss.
“It’s absolutely insane – sometimes I’m still not convinced it’s actually real. It’s the biggest platform on the European circuit so I’m lost for words to be part of it.
“I know this is going to be a magical experience, and my best performance to date.”
It has been a remarkable rise for Collins and while his fighting journey was only intended to be a brief one, it is not something he has any intention of bringing to an end anytime soon.
“This all started again because I just wanted to get one win to redeem myself and enjoy a fight – I never set out for any of this to happen,” Collins admitted.
“Cage Warriors recently sent their 95th fighter to UFC, it’s the platform that has the key to that stage.
“I know I just need to deliver in maybe four or five fights, look to win their title, and that could be the path to UFC.
“To get into UFC would be the pinnacle of my journey. There are so many opportunities on these big circuits, whether it be that, Bellator, or ONE Championship in Asia.
“I’ve said in the past if I got one fight on Cage Warriors I could walk away happy, but now I’ve got that fight I don’t want to leave.”
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