GARRETH “Soldier Boy” McLellan is gearing up for his biggest battle yet after securing a contract to join the illustrious Ultimate Fight Championship (UFC) in the US.
The UFC started in 1993 and stands as the world’s leading mixed martial arts promoter, offering a series of events across the globe.
The six-fight deal with the Las Vegas-based organisation will see McLellan represent the local Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) with his first bout scheduled for next year March.
“It’s awesome to be given this contract and to be able to compete against top fighters from around the world.
“The UFC earmarked my potential a while ago so I’m grateful to be given this opportunity,” said the Joburg athlete.
McLellan is the second EFC athlete after Ruan Potts to be signed by the UFC and spoke of the quality of fighters he competes along with regularly.
“South Africa has a massive and talented pool of fighters and I’m really blessed to fight against these guys. From Norman Wessels, Martin van Staden, Brendan Groenewald to Boyd Allen to name just a few.
“Every fighter is growing from strength to strength so I would say to watch everybody because soon they will also be representing SA on the international circuit.”
McLellan initially played rugby but was drawn to martial arts and what it represents.
“I started martial arts at the age of nine and it has always appealed to me. I’m in my seventh year of fighting and it has taught me discipline, work ethic and it gives you so much self-confidence. The hard work that I have put in has paid off and the values I’ve learnt and can relate to applies not just to me but to kids and adults too.”
McLellan has been with EFC since its inception in 2009, was crowned the first EFC middleweight champion and also became the first athlete to regain his title.
He has fought in 12 EFC bouts, winning eleven and is currently on a six-fight winning streak.
Other accomplishments include being an EFC Africa Middleweight title contender, having a black belt in karate and a blue belt in Jiu-jitsu.
“Like any athlete, I train every day and have no rest on a Sunday. I want to be ready and very professional all-year round so in case I get an unexpected call to an event, I’m fit and ready.”
McLellan is relishing the opportunity to compete against the international fighters.
“I grew up watching the UFC and have always admired fighters like Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman. To think my first fight was in a tent with 200-300 supporters and now to be able to fight in front of million of viewers. “
Silva of Brazil holds the longest title defence streak in UFC history and is a former UFC middleweight champion, while Weidman is the undefeated American mixed martial artist and is currently the UFC middleweight champion.
McLellan acknowledged the great strides the sport has made in South Africa.
“The increase in viewership is astronomical and how it has taken 30 to 40 years to grow around the world, only took four years in SA. The sport is continuously growing and fighters are competing in African and worldwide events.”
McLellan will relinquish his EFC middleweight title which will now be contested between Michiel Opperman and Liam Clelland. That will ensure McLellan solely focuses on the UFC with hopes of impressing in the US.
“It will be my first outing overseas and obviously I’m hoping to win all my matches so the UFC will renew my contract. But whether I’m at home or fighting in America or in the United Kingdom, the ring remains the same and I will focus on the task at hand.”