Mixed Martial Arts, better known as MMA, is rapidly becoming one of the most popularly watched spectator sports across the world.
The globe’s most popular MMA franchise, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), is home to the sport’s biggest names, including Conor McGregor, Jon Jones and Khabib Nurmagomedov and one Hull teenager is aspiring to become the next famous fighter to join the franchise’s books.
George Staines, a 19-year-old from west Hull, is already making big leaps towards achieving his lifelong dream of the UFC. After being crowned as the Almighty Fighting Championship’s Interim Featherweight Championship earlier this year, Staines’ perfect 5-0 record has earned him the accolade as the best amateur featherweight fighter in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.
Whilst Staines is making a name for himself at amateur level, he is not letting his current success get in the way of achieving his dream and that this is just the start of a very long journey to becoming one of the sport’s global powerhouses.
“It’s not the end goal for me,” Staines told Hull Live.
“I want to go UFC bound, become the featherweight champion in UFC, but it shows that I am going in the right direction. It shows that all of my hard work is paying off and it is not pointless, which is a nice feeling.
“You can’t ask for a better start really, it’s pretty good. It’s better that I have a 100 percent finishing record as well. That is pretty good.”
Staines is inspired by a whole host of fighters whose ability and popularity have enabled to grow the sport worldwide in recent years.
Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov is someone who particularly stands out for Staines, not just because of his fighting style, but because of how dominant he often is in the cage.
“I like Khabib Nurmagomedov, when you watch him, he doesn’t beat them, he smashes them,” Staines explained.
“When you watch him and it goes to end of the fight, when it comes to the decision, there’s no question in your mind who has won; it is always him.
“He dominates, that is what I want to be like, hopefully.”
Whilst he only started competing in amateur MMA fights at the start of 2019, this has been a long time coming for Staines, whose life has been focussed solely around becoming a professional fighter.
Staines started kickboxing aged seven at the Fight Ministry on Park Road, north Hull, where he still currently trains. Since then, the teenager has never looked back, although his initial plans were to emulate the successes of former world heavyweight boxing champion and Staines’ lifelong idol, Muhammad Ali.
“I used to go and watch Hull City when I was really young,” Staines said when recalling the start of his career journey.
“My dad knew Melv, who owns the gym, just as friends, and at one game, Melv said to my dad, bring him down to the gym and we will get him doing kickboxing.
“Ever since then, I have been training. I started just doing full contact kickboxing and then K1. After that, they got me into MMA and they wanted me to fight MMA when I was a lot younger, but I wanted to wait until I was 18, cook myself so I am ready and get myself to dominate.
“I wanted to be the heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Muhammad Ali was my idol. That was my goal, I wanted to be a boxer but then, I started to do more MMA, more jujitsu and I was like ‘I could do this, I could make a living out of this.’
“It has been 12 years in the making. It’s been a long time.”
Staines devotes his life to becoming a professional fighter, with a rigorous training schedule that involves training six days a week.
His busy schedule that sees him regularly travel to Leeds and Manchester weekly, trips funded by his growing list of sponsors, consisting of more than a dozen local businesses that help with his £300-a-month training costs.
Because of that, he has been able to focus on his wrestling during sessions with the Manchester Wildcats every Saturday.
Staines’ wrestling has developed rapidly in recent months, which has enhanced his all-round performance as a mixed martial arts fighter, and his coaches are even hoping that Staines will put himself forward to compete in the 2022 Commonwealth Games being held in Birmingham.
“I have been asked,” Staines admitted.
“In Manchester, there is a guy called Mo, who came here and did a seminar actually, and he said that he would like me to do the Commonwealth games.
“I have to do the British trials, get picked for the British team and get picked for the Commonwealth team, but I reckon I could do it. I am going to try, I really want to. It’s pointless me not.
“You look at some of the UFC guys like Henry Cejudo, who is a gold medallist in the Olympics at wrestling. If you look at him, he is the champion at two different weight categories, so it speaks for itself.”
Staines is set to return to fighting in the AFC’s next event at the end of February 2020 in Barnsley, where he is hoping to extend his perfect start to his MMA career.