TO the outraged majority, cagefighters are a blood-thirsty bunch of mindless, tattoo-covered, muscle-bound, trash-talking brawlers.
Maitland mixed martial arts exponent JJ van Aswegen is about as far from that stereotype as you can get.
The 33-year-old grappler from Metford is an architectural technician studying to get his degree.
He is uncomfortable talking himself up and is so softly spoken it is sometimes hard to hear what he is saying.
But make no mistake, inside the octagon van Aswegen is a force to be reckoned with.
The South African-born fighter is unbeaten in four professional fights and will take on Central Coast's Jamie Mullarkey for the Australian featherweight title in the Brace promotion on Saturday night in Canberra.
As well as the 2014 belt in the eight-man tournament, a likely contract in Asia's biggest promotion, One FC, is on the line in the final.
‘‘It’s the biggest fight of my life,’’ van Aswegen told the Newcastle Herald.
‘‘There are rumours that the winners in each weight division will get a contract with One FC.
‘‘I know the welterweight champion [American Ben Askren] there at the moment gets $50,000 a fight then $50,000 for the win.
‘‘And a recent signing got a six-fight deal, so hopefully I can win this fight and get a deal.’’
A win would complete a rapid rise for van Aswegen, who started training in Brazilian jiu jitsu with the Beston-Gracie gym at Cardiff in 2010 after watching the Ultimate Fighting Championship on television.
Two years later, he started competing and won two of his three amateur MMA fights.
His only loss came at the hands of Mullarkey, who won a points decision over three three-minute rounds in May 2013.
Let down by his striking and fitness in the defeat, van Aswegen said the experience had proved the turning point in his training.
He has since defeated Gokhan Turkyilmaz, Kris Spence and Adam Corbett by submission and Luke Standing by TKO to kick-start his professional career and set up the rematch with Mullarkey.
‘‘It’s because of him and that loss that I’ve trained a lot harder,’’ he said.
‘‘I always concentrate on jiu jitsu, but I’ve had to focus on my stand-up, my kick-boxing and defence.’’
Asked about his game plan this time, he said: ‘‘Just to knock him out.’’
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