Justin Murray fights for Ultimate shot

A FATHER of two, small businessman, law student and underground miner.

For most people this would be more than enough to cram in to one life.

But for Cardiff mixed martial artist Justin Murray, a shot at competing in the Ultimate Fighting Championship is, well, the ultimate.

That’s why the 31-year-old will be in Sydney on June 12 battling it out for a part in the UFC’s hit reality TV show The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes.

A play on Australia and England’s fierce cricket rivalry, The Smashes will pit teams of fighters from both countries against each other in Australia for a chance to secure a six-figure contract in the world’s biggest MMA organisation.

The Ultimate Fighter is in its 15th series in the US and has been the launching pad for some of the biggest names in the rapidly growing sport.

Murray, 31, came up through the ranks in Australian MMA during its infancy with the likes of George Sotiropoulos and Kyle Noke, who moved to America to train before starring on TUF and carving out successful UFC careers.

Commitments outside of the cage meant Murray missed his chance then, but a shot at making it from Australia is one he is not going to miss.

‘‘It’s always been my dream to be doing it as a professional,’’ Murray said.

‘‘I don’t go underground and mine coal because I love to do it. It’s a good job and I work with good people, but training and fighting is something I’m passionate about. To get paid to do that would be amazing.’’

Murray, who part owns and operates the Brotherhood Training Centre at Kotara, is a two-time Australian champion in MMA serin with a record of six wins, three losses and one draw. But he has not fought since September 2010 when he suffered a technical knockout loss to Hoon Kim just 22 seconds into the bout.

Since then he has focused on establishing his business while putting in long hours underground to pay the bills. A law degree at the University of Newcastle he is two years into has also taken a backseat. But he is back in full training, including sessions with good friend and UFC fighter James Te Huna, to make the most of his TUF chance after doing the hard yards since 2005.

‘‘It’s a great opportunity to go professional,’’ he said. ‘‘Over here there’s not really too many true professionals. Everyone works full-time and can’t really train as a professional, so it’s hard for us to compete with the world when we’re that far behind.’’

Murray, a former Brazilian jiu-jitsu state and national champion, fits nicely into the criteria for the The Smashes, which is open to 61- to 77-kilogram fighters between 18 and 35 years old with at least three professional fights.

Murray grew up playing rugby union and league in Newcastle but turned to the martial arts because of injuries and the desire to test himself outside the team environment.

He said MMA was largely misunderstood in Australia as a brutal and barbaric sport, pointing out that he has suffered less injuries inside the cage than on the football field.

‘‘It’s a pure sport and very technical,’’ he said.

‘‘I lot of people think that it’s too violent, but if you take the ball out of rugby league they’re exactly the same in a lot of ways. They are both built around you trying to dominate an opponent physically.

‘‘In MMA though it’s individual, you control your own destiny, you’re one on one in a cage and there’s nowhere to hide.’’

The Smashes is the second international edition of TUF. The first, airing in Brazil, had 12million viewers for the premiere episode.

The UFC hopes to host several tournaments in different countries and crown one winner across an international format.

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