MIXED Martial Arts star Norman Parke returns to Australia next week for The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes finale.
The Bushmills man is one fight away from earning a six-figure UFC contract and he told Times Sport last week he is determined to do it for Northern Ireland.
“I’m determined to win the final to put Northern Ireland on the UFC map,” said the 25-year-old.
Parke’s Lightweight final showdown on Australia’s Gold Coast will take place on December 15th. He earned he place in the showpiece finale with victories over Richie Vaculik and Brendan Loughnane during the seven week television show, which was filmed in Sydney during the summer.
Parke was part of Team UK who took on their Australian counterparts and he admitted it was tough both mentally and physically.
“We all lived together in a fancy pad in Sydney,” he explained.
“There was no TV, no books or music in the house everything was strictly focused on fighting. You couldn’t get away from it for even one minute.
“It was mentally and physically tough in the house.”
“I won my first fight and my semi-final fight by decision. Even though I won my fights I wasn’t impressed by my performances.
“My body weight had stalled in the house and couldn’t get below 77kgs so I was cutting seven kilos in one day to make the 70kg weight limit, which is not nice if you ask me.
“I know what I really can produce in a fight, but the being away from your comfort zone and being around people you don’t know is really tough.
“Despite all that though at the end of the day I got what I came for and that was to reach the final of the Ultimate Fighter!
“As well as doing it for my country I want to do it to thank everyone who has supported and helped me get this far.
“I’d like to thank my fiancee, my MMA coach Rodney Moore from Ballymena, my boxing coach Derek Morrison, my management kodynasty, my supplement sponsor Peak Physique Ballymena, Moes Grill Antrim, Turkish Gentry Barbers Ballymena, Scotch House Bar Bushmills and also everyone that follows me and supports me.”
If you would like to sponsor Norman you can contact him via his Facebook or Twitter pages.
Norman’s final will be live all over the world on ESPN December 15th.
STORY: STEVEN CRAWFORD