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“It’s a way of life,” he says of his journey among the hardest-of-the-hard pro athletes. “I live to train.

"The dedication [needed] is unparalleled because there are so many disciplines you have to master and be proficient in, as well as maintaining a high level of conditioning.

"Those characteristics boil over into other parts of your life. You can’t help but be disciplined, focused and dedicated.”

However, not everyone is a fan of his profession. MMA has been banned in New York since 1997 and its existence has been strongly lobbied against by the US National Center for Domestic and Sexual Violence, whose executive director Deborah B Tucker claims the UFC “contributes to a culture of violence against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people”.
Such statements are swiftly refuted by Sotiropoulos.

“People have been fighting for thousands of years, since the caveman. Humans love it,” he says. “You can’t deny it’s a brutal sport – it’s a combat sport, so there is that brutality involved ­– but it’s no more brutal than rugby or NFL or those kinds of contact sports. It’s just a sport, and that ferocity, that’s why we love sport.”

And the viewing public seems to agree. The past five years have seen an explosion in the popularity of UFC, especially with pay-per-view events, and the ratings figures now matching those of boxing.

It seems even in 2012, humans have blood lust.

“I have to quote [UFC president] Dana White: ‘Fighting is in our DNA,’ and he’s right,” says Sotiropoulos, who fights his rival Ultimate Fighter trainer Ross Pearson on December 14 on the Gold Coast, which will air as part of the show.

“UFC is a superior product,” he says.

”Sports like boxing are one-dimensional, whereas UFC is multi-dimensional. It makes for more exciting fights. Fights can be fought with more than one way to skin a cat and UFC proved that. That’s why the sport is so popular.”

UFC reaches NA: Kiwis step up

Auckland is on the UFC’s expansion list, with plans mooted for a trans-Tasman version of The Ultimate Fighter in the near future with Australia.

“There is a natural rivalry and a lot of camaraderie there,” UFC’s managing director for international development Marshall Zelaznik said.

“With an event in New Zealand around that, or even bringing one of our fight nights or pay-per-views there, we have little doubt it would be a big success.”

New Zealand is now among the top 10 markets for UFC, with pay-per-view sales rising 20 to 30 per cent each year in recent times.

The Kiwis have two representatives among the UFC’s 350-strong stable of fighters now.

Veteran heavyweight Mark ‘Super Samoan’ Hunt has recently been joined by up-and-coming light-heavyweight James Te Huna, 31, who has won four of his five UFC fights so far.

The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes airs in the UK every Wednesday at midnight on ESPN

Photos: Getty, Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC


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Interview: Aussie UFC veteran George Sotiropoulos on his new role as team coach in reality tv show The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes
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