UFC 231 São Paulo: How Doncaster’s Marc Diakiese turned his life around thanks to MMA

Doncaster UFC star Marc Diakiese's glistening career takes him to São Paulo, Brazil for his next fight this weekend.
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But life could have been so much different for the MMA fighter, who moved to Doncaster from Congo in 2005 aged 12 without being able to speak English.

"We didn’t have much to do,” the 30-year-old, who lived in Wheatley, says of life in Doncaster.

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"Danum School (now Outwood Academy Danum), I was there for a bit. People tried to bully me when I came from Africa, I didn’t take it well so I started fighting a lot in school.

Marc Diakiese pictured fighting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images).Marc Diakiese pictured fighting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images).
Marc Diakiese pictured fighting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images).

"That followed after school, I was getting arrested a lot.

"I knew what I was capable of, I was like ‘you can’t keep getting arrested like this’.”

Diakiese was a talented junior football player who played for Leeds United’s academy.

But finding a means to travel to West Yorkshire for training proved difficult before a broken leg put an end to his time with the Whites, he says.

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He tried to join Doncaster Rovers, only to suffer a broken ankle which ended his fledgling football career.

Aged 18 Diakiese visited the Doncaster Martial Arts Centre for the first time.

That decision, as well as some early encouragement from his coaches to stick with martial arts, would change his life.

These days Diakiese competes in dream destinations all over the world under the banner of the largest MMA promotion in the world, the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).

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Could he ever have imagined what would come next when he walked through the doors of the city centre gym?

"That wasn’t the plan,” Diakiese admits from his São Paulo hotel room.

"It was enjoyment, that’s why I tried it, and it’s taken me this far. I went 9-0 as an amateur and had three British titles, then I couldn’t get any more fights.”

"I went pro and I was just fighting top names, a lot of undefeated guys.”

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By his own admission, Diakiese, who competes at lightweight, wasn’t a fashionable name in MMA.

He fought on fringe promotional shows before earning a life-changing move to the UFC seven years ago.

"Life is good, I can’t complain. I’m doing what I love,” he says.

MMA is one of the world’s fastest-growing sports and Diakiese’s UFC career has seen him fight in Las Vegas, Florida, Abu Dhabi and at London’s O2 Arena.

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He now lives in Castleford but spends most of his time in Doncaster, where he owns a gym catering for combat sports in Adwick le Street.

"Life in Doncaster, it was tough. We got ourselves into a lot of trouble. Now, it’s more dangerous,” he adds.

"That’s the only reason I relocated, there’s nothing to do. When I was growing up we had youth clubs.

“Now, it’s all postcodes in Doncaster. Everything has changed. It’s nice to know I didn’t get myself too deep into that life and got myself out.

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"But I can’t change that place, I love it as it is. That’s the reason the gym is there, I have a lot of lads coming through and they look up to me.

"It’s great to see them doing something with their lives instead of being on the street.

"Without MMA, I don’t know what I would be doing right now.”

Marc Diakiese takes on Kaue Fernandes at UFC Fight Night: Almeida vs. Lewis on November 4th live on TNT Sports.

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