The cold March air of Montreal is literally a world away from the cool summer breeze that is being experienced in Australia as Steve Reeks steps off his plane wearing just a t-shirt and shorts. He has embarked on a trip that some budding mixed martial artists could only dream of taking. The door is open for him to spend two years training in what some describe as the Mecca of mixed martial arts.

For the time being, the Tristar dorms would be home. Every facet of his life would be dedicated to furthering his skills. Mixed martial arts would absorb his life. This was going to be the perfect way to “tick a box,” so to speak. Live. Train. Fight.

Like anything in life, though, you only get out what you put in. Whilst his heart may not have been in it when it came to progressing his career as a mixed martial artist, there was something even more important that Reeks was able to gain out of traveling across the globe.

“When I went over there, I was overweight. I was around 80 kilos, and I wasn’t happy with my life and didn’t really have any direction at all. When I was at Tristar, I didn’t do anything impressive, and as far as martial arts goes, I didn’t exactly achieve anything,” Reeks admitted in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I went to the pro classes and had some private lessons with Kajan Johnson, but besides that, I just got manhandled pretty much the whole time. I wasn’t there with the intentions of developing myself as a martial artist, and, to be honest, I probably looked like just another ‘train UFC’ type of guy.

“What the trip did do for me, though, was it helped me realize what I wanted to do with my life and it gave me the direction I needed. At the time, I thought that I wanted to go back into the police force, but after spending some time overseas I realized I wanted to open my own gym.”

Reeks (Facebook)

Reeks (Facebook)

Starting a new business, especially in a township where there is only a finite amount of people available as potential clients, is no easy feat. Although there may be some perceived difficulties for Reeks with his new venture, he is confident that Art of Combat Cowra will be a success.

“I’m the most passionate man alive,” Reeks exclaimed. “I’ll make sure it works, and we are looking to open up on March 31st. We’ve already got lots of people interested. There are so many people who want to get involved in martial arts and a lot of parents calling about kid’s classes.

“For me, at first, it was more about somewhere for my own training, which was going to turn out to be the most expensive private training facility in history [laughs]. I was first going to open the gym in Canberra. The thing is, I’m a simple kind of guy. I like nature and I love the country lifestyle. That’s one thing I didn’t like about my time in Montreal. I don’t like to party or drink or anything like that. What motivates me is what I can see in my future. I’m looking ahead at what I want in life, and I want to be able to have a successful gym and buy a farm and live a simple life and also get punched in the head every now and again.”

Reeks’ relocation from Canberra to Cowra meant that his training regimen would have to change dramatically. Gone were the coaches and the sparring partners that he was so used to working with at Phoenix Gym. Gone was the comfort zone that he had found himself in. The slate was clean.

“I’m one of those self-trained bums [laughs]. It’s been really good, though. I have been training in this eight meter by three meter space. But with the difference in training, I’ve made some good discoveries about myself,” Reeks revealed. “I haven’t done anything in the way of wrestling because it’s just too dangerous with the setup we have at the moment. With my sparring, I’ve had the toughest guys in town come around and try and bash me, which has been really good. And, surprisingly, the jiu-jitsu has been great as well.

“When I trained in Canberra, we would always focus on strength and conditioning and I would feel really tired after training. This time I haven’t done any strength training and I feel stronger than I ever have before.”

After an almost 18-month layoff, Reeks’ next bout is taking place at Storm Damage 4 on March 22. Reeks is one of the four men in the one-night eliminator for the promotion’s featherweight title, and he fights Richard Kemp-Hay in the tourney’s opening round. Although a title is on the line, it’s not the sole reason that Reeks is donning the gloves again.

“I’m not in this to win a title. I fight because I love the raw emotion that goes with fighting. I don’t exactly have any UFC aspirations or anything like that,” Reeks admitted. “I have a number of fights in my mind that I want to get to in my career, but I’m not gonna stand around and get punched in the head for 500 bucks [to chase the UFC dream]. I feel focused. And, for me, if the fight makes sense with what I want to achieve in my life, then I will take it. I am at a point now where my head is cleared, so I know right away whether a fight is right for me.

“I know that Richard is gonna be a lot stronger than me. He will hit harder, he will ragdoll me in the clinch, and he is a savage guy in there. I also know that he’s going to be throwing a lot and he’s gonna be hitting a lot of air. I’m gonna keep it standing in there, and I am out there to get the knock out. Don’t get me wrong, I think Richard is a really noble guy and I have so much respect for him and his life outside of fighting, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna feel bad about knocking him out and I’m sure he won’t feel bad about doing the same to me either.”

After trading the hustle and bustle of Canberra to return to laid-back country living, Reeks is ready for the next chapter of his career as a fighter, a coach and a business owner. It took a trip around the world for him to work out what he wanted to do with his life, and although he may not have been able to fully experience the lifestyle that up-and-coming professional fighters dream of, he was able to find himself. And for Reeks, it’s much more important to have that “box ticked” any day.

Steve would like to thank Fuji Sports Australia and Anthony Manning from Phoenix Gym. Follow Reeks on Twitter: @SJREEKS

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.