Steel-capped work boots drag across the concrete floor at a lethargic pace. The sun hasn’t quite risen yet, and it already feels as though a 12-hour work day has already come to an end, long before it has even started.

Rise and grind, as it’s said.

Gladstone, in the state of Queensland, Australia, is one of the many towns around the country that has seen significant growth as a result of the mining industry. People flock to these areas in search big money. It’s a hard lifestyle. It’s not quite a life of luxury, though the money earned could certainly pay for it. It’s a matter of (really) hard work reaping big rewards.

Jai Bradney started riding this wave over three years ago.

“I have been working in the mining industry since December 2010,” Bradney explained to The MMA Corner. “I was living in Gladstone and pretty much training myself. After the loss to Adrian Pang, I realized I was way out of my depth fighting guys like him with anything other than 100 percent commitment and a proper training roster and training partners. I have not trained like I am for this fight since probably 2009 when the old Five Rings [Dojo] was top to bottom with hungry fighters. It would be easy to be a bit nervous, even concerned of another loss, but that will not get me the win. I am just digging real deep in the gym and doing everything I can to be at 100 percent for this fight.”

When a person has been doing something for a prolonged period, there may come a time when they lose their passion in their field. Bradney is no different. After multiple setbacks, he put his fight career on hold. Call it an unofficial retirement.

“I guess losing on shitty terms means I got some unanswered questions,” Bradney admitted. “Not performing to what I know is the best of my ability and feeling I still got a lot to prove keeps me hungry. Robert Lisita helped me with a camp a while back, and we spoke about how long I was working and how it was impossible to be at a top level working 60-plus hours a week and living in the middle of fuck knows where. Watching his career skyrocket and remembering our talks has inspired me and ignited the fire, so to speak.

“Adrian Pang and Wes Capper—if you don’t know those names in Australian combat sports, you don’t know a lot at all. Those guys blasted through me. My respect for those guys, in and out of fighting, really is immense and I am a massive fan of both. To anyone else who beat me in that period, well, you beat an undercooked bloke who just loves to fight simple as that.”

For Bradney, who has been fighting on the Australian MMA circuit since 2007, there have been a lot of changes over the course of his almost seven-year tenure as a fighter. The sport has boomed not only in Australia, but all over the world. However, Bradney still looks back at how things were and is able to appreciate the friendships and experiences that competing as a mixed martial artist has given him.

“Metal Mulisha was to motocross what Tapout was to MMA,” he said. “Back in the day, it was just literally a handful of gyms in Australia. With local promotions, it was not making anyone a lot of money, that’s for sure. I looked up to guys like Api Hemara, Adrian Pang, Tony Green, Dan Higgins, Sam Nest, Rob Kimberley. Even Mat Teepa was a beast, and my brother and great friend, Jason ‘Wild Child,’ was the slickest cat of them all back then.

“Those guys and the friendships we were building—Api Hemara, Rob Kimberley, Jacob Sidic, Jason Wild and Hector Lombard—those were the first guys I trained with, so I was at the bottom of the pecking order. Every day was exciting, and there was always something to be learned.”

In order for Bradney to rejuvenate his passion for fighting, a change in lifestyle was desperately needed. Like most fighters who compete in Australia, Bradney couldn’t support himself and his family on a fight career alone. He was realistic with how much time and effort he could put into the sport and grow as a fighter. In his own eyes, working full-time was a detriment to his career.

“I’ve been mining since December 2010, and it fucking killed my soul,” Bradney revealed. “It killed my MMA game. It was turning me into a cranky old man. I had to walk away. We just welcomed our second child into the world, and my partner is German blood, so we are here [in Germany] to visit family, to show our eldest son some of his heritage and also to get this ‘Toothfairy’ back on the podium.

“It has been amazing. I am very lucky to have the support from my partner’s family, my partner, some amazing sponsors, and the crew at Köln [Cologne] Combat Club are fucking killing me [laughs]. I have definitely gotta psyche myself up on the way to gym every day because there is no guessing what is coming.”

Embarking on a journey to a new country and trying to replicate training from years gone by wasn’t going to be the easiest of tasks for Bradney. However, he was lucky enough to find a team where he could not only push himself to renew his focus and energy, but where he could also find something special.

“I have found a home away from home here,” Bradney exclaimed. “Combat Club Köln [Cologne] is on a level I never witnessed in my life. I have been made to feel part of the family from day one. And I’ve been bashed up, bullied and bruised, but all for the greater good. These guys have wrestled since they were three, four and five years old, and the submission grappling is crazy. It’s a catch-wrestling style, just immense pressure and a pace I never been amongst before.”

Bradney makes his return to action on July 26 at Roshambo 3, where he faces Alex Volkanovski for the promotion’s lightweight title. This will be the first time that Volkanovski, who also holds the promotion’s welterweight strap, defends his lightweight title. Volkanovski is highly touted as one of the best up-and-coming fighters in Australia, and he was also recently awarded with a scholarship to attend Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket, Thailand.

“Alex Volkanovski seems to be impressing a lot of people,” Bradney said. “There was a time a while back where I was one of the top prospects in Australia. I want to show the people, my supportive partner, my family, my children and myself that time has not passed, not by a long shot.”

Bradney is heading into the bout sporting back-to-back losses. With that in mind, he isn’t letting what has happened in his past fights affect what will be his return to action after over a year off from professional competition.

“I could put a lot of pressure on myself and say this fight is a win-or-die fight,” Bradney admitted. “But aren’t they all? I can’t get too far ahead of myself. We are still 11 weeks out and I got a lot of things I am working on. You won’t see the same old ‘Toothy’ come July 26, I know that much.

“I think I am gonna have to fight on a few different levels. I can’t get into it too much, but I’ll tell you now, I doubt my opponent is sparring and drilling as hard as I am. You’ll see the best Toothfairy 2.0, I’ll go as far as saying, you have ever seen.

For the time being, hard work now only lives inside the gym. A life driven by making money and living through exhausting, long days is all but in the past for Bradney. The lucrative money that comes from working on Australia’s economic forefront is had at a price. Whilst he may make his return to the sector in the future, it’s not a price that Bradney is willing to pay at this stage in his life. Fighting professionally may not pay the bills the same way that his previous job did, but there is nothing quite like putting on a show and fighting your heart out in front of thousands of fans. It’s a feeling that mining money just can’t buy.

Jai would like to thank his sponsors: Punish Fight Gear, Syn Tec Sports Nutrition, Fight Web, Integrity Tiling, Evan Byrne at Trade Mechanical, Dean Phelps at Fighting Fit Physiotherapy and Stone & Universal ink. He would also like to thank Combat Club Köln, as well as his loyal supporters, to whom he says, “You know I love putting on a show, but without you guys there would be no show. I hope you are loud and proud on July 26. I want this Alex to know he is in enemy territory.” Most of all, he would like to thank his partner for being more than supportive, an absolute rock and a solid human being and being the only reason he has not retired (again). Follow Bradney and Combat Club Cologne Köln on Facebook.