Two Mildura Martial Arts athletes have their sights set on potential Australian Kudo titles in the coming months. Brad Harrop, left, is one win away from the final in his division, while John Loughhead has a title fight on his hands in Port Macquarie in August. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By MITCH RODD

JOHN Loughhead feels blessed to have the opportunity to claim an Australian Kudo title.

The 19-year-old Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) athlete impressed on his in-ring debut in Adelaide, and now he has a national title fight lined up against the experienced Benny Thompson.

The fight was initially scheduled for the Victorian Kudo Open on Sunday, May 6. Rescheduling, however, has been made following a recent investment in Chinese martial art Sanda in Australia. The Australian bodies of both disciplines are set to work together over the coming years and as a result, will host a combined event at Port Macquarie in NSW in mid to late August. It is set to be an even bigger crowd than expected to see John potentially become Australia’s number one in his division.

It has been a steep learning curve for the grappling rising star, one of a number of fighters training under Mick Moloney at Mildura Martial Arts who have made their in-ring debut over the past 12 months.

Kudo as a competitive sport combines elements of stand-up fighting and grappling, with all competitors wearing a traditional ‘gi’ and a plexiglass mask.

John admitted he was up against the odds against the more experienced Thompson, but he is confident of his chances if the fight goes to the floor.

“He (Thompson) has had 36 Muay Thai fights, I’ve had one amateur MMA fight,” the teenager said.

“The odds are not in my favour but I know if I can tune everything out, the opportunity (to win) is real.

“While he’s an experienced stand up fighter, he doesn’t have any MMA experience, so I’ll be planning on taking him to the ground.”

Kudo divisions are based on a physical index combining an athlete’s height and weight. John is in the Under 250 PI division.

Benny Thompson’s brother, Charlie, will face Mildura’s Brad Harrop, who was profiled recently by the Mildura Weekly, in the Under 260 PI division on the same day, with the winner to go on to the Australian title fight in their class.

An Australian title for John would give him an automatic qualification to the World Kudo Championships in Japan later this year to represent his country. Winning a world title would also win an athlete $10,000.

“I feel blessed to have been given this opportunity after just the one fight,” John said. “It would be a huge honour to represent Australia if I got the chance.”

John won his amateur MMA debut at Diamondback Fighting Championship (DFC) 5 in Adelaide in March. The victory came via doctor stoppage against Cameron Sinclair after John nailed a Superman punch late in the bout.

“It was exhilarating (being in the ring),” he said. “It’s actually quite hard to put into words what the feeling was like. It felt really good to step up and show what I have got to offer.

“I was more nervous in the lead-up. You have to be able to turn off your thinking and you have to be mentally prepared because if you’re not, that’s when your opponent gets on top.

“I had a plan to try and take him down to the mat. When the fight started he tried to take me down, which I was a bit taken back by.

“It was pretty awesome to land a big shot like that. I can remember segments of the fight, but the fight as a whole is a bit of a blur. It’s why you train so hard so it all becomes natural and you don’t have to over think.

“I have to thank Mick and everyone at Mildura Martial Arts for their training and support of me.”