Keanu Wilson seems even less afraid of dreaming big as he does stepping into the ring after sharing his ambition of reaching the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
He might have only been fighting for three years — with four kickboxing and two boxing bouts under his belt — but Wilson exudes a self-belief and youthful confidence that makes his UFC aspirations seem grounded in reality.
The 21-year-old is well aware that he is still at the start of his fighting journey, but believes his insatiable appetite for hard work will ensure he extracts every ounce of his potential.
“I’m really pushing for the UFC and I want to do MMA [Mixed Martial Arts] fights,” Wilson, of the Bermuda Sanshou Association, said.
“This is the perfect start as the type of fighting [the BSA] do is Chinese kickboxing and we do takedowns as well, which really plays into what I want to go into.
“I’m not actually sure how I go about getting to the UFC, but I’m trying to find some grappling camps so I can learn the ground game and pool that into my knowledge.
“I beat up on myself when it comes to training and until I feel good about something I won’t try it [competitively]. Once I feel my ground game is all right then I’ll start trying to find some MMA fights.”
Wilson prides himself on being active and has not missed a local fight night for the past two years. Next weekend he steps between the ropes against Nigerian Hassan Oseni, of Southside Muay Thai in Ontario, in a kickboxing contest at the Fairmont Southampton.
Oseni, 25, is undefeated in five bouts, but Wilson has seen nothing in his opponent’s footage to give him sleepless nights.
“I’ve seen a couple of his fights but you can’t really go off somebody’s previous fight,” Wilson said.
“I don’t expect him to bring the same as the fight before and expect him to adapt, especially if he’s seen any of my fights.”
The former CedarBridge Academy pupil has always loved to fight — his natural propensity with his fists sometimes getting him in trouble at school.
He was introduced to kickboxing by Zain Philpott — another BSA fighter in action next weekend — and has spent the past three years as a student of the sport under the tutelage of Garon Wilkinson, the BSA president, and the island’s top fighter Jermal “Goofy” Woolridge.
“I’ve always enjoyed fighting and thought to myself, ‘I can’t get in trouble fighting in the ring — everyone has signed the paper!’
“I’ve had a really good camp with the other guys and we bang down here. Training with ‘Goofy’ is great as he lets you know what you’re doing wrong. If you’re not quick with your reflexes he will catch you with a slap real fast!”
Wilson made his overseas debut at the Pan American Wushu Championships in Lubbock, Texas, last summer, winning a silver medal after beating Tommy Rios, of the United States, before losing to experienced Brazilian Daniel Dionisio.
“I enjoy fighting people from different parts of the world,” said Wilson, who will compete in a tournament in Barbados in April. “In Texas I lost to a Brazilian guy, but I gave him a heck of a fricking fight!”
Wilkinson, the BSA president, believes the “sky’s the limit” for Wilson and described him as a sponge in the way he absorbs knowledge.
“Keanu soaks everything in and works extremely hard,” Wilkinson said. “When you shout out a command from the corner he literally does it immediately. We have a lot of hope for Keanu and I think it will be hard for him to lose.”
It promises to be a busy night for Wilkinson who has five other fighters — Samir Furqan, Cyril Whitter, Mark Prior, Philpott and Krista Dyer — on the undercard of Nikki Bascome’s six-round professional welterweight bout against Iwan “Pure Gold” Azore next Saturday.
“On a local fight card, I think six fighters is the most we’ve had,” he added. “It’s going to be a big year for us with the World Wushu Championships in Kazan, Russia, and it will be interesting to see how the likes of Keanu get on.”