Former Cashmere High School student and mixed martial arts fighter Fergus Jenkins has shot to fame after winning the amateur world middleweight championship. Emily Moorhouse reports
Fergus Jenkins has a few days left in his Christchurch MIQ room and to pass the time has taken up an old sport from his past, only it’s a bit less violent – chess.
The 21-year-old who gained a title in his first major tournament has recently returned home from the world mixed martial arts championships in Abu Dhabi.
Jenkins got into chess as a kid and was a member of Cashmere High School’s chess team, enjoying the competitive and strategic aspects of the game. He even compared it to getting in the cage for a fight.
“To a casual spectator they might just look at the sport [MMA] as two guys going in there and having a brawl, but for me I guess it’s a chess match,” he said. “It’s about tactics and strategy.”
Jenkins competed in five fights over six days to win the middleweight title, saying the whole experience was pretty surreal and something he’d always dreamed of achieving.
“It was a crazy turn of events over in Abu Dhabi, so it was a lot to take in,” he said. “It’s been good to have the MIQ, I guess, it’s been a bit of a blessing in disguise to have some downtime just to process it.”
Jenkins said while the sport was violent, it wasn’t about hurting people, rather it was about the techniques and hard work behind the scenes.
He said he likes the discipline that comes with training and constantly having a goal to work towards, as well as the buzz of getting in the cage to compete.
“The rush of the fight itself is something that definitely sticks with you,” he said. “There’s nothing really like it that I’ve experienced.”
Jenkins wrestled with his friends growing up, but it wasn’t until he was 15 that he joined a gym and competed in some grappling competitions, before moving to Canterbury Fight Center gym and having his first MMA fight.
Hayden Beaumont was Jenkins’ head of school during his time at Cashmere High (2014-2018) and said Jenkins persevered in everything he did.
“He’s always been perseverant and committed if he wants to achieve something and puts his mind to it,” Beaumont said. “He certainly demonstrated that during his time at our school.”
He described Jenkins as having a “small but strong” circle of friends and said he was an initial member of the pilot classes when the school was trialling students’ bringing their own devices.
“He’s always been someone that’s keen to get involved and try something new,” he said. “When he finds something, he really goes hard hence his success in MMA, I suppose.”
Beaumont first heard of Jenkins’ success on Facebook.
“We’re really proud to see our students thriving in the community, whatever they do and for Fergus that’s obviously with his sport,” he said. “The school is really proud of him and really celebrates the success that he’s had.”
Looking back at Abu Dhabi, Jenkins said it was a “rollercoaster” of emotions and definitely took it toll mentally and physically, yet admitted he had exceeded his own expectations.
“A few of the matches I kind of surprised myself a bit,” he said.
When Jenkins completes his time in MIQ he looks forward to catching up with his mates over a few drinks, something he’s had to sacrifice while training.
Looking ahead, Jenkins will have a few weeks off from booked fights, while still keeping up with his training. He intends to get back into competing in April or May.