Mixed martial arts… and chess | Star News
Cashmere High School alumnus and mixed martial arts fighter Fergus Jenkins shot to fame after winning the World Amateur Middleweight Championship. Emilie Moorhouse reports
Fergus Jenkins still has a few days left in his room at the MIQ in Christchurch and to pass the time, he has taken up an old sport from his past, but a little less violent: chess.
The 21-year-old who won a title in his first major tournament recently returned home after the World Mixed Martial Arts Championships in Abu Dhabi.
Jenkins discovered chess as a child and was a member of the Cashmere High School chess team, enjoying the competitive and strategic aspects of the game. He even likened it to stepping into the cage for a fight.
“For a casual viewer, they might just watch the sport [MMA] like two guys going there and fighting, but to me, I guess it’s a chess match,” he said. “It’s a matter of 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 had always dreamed of achieving.
“It was a crazy turn of events in Abu Dhabi, so it was a lot to take in,” he said. “It’s been nice having the MIQ I guess, it’s been a bit of a blessing in disguise to have some downtime just to process it.”
Jenkins said that while the sport was violent, it wasn’t about hurting people, but rather about techniques and hard work behind the scenes.
He said he loves the discipline that comes with training and constantly having a goal to work towards, as well as the buzz of stepping into the cage to compete.
“The rush of the fight itself is something that definitely sticks with you,” he said. “There’s nothing really comparable to what I’ve been through.”
Jenkins wrestled with his friends growing up, but it wasn’t until the age of 15 that he joined a gym and competed in grappling, before moving to the Canterbury Fight Center gymnasium and having his first MMA fight.
Hayden Beaumont was Jenkins’ school principal during his time at Cashmere High (2014-2018) and said Jenkins persevered in everything he did.
“He’s always been persistent and committed if he wants to accomplish something and gets on with 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 early member of the pilot classes when the school was testing students bringing their own devices.
“He was always someone who was keen to get involved and try something new,” he said. “When he finds something he goes really hard hence his success in MMA I guess.”
Beaumont first heard of Jenkins’ success on Facebook.
“We’re really proud to see our students thrive in the community, whatever they do and for Fergus obviously that’s with his sport,” he said. “The school is really proud of him and really celebrating the success he’s had.”
Looking back on Abu Dhabi, Jenkins said it was a “roller coaster” of emotions and definitely took a toll mentally and physically, while admitting he exceeded his own expectations.
“Some of the matches I surprised myself a bit,” he said.
When Jenkins finishes his time at MIQ, he looks forward to reuniting with his friends over a few drinks, something he had to sacrifice during practice.
Looking ahead, Jenkins will have a few weeks off from scheduled fights, while continuing to train. He intends to return to competition in April or May.