With the very first GAMMA Oceania Championships rapidly approaching, many athletes are busy training for their first opportunity to compete at an international tournament close to home.

For Australian Harrison (Harry) Smith, having a continental competition in Oceania is a massive opportunity for him. “There aren’t many big tournament-style formats on this side of the world so it is a big opportunity for me to show I am one of the best amateur fighters in the country and the region, and it will be great to give some new and younger talent the platform to showcase their skills.”

Combat sports and entertainment have been a constant part of Smith’s life, “I started watching MMA long before I started training. I believe the first event I ever watched was UFC 108 Lyoto Machida vs Rashad Evans. I remember looking up to WWE wrestlers growing up. Rey Mysterio and John Cena were my guys.” It wasn’t long before the man from Sydney started to train to emulate some of his idols, and his career began with Taekwondo at the age of 17. “I won a World Championship at blue belt level in continuous sparring at ISKA and knew I wanted to pursue MMA following that.”

The young man has already had a taste of success at a GAMMA event when he finished third in the GAMMA Asian-Pacific Championships last year in Thailand. “I think the experience I gained from competing in those championships will be a big advantage for me. I know what to expect coming into this one and all of my training has been focused on MMA wrestling and Brazilian jiu jitsu which I hope will help me be successful in Auckland next month.”

Asked what drives him to compete, Smith highlighted the impact of the mind. “I fight because I am scared, and I want to conquer my mind and be the most relaxed in the heat of the battle. When you are calm and collected you just flow and feel very present. I try and separate the idea of a physical altercation and a competitive match, and I am always calm walking out to the ring. I also love the discipline, lifestyle, and principles you learn from training martial arts which relates back to everyday life.”

Despite dedicating much of his free time to training, Smith also enjoys his life outside of the ring, citing one of his main hobbies as gaming. Perhaps one day we many see him compete in e-sports. Right now, his focus is on attempting to become the continental champion. “I’m expecting a packed-out venue with a great production, a highly skilled team of officials and great athletes, and of course I’m expecting a gold medal as well.”

With a big contingent of Australians expected to travel to New Zealand, the famous sporting rivalry between the two neighbours is set for another chapter, “I personally think Australia and New Zealand will top the medals table and put on some great performances. In terms of MMA, I think both nations are very supportive of each other. It’s kind of different to rugby and cricket in that aspect, but for sure there will still be some great rivalries,”

Leaving the rivalries aside, MMA in Oceania is on an upward trajectory now, “I think it’s massive for the sport to have this event. I think MMA will soon become very mainstream in this region and the talent we’re producing is incredible and shows you we don’t need to be in the USA to make it in this sport.”

Looking beyond the Championships next month, Smith, like several young MMA athletes, has clear goals for what he wants from this sport and the opportunity he has. “My goals for 2023 and beyond are to stay active and just soak up as much knowledge and experience as I can until I can turn professional. My wildest dream is to be able to support myself financially doing what I love and to test myself against the best fighters in the world. I’m also aware that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you will lose at some point. Whether it’s in the training gym or in the ring, it is important to focus on being the best version of yourself and embracing the journey, and most importantly keep practicing.” Sound advice for the next generation.