AstroBoy might not be a familiar name outside of the MMA world, but for avid followers of the sport, this is the nickname that Australian star Stephen Erceg goes by. Whilst several of his fellow countrymen and women were competing at the GAMMA Oceania Championships in Auckland last weekend, the man from Perth received a late call-up to make a long trip from Australia to Vancouver, Canada to compete at the UFC289 event against the world number ten ranked David Dvorak in the flyweight competition.
The event may be remembered as the night that the female star Amanda Nunes announced her retirement from the sport, but that will take nothing away from the amazing achievement of Erceg defeating the Czech man by unanimous decision on his UFC debut and leapfrogging him in the rankings to occupy 14th place at the end of the night.
Erceg started training back in 2012 when he was 16 years old and rose through the rankings in Australia winning national titles in wrestling and Muay Thai. When the opportunity presented itself at the GAMMA 2019 World Championships in Singapore, Erceg donned the Australian gear and battled his way to a silver medal in the 61.2kg category, eventually being beaten by Ukraine’s Denys Bondar in the final.
With Australia winning four gold medals in the men’s competition and one in the women’s competition at the 2023 GAMMA Oceania Championships, the future looks bright for those looking to reach for the stars and follow in the astronomical footsteps of Erceg.