Garreth McLellan

Professional MMA fighter

Garreth McLellan’s professional sporting career started at 19 when he played flank for the Crusaders Rugby Club in Durban. In 2007, the Natal Rugby Union selected him for a programme that included the promise of a Natal Sharks Rugby contract.

It was during his time there that he worked closely with the Sharks’ fitness coach and started using mixed martial arts (MMA) as a form of training. While waiting for the union to finalise his contract, he agreed to an amateur fight and was hooked, eventually completing his amateur career with an undefeated 10-0 record.

Turning professional in 2008, McLellan’ has gone from strength to strength in the sport and says rugby’s loss is MMA’s gain. His nickname, Soldierboy, was given to him by his training partners as a bit of a joke.

The “soldier” represents his training and approach to fighting while “boy” reflects his fun, jovial side. And Soldierboy is one of the biggest names in the Extreme Fighting Championships.

“Everything happens for a reason and God has a plan for me and wants me to be here. While I still have a passion for rugby, I really love MMA and that has pushed me hard to help get the sport recognised by the broader public,” he says.

He says that MMA has changed for the better in recent years.

“All the people involved have worked really hard to give it the coverage it deserves. It is starting to be right up there with mainstream sport and attracting a lot of children from school. But there is still work to be done in terms of perceptions. And while it is an aggressive contact sport, a lot of hard work goes into it from a fighter’s perspective, both physically and mentally,” he adds.

For him, it is all about not letting anybody ever tell you that you cannot do something.

“It is all about the hard work. If you dream it and want it enough, it will happen. But you have to want it badly enough.” — Iwan Pienaar