24-year-old Talor Wetere (Ngāti Haua) is inspiring young men in Whangarei through fighting. But it’s not what you think. The Christian MMA fighter sees benefits in the sport for youth, even though his mother doesn't approve.
"I didn't start off too well. I lost my first three fights in a row," says Talor Wetere.
"Since then I've had 15 fights or so. Won the Shiruken amateur light weight title for NZ."
Today he's ranked fifth in Australia and NZ amateur lightweights and his goal is to go further.
"Go pro and start travelling around and getting the experience in and then obviously from there I want to keep pushing up the ranks. The big goal for me is to get to the top."
However, reaching the top comes at a cost. He travels to Auckland weekly to train alongside experienced fighters.
"The age of the sport, MMA is really young sport, especially to NZ and especially up these ways," says Wetere.
"We were the first MMA gym up here, up North, but I think just in time it will come."
After the establishment of the Lion's Den Ministries gym in Whangarei five years ago, the goal to train closer to home may not be too far away.
"Our faith obviously being Christians, but we don’t do that in a pushy kind of way, we just look at it as a way we live."
While Wetere chases his professional title, he's also fighting mind-sets around the sport.
"My mum has been to almost every one of my fights. Every one she’s been there saying, you shouldn't be doing this, you shouldn't be punching other people, hurting others. She supports me but she doesn't always agree with the things we do in there."