Pro MMA fighter Aaron Tau (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Toro) has had a stellar 2022 inside the cage – undefeated and a big pile of XFC gold.
Other achievements for the fighter from Rāhiri include becoming a champion in both featherweight and bantamweight divisions.
But perhaps one thing was unexpected: the closing of Combat Academy where he started out.
The fight gym in which Tau was given the golden opportunity to learn from gym owner and Ngāti Maniapoto UFC fighter Daniel Hooker was suddenly closed late last year.
“I love that place,” he says. “Combat Academy was my home, I spent most of my day there every single week… I can’t explain what that place means to me.
“It was sad seeing it closed down but it was the beginning of a new chapter. Good things can come from endings sometimes.”
'Kudos to the bro'
It’s the place where Tau set himself a goal to make it to the UFC in five years. In that time, since he won the Dan Hooker scholarship in 2018, he’s gone from student to teacher, to champion.
The gym kept Hooker busy teaching Tau and many others in their respective fight careers.
Hooker was asked for comment about the gym closure but did not reply to queries.
Even with Combat Academy’s closure, Tau says his coach can now make more time for his career and focus more on winning a UFC title in the future.
“Kudos to the bro for making that hard decision.
“I think you’ll see in a year or two how much of a difference that’ll do for his career. The mindset he has now and the amount of energy he can put into his own training is going to make him flourish.”
It has shifted Tau and Combat’s gym-goers to train at City Kickboxing full-time, rubbing shoulders and wrestling with the best more than ever, adding “another layer of culture to City Kickboxing”.