UFC fighter Young embraces Māori culture

By Tamati Tiananga

UFC fighter Shane Young says having a Māori language and cultural mentor in the lead up to his fight in Melbourne next month has helped with preparations.  

"I'm just another iteration of a young Māori that would've been here three hundred years ago, but I'm here now fighting in the UFC," says Young  

In his victory in June of last year, with a second-round TKO over Filipino Rolando Dy, he displayed the Tino Rangatiratanga flag.  

The 24-year-old Napier-born featherweight also proudly opened his post-fight victory interview after the Dy fight in Te Reo Māori. 

Young has since connected with Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo Graduate, Te Wananga o Aotearoa Reo Māori Tutor Mataia Keepa to learn whaikōrero. He says he first noticed Keepa's knowledge in Te Ao Māori when he started to follow Keepa on social media.   

"Sometimes I watch Israel [Adesanya] and I feel like a little kid, comparing him to Muhammad Ali. Anyone who gives me that feeling I follow and I had the same feeling watching him [Mataia Keepa] explaining whaikōrero and the way he's doing it. I want to sit at his feet and learn"

He has also teamed up with Māori Movement founder Bezz Ngarino Te Waati to learn mau rakau.  

"I think those are athletic movements and it gives me this new found understanding for how deep our understanding was for Māori" 

Personal issues led Young to want time off from his UFC commitments.  But the fighter says he is back on track now and is ready for what's ahead. 

"Just saying it out loud took away the stigma, I think I have depression. I remember the first time I said it." 

Since making his UFC debut in 2017 the City Kickboxing fighter has had one win and one loss, now he makes a return to UFC 234 in February against Austin Arnett.

Young leaves for Melbourne in three weeks' time, a week ahead of his fight at UFC 234 on February 10th at Laver Arena, Melbourne.