If Mike Wilkinson had fulfilled his initial sporting ambition, he may have been playing in a rugby league play-off gamesS.
But instead, the former Leigh Centurions reserve-grader was continuing his preparations for his long-awaited return to the octagon next month.
The 26-year-old only took up mixed martial arts after watching UFC on TV, soon after he had quit rugby league for wrestling.
And now, he is aiming to make strides in the global UFC with his third fight in the elite competition.
Wilkinson, from Billinge, will mark his comeback from injury when he takes on Swedish fighter Niklas Backstrom in Stockholm on October 4.
It all marks a long way from his days playing for his hometown club. “Obviously growing up in round here I played rugby league from a young age,” he said.
“I played for Easts and Miners, I had a scholarship at Salford and then I signed at Leigh and played for their Under-18s and 21s.
“Then I got involved in wrestling while I was working as a joiner, and I still had that desire to do something.
“Then one day I saw UFC on TV and I thought, ‘I could do that’.
“So I’ve only been in the sport for five and a half years, and I only stared wrestling at 20 or 21, which is no time really.
“UFC is the place to be - it’s like the Premier League of MMA.”
Wilkinson lost his last UFC fight, a disappointment which was amplified by a year-long injury setback.
Little wonder he can not wait for next month’s fight, 16 months after being submitted by Rony Jason.
“I was scheduled to fight in Manchester last October, but I had a hamstring injury,” said Wilkinson, who trains at ASW in Atherton. “I also had a wrist injury which I had dismissed, so I had it checked at the same time and it turned out I needed surgery.
“It was the lowest point of my life, because I was hungry to get back out there and prove a point. But it has made me a better person and a better fighter.”
“I’ve got no doubt that I will be in the UFC and make a living off it, and hopefully follow the likes of Ross Pearson and Mike Bisping to the top,” he added. “I do believe I can be a world champion.”
one day, but it’s about climbing the ladder and hopefully this fight will help me do that.”
Tickets for the fight are available from UFC.com.