New Zealand’s Fergus Jenkins was a part of the most spine-tingling moment of the 2021 IMMAF World Championships. Now he hopes to relive the moment with a repeat showing at the 2022 tournament.

Jenkins ran the table in Abu Dhabi to take middleweight gold in the 2021 IMMAF World Championships, but perhaps even more memorable than his title-winning performance was his walk to the cage.

Jenkins made his way down the ramp before stopping and turning his back to the cage, instead facing the stage. His New Zealand teammates then proceeded to walk onto the stage and perform the Haka, the world-famous ceremonial Maori war dance commonly associated with the nation’s rugby union team, the All Blacks, who perform it before every international match.

It was an unforgettable moment as a young contender faced the Haka, then stepped into the cage and captured the world title. It was a moment that will live with him forever.

It’s massive. It’s definitely the most surreal experience of my life,” he said during media day in Belgrade.

“I remember standing there thinking, ‘How did I end up in this situation? What life choices have I made?’ You start questioning stuff! It just doesn’t feel like real life seeing that in front of you and the energy that they’re giving you, it’s something special. It was definitely surreal.

“It’s hard, because the biggest thing I can take from that is to just use their energy and allow that to fuel me, because you don’t want to be distracted by the spectacle.

“You know that what really wins you the fights is the strategy and the focus on performing all the skills that you’ve been training, and just allowing yourself to trust that and let that elevate your game. So I definitely didn’t want to get too wrapped up in emotions and in the spectacle of the event, but I wanted to use that energy to propel me.”

He succeeded in doing exactly that in Abu Dhabi as he defeated Iusup Magomedov via split decision to take gold. Now he arrives at the IMMAF World Championships not as a contender, but as a defending champion. It’s a different vibe for the Kiwi, but one he’s looking forward to experiencing.

“It definitely feels different this time, but I don’t know if it’s because I’m the champion per se,” he said.

“I would say the biggest thing is (at) the last one, it didn’t feel like I had a huge build-up to that event. I wasn’t toying with the idea for a long time and it just sort of fell on me to go and compete in the last World Championship in Abu Dhabi.

“But this time has been basically a year’s build-up. I’ve been preparing with this in mind for the last year, so it’s definitely got a lot more anticipation this time.

“In terms of me factoring in being the champion last time, I try not to think too much about that sort of stuff. I understand that what’s going to allow me to win again is by training hard and focusing all my efforts towards improving, so that’s been my main focus.”

With targeted preparation and a longer run-up to the tournament itself, Jenkins said he hopes to go all the way to the title again. And, if he does, that may well mean we all get to see the Haka return to the IMMAF World Championships once again.

“I’m looking forward to it this time,” he said, with a smile.

“I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, but if I get through those first four fights and get to the finals, that it will be amazing to repeat that experience.

“That was just such a surreal, amazing moment. So I desperately want that again.”