Teens to rep NZ at worlds

Hard yards . . . Getting in some light sparring are Ollie Berry, 17, (left) and Will Knight, 16, who will head off to Scotland for the WKA World Championship in June. PHOTOS: CONNOR HALEY

Two Timaru teens are set to mix it up with the world’s best after being named in the New Zealand MMA and kickboxing squad travelling to Scotland in June.

Will Knight and Ollie Berry, from Knight MMA/Carlson Gracie South Canterbury, were shocked to receive the call informing them of their squad selection, after believing they had not made the cut to represent New Zealand at the 2024 WKA World Championship.

After months and months of silence and realising they had actually completed their trial incorrectly — accidentally making it even harder for themselves — they were informed at the start of the month they they would need to start packing their bags.

The pair will fight within their age groups and weight range, coming up against opponents from all around the world across a five-day period, provided they continue to win their fights.

Will said he was absolutely stoked when he found out that both him and Ollie had made the cut.

‘‘The buildup to getting in the team was a bit nerve-racking, especially after doing the fitness trial wrong. After waiting a while I thought we just weren’t going to hear back or they would say we didn’t make it. To finally get that call was exciting.

‘‘It’ll be our first time travelling further than normal to fight. Normally it’s only a couple hours so it’ll be a really big opportunity for us.’’

He said his goal for the championships was just to go out and have fun. ‘‘I’m not really too bothered about wins or losses. The fact that we get to go overseas and represent our country is awesome. I’m just excited to be a part of it.’’

Fighting fit . . . Fighters Will Knight (left) and Ollie Berry (right) will be joined by their coach Wayne Knight on the trip to Scotland.

Ollie shared a similar sentiment.

‘‘Obviously I’d love to win and I hope I win and I think we can win it but just the opportunity itself is amazing.

‘‘I hope it opens stuff up to us in New Zealand as well and helps us get our names out there.

‘‘It’s been tough but now that it’s happening and we have this opportunity and potentially more to come, it is just amazing.’’

The two fighters will be joined by their coach Wayne Knight, who was named as part of the New Zealand coaching team.

Mr Knight who had trained his son Will on and off since birth and Ollie for a decade said he could not overstate how big of an achievement the callup was.

‘‘This will be the biggest achievement we’ve had for our young ones.

‘‘We’ve had a couple of titles. I’ve won titles and we hold a couple of national titles in ju-jitsu so we do really good as adults. But this is the first time our youth is starting to make waves.

‘‘It’s so exciting, I’m so thrilled.’’

Mr Knight said that for him personally, it was a dream come true to be asked to join the coaching team.

‘‘I’ve lost a bit of skin in this game and for me after winning a South Island title then shifting my focus to coaching and being recognised for that is massive to me.

‘‘Getting the call-up was surreal.’’

Practice makes perfect . . . Ollie Berry covers up as he blocks an incoming hook from Will Knight.

He said he believed it was still only the start for the talented young fighters.

‘‘I would love for these boys to get noticed, it’s a foot in the door now for all my other guys, I’ve definitely got a lot of talent here that I can push forward for the years coming.

‘‘Winning gold at the worlds would be next level but just even going to it and getting this experience is going to be beneficial for them.’’

For the three of them to travel to Scotland, they will need to raise $22,000.

Mr Knight said they were exploring all avenues to ensure the boys got to take the opportunity.

‘‘We’ve set up a Givealittle page, we’ve hit up all the local fundraising places and trusts.

‘‘The input and the support from the community has already been wicked. People are stepping forward and giving us some coin and they really want to see their youth do well.

‘‘We’ll make it happen though, I’m confident we’ll make it happen.’’

Anyone wishing to support Will and Ollie and help them get to Scotland can do so at https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/scotland-world-champs-2024 or by contacting the Knight MMA Facebook page.