In his home town of Canberra, Duke ‘The Duke of Canberra’ Didier faces Mike ‘the Turnernator’ Turner for the Brace light heavyweight belt at Brace 49. The son of Rugby Union legend, Geoff ‘Duke’ Didier, Didier kept in line with his family’s sporting heritage but went down a very different path to his father.
Initially picking up Judo to improve his Rugby skills, Didier was enticed by the beautiful and highly technical art of launching people through the air. This path lead Duke to compete on the world stage and eventually saw him put Judo to one side, transiting over to the sport of MMA; though this transition wasn’t without its challenges.
Amassing a 5-0 professional MMA record since 2011, Didier’s grappling pedigree held him in good stead with 4 of those 5 wins coming via submission. On Saturday, 8 April, Didier’s full martial arts arsenal will be on display, where he will try to take another step forward in his career by capturing Brace gold.
The Neversphere: At Brace 49, you have a shot at the light heavyweight title. How does it feel to have a fight of this magnitude in your home town of Canberra?
Duke: It definitely feels like I have the opportunity to achieve something special in front of everybody who has supported me for so long. I always rise to the occasion when I fight in Canberra and have a great track record here in both my MMA and Judo careers.
The Neversphere: Your father, Geoff, was a huge figure in rugby in the 80s and 90s. I assume, like most kids, you played rugby when you were younger, what sent you down the path of Judo and MMA instead of footy?
Duke: Funnily enough it was actually rugby that helped lead me to Judo. When I was 9 years old I was advised that Judo would a great cross trainer for rugby. After juggling both sports throughout my junior years, I saw more opportunities present themselves in Judo and went down that path. My father was a massive influence to me growing up and supports me in everything that I do.
The Neversphere: What have you been focusing on during your camp for this fight?
Duke: Key focus for this fight has been strength, conditioning and getting out plenty of solid rounds sparring in the gym with high level fighters.
The Neversphere: Turner has a few wins by submission under his belt, what do you think of his skill set?
Duke: Mike Turner is one of the most experienced fighters in the Australian MMA scene and his credentials speak for themselves. A win over him would be a massive step in the right direction and we will find out Saturday who the superior fighter is.
The Neversphere: We spoke to Daniel Kelly recently. When I asked him which young Aussie MMA athletes to watch out for, he brought you up and held your name in high regard. That begs the question, what are your long-term plans for MMA?
Duke: I am so grateful to have someone like Daniel Kelly with me on this journey as he has not only paved the way for Judo players such as myself to successfully transition into MMA but also for Australian MMA fighters to then go on and excel in the UFC.
I am retired from Judo and looking to take MMA as far as I possibly can. I feel like I have 10 good years of fighting in me and would love to one day be able to do my thing on the big show.
The Neversphere: Historically, we saw BJJ surge in popularity as the best base for MMA, then it was argued that wrestling was the best base. Do you think Judo is a good starting point for someone wanting to get into MMA?
Duke: Transitioning from Judo to MMA is very difficult and provides a set of unique challenges that I have had to overcome. However, it also does offer me several excellent advantages in MMA and I truly believe that my years of full time international Judo have given me the ability to take down any fighter in this country.
The Neversphere: Finally, we cover music as well as MMA as the Neversphere. What’s your walkout song going to be for Brace 49, and does it have any special meaning?
Duke: You Give Love a Bad Name by Bon Jovi. This song has been getting pumped up for fights for years and whether it be on the speakers, in my headphones or blaring at the pub, it is by far my favourite song in the whole wide world. I feel like a fighters’ entrance song should reflect their personality and a little bit of classic rock music suits me perfect!
The Neversphere: Any shout outs?
Duke: My coaches: Daniel Kelly and Ben Edwards. The gyms I train at: Resilience Training Centre, Hill Sports Academy and ByDesign Health & Fitness. My sponsors: Monster Sports Nutrition, Geocon, All States Towing, Expired Laser Studio, PacBlue Constructions, Koala Country Contracting, Definitive Plumbing and Gas, Aussie Windscreens, PD Concreting, CMC Fyshwick, Aussie Windscreens, Atlas Brand, Combat Sports Nutrition, Fresh Creative, and Florey Massage Therapy.
And my amazing Mum and Dad.