Dillian Whyte needed just 12 seconds to make an explosive arrival in the MMA world

"With those gloves on, anyone I hit, I know they are going to go to sleep"

Dillian Whyte
Image: Dillian Whyte competed in mixed martial arts before targeting world titles

Dillian Whyte let out a triumphant roar after his opponent crashed to the canvas, only this time it was inside a cage.

Britain's heavyweight contender is within touching distance of a world title fight, the biggest prize in boxing, but back then, a 19-year-old Whyte just wanted to channel his aggression into another form of combat sport.

"It was just maximum violence, I loved it," Whyte told Sky Sports. "I've fought Thai Boxing rules, K1 rules. We just fought any styles, anything.

"It was just something different, a different challenge for me."

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Dillian Whyte against Alexander Povetkin is set to be held behind closed doors

Whyte had welcomed an invite to unleash his raw strength and power in the punishing environment of UKMMA, a reincarnation of the UK's original, pioneering MMA organisation, 'Cage Rage'. The teenager would be pitted against fighters with vast experience in Jiu Jitsu and wrestling. Men who would attempt to choke him into an unconscious state or incapacitate one of his limbs. Whyte did not care.

He already knew that a fight could be quickly ended by his concussive fists or feet, having gained experience in kickboxing. But Whyte then spent weeks at London Shootfighters, a famed training base for mixed martial arts in London, as he methodically worked on grappling and wrestling to prepare for an energy-sapping encounter.

"I spent a lot of time working on takedown defence, because a lot of good strikers in the history of MMA, they had a good takedown defence. They didn't need to go to the ground, like Chuck Liddell.

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Chuck 'The Ice Man' Liddell
Image: Chuck 'The Ice Man' Liddell earned a reputation as a destructive puncher

"He didn't go to the ground for years. Anyone who tried to take him down, he just kept it moving, just defend and then finish the fight with striking, because in MMA, if you've got good accurate striking, it gives you a massive advantage."

Mark Stroud, an experienced Jiu Jitsu fighter, was expected to provide a stern examination of Whyte's new-found skills in December 2008 at The Troxy in East London.

Only 12 seconds were needed for Whyte to signal his explosive arrival.

"We were expecting this guy to take the fight to the ground and then the bell goes and the guy comes out standing and trading, so I was like, oh s***, this is good."

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I want a problem. #maximumviolence #tbs

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Stroud marched across the cage to immediately trade punches with Whyte, who eased onto his back foot to find room for his right hand. A leg kick was blocked by the Brixton fighter and he countered with a straight right hand that sent Stroud crumpling to the canvas. One more swift, hurtful right hand was required by Whyte to leave his opponent defenceless and the referee quickly waved it off.

Stroud's aggressive tactics had appeared foolhardy, but Whyte offered his own insight into this seemingly reckless approach.

"Obviously it's a small circuit and he heard that I was at London Shootfighters, so he was thinking, 'oh, okay, he's obviously working a lot and expecting me to take him down, so I'll try and change it up and try and strike with him'.

"It's a good plan, if you're expecting somebody to be a grappler, and they come out striking. They're confused about why you're not taking them to the mat, but, little did he know that I might have been young at the time, but I was still punching hard back then."

Whyte's knuckles were only shielded by four ounce gloves, far less cushioning than the 10 ounce equivalent in boxing, and he immediately felt the difference.

I used to go to spar and knock a heavyweight down with just a jab.
Dillian Whyte

"With those gloves on, anyone I hit, I know they are going to go to sleep.

"I used to go to spar and knock a heavyweight down with just a jab.

"In MMA, sparring gloves are a bit bigger than competition, but they were still small enough. After I turned my shoulder over, extended my jab, I would drop someone in sparring.

"I was like, ah. If this is what I'm doing in sparring, with these training gloves, imagine what I will do in the competition gloves."

Despite this dramatic introduction, Whyte would only have a handful of fights on the MMA circuit, which were staged in Holland while he was also preparing alongside the likes of Badr Hadri and Melvin Manhoef to compete in K1, the premier kickboxing competition.

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Whyte suggested staging his rearranged fight with Povetkin in a car park!

Whyte viewed MMA as a brutal pastime, rather than a serious pursuit, but all of his remaining four bouts had a similar first round destructive ending.

"Everyone got chinned. In MMA, they all got chinned.

"The rate of getting cut and injuries and knockouts is crazy."

Committing himself to mixed martial arts was no longer a serious option for Whyte, who was receiving recognition as a kickboxer, although he would train alongside and forge friendships with UFC stars like Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson, Jimi Manuwa and Cheick Kongo. A dangerous puncher, Whyte proved himself as an ideal sparring partner ahead of a high-profile fight. Could he be tempted back to the MMA circuit by a big-name opponent?

Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson
Image: Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson trained alongside Whyte

"Why not? If it didn't affect my boxing, or the boxing people are talking rubbish, then yeah, why not," said Whyte, who has emerged as one of the world's top heavyweight boxers since his professional debut in May 2011.

A future fight with Francis Ngannou, a heavy-handed UFC contender, could be an enticing option for Whyte. But the immediate priority for 'The Body Snatcher' is a risky battle against Russian's former WBA champion Alexander Povetkin, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Victory will keep him firmly in contention for a world title fight, and then a sought after showdown with bitter foe Anthony Joshua.

Ngannou and his fellow UFC fighters can wait, for now.

People I dislike are Joshua and Deontay Wilder, that's it.
Dillian Whyte

"I ain't got no beef with the guy [Ngannou]. He's one of the top heavyweights, and I think I'll knock him out. It's not like I hate him, or I dislike him.

"People I dislike are Joshua and Deontay Wilder, that's it. They are people I don't like."

From cage fighting and kick boxing, Whyte now wants to topple his biggest rivals in boxing.

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