Pane Haraki has a gym and is waiting for the next world champion to walk in. Photo / NZME
New Zealand-ranked MMA fighter Pane Haraki has been fighting for more than 20 years – and now, through his gym, he wants to help young fighters pursue a career in MMA.
A little more than a year ago, Pane, aka “The Punisher”, opened up the Ceasar MMA gym in Hastings, where he trains children, teenagers and adults.
Pane built the gym as a safe place for community kids to get the frustration and stress out, as well as for adults.
“MMA helps with confidence and discipline and there are lots of benefits of doing MMA if it is channeled in the right way,” Pane said.
Coming from a troubled and gang background himself, life has not been the easiest for the MMA fighter.
“Life’s been really challenging, but I was fortunate enough to get involved in kickboxing and then move to MMA.
“That’s really helped me in life, kept me out of trouble, kept me on track, and has given me goals,” Pane said.
Now, with the opening of Ceasar MMA, Pane is trying to help others overcome their pasts.
He believes “the next Israel Adesanya is out there, and it’s just a matter of us giving them a platform to jump on. The rest is up to them”.
Adesanya “The Last Stylebender” is a Nigerian-born New Zealand professional mixed martial artist, kickboxer and former boxer with multiple championships in all three disciplines.
Pane said: “If fighters want to become a world champion, they have to put in that work.”
Ceasar MMA’s goal is to produce that world champion, and Pane also believes there is the next female UFC champion in Hawke’s Bay. He has started the Ceasar MMA scholarship program to train and help financially to give kids a fighting chance of an MMA career.
“Plenty of kids have potential, but getting them to stay and keep up with training can be difficult,” Pane said.
On September 10, boys and girls aged 16 and over are invited to participate in the Ceasar MMA scholarship trial.
The trial will involve sparring, kickboxing, MMA grappling, a hill run, and finishing with a swim.
Last year Pane said the kids did their swim at the Maraetotara Falls.
The trials will be judged by Pane and Dan Hooker, a New Zealand mixed martial artist who is 13th in the UFC lightweight rankings.
At the end of the trial, one or two kids will be chosen to represent the gym for a year as sponsored fighters.
While training the scholarship winners, Pane is still fighting professionally and is ranked No 6 in the Australia and New Zealand Pro Men’s Light Heavyweight category.