'An Aussie boy chasing his dream': Jack Della Maddalena gets Contender shot

Jack Della Maddalena is ready to make the step up from Eternal MMA champion to the UFC Supplied

Jack Della Maddalena will look to follow in the footsteps of countryman Jimmy Crute having also tread a similar path to both Alexander Volkanovski and Robert Whittaker when the 24-year-old Australian gets his shot at the big time in Dana White's Contender Series.

Della Maddalena was on Saturday night [ET] unveiled among the latest group of Contender athletes, the 24-year-old set to chase a 10th straight win when he faces Swiss fighter Ange Loosa in a welterweight bout on Sept. 15 in Las Vegas.

The West Aussie will be hoping to emulate Crute by graduating from the Contender series to earn a full UFC contract, while it's his previous sporting endeavours that follow a familiar narrative Down Under.

"Since I was about eight, I've played rugby. And school rugby was a big thing, I played from year 6 to year 12, so that was the No. 1 priority," Della Maddalena told ESPN. "So I would play every weekend and from that I just got that thirst for competition and physicality; I just loved that. But some point in there that love switched to martial arts.

"I have an older brother, Josh, and we'd always watched lots of MMA videos and then practiced it at home. But when I was about 14 we went to a boxing gym, it was more just a fitness thing for rugby; Dad wanted us to get our fitness up during the preseason in rugby.

"But being in the gym we both realised that we loved the technicality of boxing and that we both fell in love with the sport from that point onwards. We kept playing rugby with our school but as soon as that brotherhood of school rugby, when you're playing with best mates, when that was over we pretty much made the transition into fulltime MMA training."

Della Maddalena had just two amateur fights in 2015, for two wins, before becoming a professional and charting his course through the Eternal MMA ranks in Australia.

But that journey didn't exactly get off to a great start, Della Maddalena losing both of his first two fights to learn just how much work he still had to do.

"The most important thing is you've got to learn how to take your losses, to take them on the chin," Della Maddalena said. "It's just part of the game. Of course there are technical things that I took from the losses and things I made adjustments to. The losses were obviously hard but you have to keep pushing through those tough times.

"After my second loss, I had a call with my coach who couldn't make it to that fight, and that night we made a pact that I would hit the goal of 10-2 -- I was 0-2 at that stage -- and here we are now where I'm 9-2 and about to hit that goal."

Della Maddalena has certainly found his groove since losing his second straight professional fight back in 2016, winning nine straight to be on the cusp of fulfilling the pact made with his coach.

In six of those wins, it's his fists that have done the damage. And he has Eternal MMA -- where he won and defended the welterweight title -- to thank for a grounding in the sport that has him ready to take the next step.

"I feel like I have got power, but I think it's more than that. I know when to put the foot on the gas and pull the trigger, which is pretty important," Della Maddalena said of his power. "Every time you get in there you feel more comfortable and I feel like I see stuff better with every fight; my eyes feel like they're stronger and my reactions are better.

"I was so lucky to have Eternal MMA, it's a promotion that has consistently got fight shows and it's very easy to get fights. They've always got good competitive fights as well, so I was very lucky to have that as a proving ground in MMA.

"But we've just been improving with every fight and that goal of 10-2 has always been in my mind, and it's cool to think that my 10th victory will set me up in international competitions in the UFC."

Della Maddalena isn't concerned by the fact he hasn't had a proper fight since October last year, meaning it will be 11 months since he has felt the intensity of MMA combat.

He also says he was close to getting a UFC deal last year but the travel and quarantine commitments skittled those plans, and he now believes the Contender Series is exactly the right fit anyway.

To emulate Crute and join the growing list of Aussie fighters in the UFC would be a dream come true.

"I'm Australian and I'll never leave Australia, I'll be here forever. So get behind one of your own," Della Maddalena said when asked to sell himself to the Australian sporting public.

"Hopefully I can go in there and do what I've got to do and get the win, and then more Australians can follow. We already are a decent force in global MMA and I think we've just got more to offer.

"I'm just an Aussie boy chasing his dream, what more could you want?"