A UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fighter who hails from Blaenavon is hoping to emulate former British fighters Michael Bisping and Dan Hardy and become a world champion., writes JON DAVIES.

Mason Jones, 26 stepped up to the UFC ranks this year, having been signed from Europe’s leading mixed martial arts promoter Cage Warriors with a perfect unbeaten record of ten wins from ten fights.

During his time with Cage Warriors, Jones also become only the third fighter after Conor McGregor and Dan Hardy to become a two-weight world champion.

Since joining the UFC ranks earlier this year, Jones has had two fights with a defeat on his UFC debut against Mike Davis in January followed by a fight against Alan Patrick in June, which resulted in a no-contest decision following an accidental eye-poke from Jones.

Despite the no-contest decision, the Welsh lightweight was pleased with his performance having been in control of the bout when the decision was made.

Speaking to the Chronicle, Jones said: "I’m feeling good after my last fight because I performed a lot more like I know I can perform, that was the way I wanted to perform in my first fight.

"When I fought in Abu Dhabi in January against Mike Davis, I made a lot of mistakes in that fight and ended up losing a close decision because I just didn’t do enough and stayed really cautious trying not make mistakes.

’’I feel good, a lot of great UFC fighters starting out have found it tough starting out and you just have to use it as a learning experience."

Having first joined a local kick-boxing club in Blaenavon at the age of seven, Jones has been involved with martial arts for 19 years and cites his family as an inspiration.

"My parents always encouraged me to play sports from a young age", said Jones.

"I played football but that wasn’t for me so I joined a kick-boxing club. I’d always been an active and energetic kid, and kick-boxing was more of a natural fit for me than football and then from there other options within the fighting world opened up."

After starting out with kick-boxing Jones was soon encouraged to join a judo club and it was from here where he and his family first realised, he could perhaps forge a career from martial arts.

By the time he was 13 Mason was in the Welsh national judo team and at age 15 he was competing full-time being taken out of school for events.

In 2014 he qualified for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow but sadly got injured before the games and was ruled out.

After taking a break to recover from his injury, Mason then turned his hand to Mai-Tai and boxing with the aim of getting more striking experience, and even had a run at the professional ranks in boxing.

"Around 2019 I started boxing a lot more, even having three wins from three professional fights but I had six scheduled fights cancelled which was annoying and just became sick of the cancellations so went into Mixed Martial Arts early which proved to be a blessing in disguise."

Mason is now ranked number 58 in the world in the MMA lightweight rankings and since joining the UFC ranks, is based in Sacramento, California training out of former MMA fighter Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male gym.

As part of Jones’ elite athlete status, he has been able to maintain training and fighting during the Covid pandemic - although he admits this hasn’t been without its problems.

"It hasn’t been easy during Covid", said Jones.

"We’ve had difficulties getting sparring partners out, and I’ve had to isolate before fights and obviously with travel restrictions I haven’t been able to see my family and girlfriend much so I’ve missed them as well."

Despite this the Blaenavon-born fighter is confident that he can rise up the ladder in UFC and continue the strong legacy of British MMA fighters.

"In recent years more and more of the British fighters have shown they can compete in UFC, and there are a lot of Welsh fighters pushing through and it just goes to show we’re more than capable of competing with these guys on the main stage.

"In the short-term I want to continue to rise up the rankings, hopefully making the top 20 within a year or two. From there it is a short climb to the top and my long-term goal of winning the belt and becoming the first Welsh UFC world champion."