Shropshire Star

Former Wolves keeper Carl Ikeme becomes mixed martial arts champion

Carl Ikeme won the fight for life when he overcame a devastating diagnosis of leukaemia – and the former Wolves goalkeeper is now engaged in a new battle as a champion MMA fighter.

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The 36-year-old Molineux hero was told he had leukaemia in 2017 and went through a 13-month period of gruelling treatment before he was told he was in complete remission.

The battle against the disease spelled the end of his football career – but after taking up the martial art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu at a club near his Sutton Coldfield home, he has since become a British open age champion and even picked up a bronze medal at the European Championships.

Ikeme, who came through the ranks at Wolves before making more than 200 league and cup appearances for the club, said taking up jiu-jitsu came by chance after spotting the Gracie Barra club near his home.

He told the Express & Star: “I was just filling up my car at a petrol station near home and saw a sign for Gracie Barra, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu academy in Sutton Coldfield.

“I had always wanted to try that discipline, so I signed up for a taster session.

“I was in really good shape at the time, it was around when I had done the 100-mile Velo cycle ride for charity.

“But I went along to the class, and I remember being absolutely gassed after a three-minute round. My legs were cramping, my back was in bits, and I suddenly realised that you don’t really know anything about fighting until you actually do it!”

The former shot-stopper added: “Competition really wasn’t in my mind at the start.

“I just wanted to learn a new art, and I found it all a really humbling experience to be honest.

“And it’s about realising that nothing else matters when you are on the mat as it’s just two people concentrating on trying to get the better out of each other.”