Dylan stars in Las Vegas ultimate fighting
Gold Coast-based Dylan Andrews - aka The Villain - can't quite believe his luck to have made the big time in ultimate fighting.
Between two television appearances in Auckland, and a meet and greet in Wellington, the mixed martial arts exponent squeezed in a whistle stop visit home to Woburn last week.
Andrews is a star in the Ultimate Fighting Championship league, the pinnacle for the sport of mixed martial arts internationally, with a huge following of fans, he says.
His big chance came with an audition for the Big Brother-style UFC reality show The Ultimate Fighter in Las Vegas, this year.
The show pits 14 top MMA competitors against each other to fight a gruelling series of elimination bouts while living in one house. It screened on Sky Sport.
Dylan Andrews won his first three matches of the Ultimate Fighter contest in Las Vegas, but was downed with a technical knock-out in the second round of his semifinal fight.
That might have been his exit from the show, but the former Woburn resident had generated enough fan support that when he appealed publicly for a trial match with UFC, it was granted.
On April 13 he fought his debut UFC fight against experienced wrestler and favourite, Jimmy Quinlan. Three minutes into the first round Andrews felled him with a technical knock-out, which earned him the contract.
"It went how we planned it in training, I caught him with an overhand right, and then hit him with two more upper cuts, and he was on the ground.
"I'd taken him out of his element by hitting him and kept the pressure on by hurting him."
Since then he's been overwhelmed with fan support, and says the Americans love his humble Kiwi persona - which, despite the fighting name Dylan the Villain, is not a put-on.
"It was huge, it was an unbelievable feeling - everything, the crowd . . . the Americans are very passionate about UFC. Those people are crazy fans."
Even during our interview Andrews is recognised by fans.
As we're taking photos on a quiet corner in Lower Hutt a carload of labourers from Auckland pulls up and ask for photos with the fighter.
So far one of the biggest thrills has been meeting Mike Tyson at one of the TUF matches, Andrews says.
"Mike Tyson came into the changing rooms before I fought and wished me luck, and that was the one I got fight of the season for.
"It was a knockout right in the corner Tyson was sitting in."
Andrews is keen to step up to his next fight, likely to be within the next few months, but doesn't have a date or opponent set yet.
"I'm looking forward to getting stuck in to putting a stamp on the middleweight division of the UFC, and trying to get a title fight.
"Coming from a small place like here, and not really having a lot growing up, and then making it on the big stage of America, it motivates me to do big things."
His introduction to the sport was first as a fan, and it wasn't until he was 25 that he began to learn martial arts.
"It's not like rugby where it's out of the question if you haven't made it by the time you're 18."
There is a degree of showmanship in building fan support, he says, but the fighting and who he represents himself as are true-blue.
"It's important to me that I was a fan first, so I know what people want to see.
"They want to see action and big things happening and people trying to finish a fight."
He wants to stay grounded. He will be visiting his mum in Waiwhetu, chilling with old mates from Hutt Valley High School, and giving himself time to heal some of the injuries from his matches. None are serious, he says.
Back in the Gold Coast he'll head back to training, spend time with his 7-year-old son, and head to the gym with his 4-year-old daughter in tow.
"She's probably my biggest fan, she runs around the house and lifts my arm up," Andrews says.