After a long and complicated hiatus from the cage, Shannon Ross (13-5) is set to make his highly anticipated return on March 19, when he takes on Eternal MMA Bantamweight champion Shaun Etchell (7-2).
On fight day, it will have been two years since Ross’ last contest on Australian shores, a loss of his Eternal Flyweight title to Steve Erceg (8-1).
Despite the break, ‘The Turkish Delight’ is ready to come back with a bang and put on a show for the combat sports fans at home.
“I always like fighting in front of the Australian fans and obviously the hometown fans that are on the Gold Coast,” Ross told The Inner Sanctum.
“It’s going to be good to get back in front of them. That’s a big thing for me.”
Although it has been a long time since he last fought in Australia, Ross’ latest fight was a triumph in Abu Dhabi in November 2020. That night, the 31 year old defeated Dana White’s Contender Series veteran, Donovan Frelow (6-5) by decision with a broken hand.
However, it was the travel home from the Middle East that proved to be another stressful fight for Ross and his team.
“We were there for a couple of days after the fighting and [I headed] to the flight to head home and everything had been cancelled,” he said.
“We were sort of trapped in Dubai, stuck there for about a week extra with all the flights being cancelled [because of COVID]. It was some pretty big expenses to get home and then the quarantine on top of that.
“I ended up breaking my hand in the fight as well, which was a bit of a frustrating thing.
“So it was a bit of a journey a bit of an experience and obviously wasn’t what we planned for and not what we wanted. I lost a lot of money and a lot of time.”
Unfortunately, this resulted in a fairly inactive 2021 for the Queensland native.
Ross was forced to pull out of his July rematch against Paul Loga (7-6), due to the event being pushed back because of COVID restrictions, as well as more important family reasons.
“Heading into that rematch there was a bit on my end and more so, COVID prevented the event from actually going ahead at the end anyway,” Ross said.
“We had some lockdowns here in Queensland come into play.
“We were in [a snap three-day] lockdown and then that pushes out to a week and the week turns into two weeks so, the event actually got pushed back like a month or two.
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“For me being a full-time worker and a full-time father and all the stuff on top, I just couldn’t go back into another camp and push on for another eight weeks and hope that it didn’t get stopped from COVID again.
“So it was sort of my decision to just finish out the rest of the year without fighting and look into the new year for something. Obviously, we’ve got this fight that’s come up now.
“[I’m] excited for this one and hopefully no COVID lockdowns come into play and we’re all good.”
With these hurdles a distant memory, Ross is eager to headline Eternal MMA 64 in front of a home town crowd against Tasmania’s Etchell.
Although not confirmed, Ross added that the pair could be competing for the undisputed Flyweight title, rather than the previously reported interim title, in the absence of champion and former opponent Erceg.
The stakes are high for both men, but raised even more so for Etchell, who will be moving down in weight in an effort to become a simultaneous two-division champion.
“I think they’re talking about making this fight a title fight anyway for the Flyweight belt” Ross said.
“Once they work out what’s going on with the guy that’s got the belt (Steve Erceg).
“I don’t know if he’s ready to defend or what he’s doing or he’s moving on or what-not, but their plan is to probably make it a title fight anyway.
“For me, I’ve been fighting for a long time and I’ve been at the top for a long time. So only fights that excite me sort of mean anything to me these days.
“Shaun [Etchell] being the Bantamweight champion and wanting to come down to Flyweight, that excites me and gets me hungry and gets me out of bed. That’s what I want to fight these days.”
Although he holds Bantamweight gold, Etchell is no stranger to competing at a lower weight. In earlier fights at Flyweight, the man known as ‘The Buzzsaw’ amassed a 3-1 record in the division, even capturing the Eternal title.
Despite this experience however, Etchell has not fought at the weight class since 2017. Ross added that he feels the greater weight cut could be an issue for his opponent, and will look to exploit this in pursuit of title glory.
“Him coming back down to Flyweight, it’s going to be pretty hard and taxing for him,” he concluded.
“I’ve seen him fight at Flyweight before and he doesn’t look the same as what he does at Bantamweight.
“He’s a pretty well-rounded fighter, he’s got pretty decent striking and wrestling and grappling, pretty good cardio. He likes to press the pace and when he gets moving forward, that’s when he starts looking better.
“He’s sort of pushed and bullied some people around that take steps back, but that’s not what I do one bit. I’ll push forward and press the pace just as much as he does if not more.
“My speed and my persistence, my forward pressure if it’s a five-round fight. I can [also] go flat out for three rounds, that’s going to be the biggest thing in my advantage.
“The speed and him coming down, from being a bit slow, a bit soft on the weight cut, that’s where I see the fight paying off. If we get into the later rounds, I think that’s where it’s really going to show.”
Watch Shannon Ross in action on March 19 when he fights Shaun Etchell at Eternal MMA 64, only on UFC Fight Pass (Subscription Required)