16 March 2017 | 12:56 am
MARC Diakiese left the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a better life in England by himself as a 12-year-old with his father saying: “If it doesn’t work out, forget I’m your dad.”
Some 11 years on the undefeated lightweight goes into Sunday’s (AEST) Fight Night at London’s O2 tipped to be the UFC’s next superstar.
It is a journey that has included being bullied by groups of kids at school and weeks on end spent away from his young family — a family life he never had in his homeland.
“I spoke to my dad Roger and he said before I left, ‘If it doesn’t work out for you forget I’m your father’,” Diakiese recalls.
“He disowned me. I spoke to him recently to let him know how I’m doing.
“I don’t blame him for the things that have happened. Now and then we speak but it is what it is.”
It is also a journey that has moulded a killer instinct, an “unbreakable” mentality and an iron will to succeed against the odds.
At just 23, ‘Bonecrusher’ has been through enough to last most people a lifetime — including days and nights spent working on railways.
Yet he believes his path to greatness is only just beginning.
Two knockouts in under a minute paved the way for a move to the UFC and he backed that up with two wins at the end of last year to take his record to 11-0.
Becoming the first UFC star to grace the pages of Gay Times followed that.
Diakiese has done it all with the help of uncle Dieudonne — a man he cherishes so much he now calls him dad.
Dieudonne told a young Diakiese to escape the hardship of the Congo, leave behind his closest family and make a living for himself in this country.
Diakiese said: “My uncle, Dieudonne, moved here first and back home I didn’t have a stable family for myself. I was up and down.
“My father wasn’t the best father so I didn’t really stay with him. I stayed with my grandmother and my mum.
“It was more of just me. My uncle decided to give me a life and move me over.
“I came over by myself on the plane and he came to the airport and met me here.
“I didn’t say anything to my parents before I left.
“The life I’m having now, I’m in the spotlight and people want to see me, but it wasn’t always like this.
“There’s a lot of kids out there who are in the same situation as I was, if not worse. Now I’m just enjoying it.
“I didn’t play any sports back in the Congo. I didn’t do anything. I was just a kid.”
As a teenager who couldn’t speak English and with no friends, Diakiese found out the hard way he was handy with his fists.
He was cornered, picked on and used as a human punching bag — until he won a fight against four thugs with just his bare hands.
Still, that nightmare paled in comparison to the hardships he endured in the Congo.
Diakiese said: “When I was at school, I didn’t speak any English so I used to get people bullying me.
“But it was nothing compared to the Congo. I felt like, ‘Yeah this guy’s trying to start on me’ but I just thought it was normal. If he wanted a fight I would fight.
“I used to have groups trying to bully me. I remember once there were four of them in the street trying to get me.
“I had one of them in the head but the rest of them were trying to kick me. I had that one and carried on hitting him.
“I won that fight.
“But in school I didn’t know what to say and they would put me in a holding unit because I didn’t know what to say.
“I used to get done for it all the time. I was constantly fighting and got kicked out of school.
“But school people knew me from fighting and that name carried on outside. It led to a few street fights.
“One of the lads from the same town, I fought him in a cage in an amateur fight and broke his hand. That’s where the nickname ‘Bonecrusher’ came from.”
Six years ago Diakiese met his fiancee Keeley and now they have eight-month-old daughter Matilda and four-year-old son Junior together.
The training camp for Saturday’s clash against Finland’s Teemu Packalen meant nine weeks in Florida away from his loved ones.
But Diakiese says that sacrifice must come first while he tries to provide for his kids the sort of upbringing he never had.
He said: “I’ve got all these hard times behind me, all these struggles I’ve had — but I don’t think I can be broken.
“People don’t know my background and what I’ve been through — but that drive is like an anger behind me pushing me forward.
“Now for a fight I look at my opponent and think, ‘I went a better life for myself but this guy’s trying to take it away from me’.
“He probably has his mum cooking his breakfast for him while he’s training.
“I’ve never had that. I’ve done it all by myself and I want to win. That’s what keeps pushing me forward. I want to win.”
And that Gay Times photoshoot? Did a straight man with a fiancee and two children worry about what people would think?
He said: “I don’t really care what anybody says about me. They don’t pay my house bills. It’s about me.
“I was judged. People tried bullying me when they didn’t know what I had been through.
“I think, ‘Why would you judge somebody when it’s got nothing to do with you?’
“Let them do what they want to do. That’s why I wanted to do it.
“Everything I do I speak to Keeley first and if we feel it’s right I go and do it.
“You can’t tell anyone what to do and I thought it turned out OK.”
T his story originally appeared on The Sun and has been republished with permission.
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