Australia’s next UFC hopeful

20 October 2023

Written by: Max Westwood

A missed opportunity left Quillan Salkilld "crushed", but it's hard to keep someone with a strong drive for success down for long.

Back in early 2018, Quillan Salkilld became so infatuated with the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) that his mother started to question her son over whether he was actually going to consider choosing to fight people in a cage for a living over pursuing the other sports he had grown up playing.

“She noticed that I was watching a heap of UFC stuff. She actually, said to me ‘You’re not doing this, you’re not going to fight in the cage are you?’,” Salkilld tells upstart.

For Eternal Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) lightweight champion Salkilld, the dalliance with the sport began when he was 17 years old playing the EA Sports UFC2 video game. Before this, he had yearned for a career in his beloved childhood sports, AFL and skateboarding. He knew he had what it took to become a pro athlete, but those sports were never the right fit.

MMA, however, was a different story.

Shortly after discovering the UFC, Salkilld became enamoured with its superstar Conor McGregor, even watching McGregor’s motivational videos before his own football games. Salkilld ultimately made the decision to pursue a career in the UFC himself.  After only six months of training—and with his mother finally onboard—he was making his amateur debut. This time it was Salkilld who was questioning his life choices.

There was only one thought he can remember having as the cage doors were locked behind him.

“I was thinking ‘what the f**k am I doing?,’” he says.

Nearly two-and-a-half years later and after amassing an admirable amateur record of eight wins and three losses, the then 21-year-old Salkilld was set to make his professional debut in Australia’s largest MMA promotion, Eternal MMA in 2021. Despite the fast acceleration into the big leagues, he knew he made the right decision to pursue the sport.

“I knew straight away it was the right call. I knew whatever I put my mind to, I can achieve,” he says.

This self-belief has allowed Salkilld to achieve such high distinction in the sport in such a short amount of time. After only five fights as a professional, all of the hard work culminated in a thirty-two second knockout to capture the Eternal MMA lightweight title at the co-main event of Eternal MMA 76 in June earlier this year.

This performance attracted the attention of the UFC, and Salkilld was invited to be on the ‘Road to UFC’ program, which televises the best Asian mixed martial arts prospects as they compete to win a contract to the top MMA promotion in the world. Then his opponent was pulled out of the fight by ‘Road to UFC’ just a day beforehand to take part in the main event, depriving Salkilld of his opportunity to make the UFC.

Despite feeling crushed at the time, Salkilld was reminded of his ultimate goal when the UFC travelled to Sydney for their second pay-per-view event in Australia this year.  Witnessing Australians fight on the biggest stage MMA has to offer, while also seeing people from his home city of Perth fight in another Australian UFC event earlier this year, fuelled his dream to do the same even more.

“It really excites me to see guys not only just from like Australia but from Perth as well like Jack Della (Madellana) from Perth, we’ve got Steven (Ecerg) here as well from Perth making a name for themselves in the UFC, so it’s yeah, it’s super, super exciting,” he says.

Salkilld is now aspiring to be the next Australian to enter the UFC and hopes for superstardom by winning the grandest award on offer, the UFC lightweight title, which would put him in rarefied air alongside his hero Conor McGregor.

Photo: Provided by Eternal MMA.