Birmingham MMA star with Leon Edwards link eyeing next step to £850,000 prize

Akonne Wanliss after knocking out Sahil Siraj
-Credit: (Image: akonnewanliss/Instagram)

Akonne Wanliss is eyeing an £850,000 MMA prize, and he's adopted an unconventional diet of Star Wars and Jaffa Cakes to fuel his combat quest.

The Wolverhampton native faces off against Mateusz Legierski at Oktagon 58 on Saturday, when he'll take to the cage in front of 27,000 fans at Prague's Eden Stadium. Victory will secure him a place in the final four of the Tipsport Gamechanger tournament and take him one step closer to a six-figure payday.

Wanliss looked every bit worthy of his 'Jedi' moniker after recently scoring a 48-second KO victory over Sahil Siraj at Oktagon 56. UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards cornered the 8-2 (1NC) knockout artist during that match at Birmingham's Resorts World Arena, but the stakes are even higher as he travels to mainland Europe.

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Despite not leading a typical lifestyle associated with a geek, Wanliss embraces his love for sci-fi and Japanese animation. And he told The Mirror he believes those interests have enhanced his vision and ability to shape his own future inside the cage.

"Oh, 100%," replied Wanliss when asked if cartoon content had influenced his career and approach to fighting. "My first anime was Dragon Ball Z, where you've got two Saiyan brothers, Goku and Vegeta. And they're constantly trying to raise their levels. So yes, I do draw on it.

"There's a reason why I say I'm gonna go in there and unleash the force, because it's not just you going in there to fight a fight, blah blah blah. I'm going in there with my whole spirit, my whole essence."

Speaking of his prior successes, Wanliss elaborated: "I've manifested this moment to be able come out and unleash the force, both light and dark sides. To be able to merge with the force and cause the win to happen in the most devastating or fashionable way. Just unleash the force and know I'll come out as the victor."

After a streak of four wins in a row (excluding a no-contest result against Jakub Bahnik in November 2023), who would dare contradict? His most recent loss came against Alfie Davis under the Bellator banner back in September 2020 but it seems so long ago after flourishing under the Oktagon banner.

Wanliss' readiness to accept another fight within a span of six weeks comes as no surprise considering his last fight concluded in less than a minute. While quick succession bouts could be challenging for some MMA fighters, Wanliss said a rapid turnaround works to his advantage - even though it means giving up his favourite Jaffa Cakes for now.

"It's what I wanted. I said I wanted to be active this year," he explained. "I said I wanted five fights. Ever since I started my MMA career, I was pretty active. Then I got to the pros, and I had so many pull-outs, people getting injured, shows getting cancelled, I went through Covid and all that stuff. So there was a big period where I didn't really get to fight."

Wanliss continued: "I told Oktagon when I joined, 'Keep me busy [and] keep me fighting,' because that's what I've come to do. I'm a prize fighter, and I've come to win. So being in this tournament, the thing I was super excited about is that no-one's gonna say no. I'm guaranteed four fights this year, so let's go. There's big money involved, and the calibre of the people I'm fighting is only gonna level up my career and my skills."

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The fighter - who trains with Edwards at Team Renegade - expressed his eagerness to return to action: "So they're all the things I'm excited about, and having to go again six weeks after my Round One fight, it's no sweat for me - it's lovely! My weight's nice and low, [I] didn't get a chance to eat loads of Jaffa Cakes and get big, I just went straight back into it. I love the process."

In his personal life, Wanliss is romantically linked with adult content creator Daniella Hemsley, who has stepped into the boxing ring herself with KSI's Misfits promotion. Onlyfans star Hemsley grabbed the spotlight last year when she celebrated her debut victory over Ms Danielka by flashing the audience.

And Wanliss - who is just three victories away from a lucrative Oktagon payday - told how dedication to his craft can even get in the way of his personal life. His strict programme means holidays are off the cards (at least for now) as he's committed to training.

"Listen, you ask my missus. She's constantly trying to take me away on holiday, [asking] 'Have you got a break here, have you got a break there? ' No. I'm in the gym, I'm training [laughs]. I'm one of these guys, my coach has to tell me when to rest! He's like, 'Go take your girl out,' and I'll say, 'Yeah, you're right. I'll have an evening off.' I'm just a constant professional, constantly working on my skills. I'm in the Jedi temple swinging that lightsaber and staring at those Jaffa Cakes."

With his eyes firmly set on the prize, Wanliss is busy balancing his intense focus between the sport, his other business interests and a passionate love of all things Jaffa. But the upcoming bout against Legierski in the Tipsport Gamechanger quarter-finals will be the truest test of his mettle to date.

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