AN OVERWEIGHT father-of-two who signed up to a charity mixed martial arts bout to get fit and honour his grandfather loved it so much he is now chasing a professional career in the sport.

Kieran Pugh says he 'doesn't recognise himself in old photos anymore' because he has lost five stone and is now in fighting-fit shape.

The 30-year-old electrical engineer signed up to Ultra MMA to raise money for Cancer Research UK as his grandfather, Derek Pugh, was battling throat cancer.

Kieran had always been interested in MMA and saw it as an opportunity to lose weight - but even he couldn't predict how well he would take to the sport and is now well-established on the amateur circuit.

He now has five wins under his belt and was hoping to turn professional at the end of the year until a knee injury set him back.

After signing up to Ultra MMA weighing 18 stone, Mr Pugh received eight weeks of free professional training at Phoenix MMA Southampton before a showcase fight in front of hundreds at Novotel Hotel in the city.

Tragically, Derek was too ill to come and see his grandson win his fight and died weeks later aged 77 after a three-year long battle with cancer.

Kieran, of Fareham, now weighs 13 stone and said his journey has been 'incredible'.

He said: "I've gone from charity fighter to amateur fighter - my journey has been incredible.

"Now I want to become a professional fighter, that's the plan. It all started thanks to Ultra - Ultra put the fuel on the fire for me."

He said his grandfather, from Portsmouth, was sadly too ill to watch his fight. Kieran added said: "He was told by doctors he'd only have six months to live but he managed to last three years.

"I wanted him to be at the fight, that was the plan, but when it came to it he was too ill.

"It was a real shame as I wanted to do it for him but we got the chance to let him know I won so he was chuffed.

"He died a month later, losing him was really tough."

The only fighting experience Kieran had was through his father, Paul, 58, who was a boxer in the Royal Navy.

Kieran, father of Freya, six, and Oscar, three, was trained by Jimmy Johnstone, an experienced Brazilian Ju-Jitsu black belt instructor.

He said: "I saw Ultra on the internet and dad and I were always watching UFC together with a few whiskys so I decided to sign up.

"When I signed up I had let myself go, I weighed 18 stone, and now I'm at 13 stone. I became obsessed with MMA.

"The eight weeks of training was a real eye-opener for me because I had only boxed before.

"The experience I had before was through my dad, as he was a boxer in the Navy he would have me on the pads when I was a kid.

"Ultra MMA was the perfect excuse to lose weight and try out something I had always been interested in.

"There was a guy at the gym when I signed up who probably weighed six stone but he twisted me all over and made me submit easily.

"Jimmy Johnstone does a fantastic job at Phoenix running it all."

On the night Mr Pugh beat opponent Rhys Kerry by points - and raised an incredible £1,800 as he was watched by his dad, mum Lin, 60, brother Aaron, 33, and around 30 friends.

He said: "I raised £1,800 on the night which is fantastic, people's generosity was amazing.

"As with all my fights I was nervous before the fight. I came on to Jump Around by House of Pain - you've got to pick a lively song, haven't you?

"When I weighed in before I had lost about a stone as a result of the eight week training course, a bit of dedication can go a long way.

"It's quite funny looking back at videos of me from the fight - it's like watching a very unfit person going at it. It just shows how far I've come since.

"It was a brilliant experience, I loved it. Although my granddad couldn't be there my mum, dad, bother and about 30 mates came to watch.

"My two kids weren't there but they love what I do now, they want to come up to the gym with me while I train."

Ultra MMA participants are given the opportunity to take part in eight weeks of free professional training before a showcase event in front of hundreds of spectators.

Those taking part are asked to sell tickets for the show and raise at least £50 for Cancer Research UK. So far, Ultra Events - the company behind the event - has raised a staggering £18 million for the charity.

Mr Pugh said his diet has improved now he is an amateur fighter. He said: "My diet has improved massively, too, now I have a nutritionist and eat healthily.

"Before I would be eating sandwiches, burgers and takeaways regularly.

"Now I eat chicken and vegetables and drink about three litres of water a day - my life has changed completely.

"I might treat myself to a takeaway and a can of full-fat coke on a Friday night but other than that I've cut out all the rubbish foods."

He added: "I was hoping to turn pro by the end of the year but I dislocated my knee in my last fight so it's a bit of a setback.

Jon Leonard, who runs Ultra Events, said: "It is remarkable that Kieran has come so far in such a short space of time.

"It is fantastic that signing up for Ultra MMA set him on the path to becoming a professional MMA fighter and the amount of weight he has lost is testament to his hard work and dedication.

"The amount of people who change their lifestyles thanks to taking part in one of our events is remarkable and I would say to anyone thinking of taking part - why not give it a go, what have you got to lose?

"We wish Kieran every success in the future."

The next Ultra MMA event takes place at Southampton's Grand Harbour Hotel on May 18.

Training for the following event starts in September and anyone thinking of signing up nd raising money for Cancer Research UK can visit: