While the late Steve Irwin's enthusiasm for Australian wildlife was renowned worldwide, the iconic personality was also passionate about a particular sport that had little to do with conservation.
His bodyguard of four years, Kyle Noke, says Irwin was an enormous fan of the growing sport of mixed martial arts.
Noke, a professional in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is preparing for the Sydney leg of the UFC on February 27 at Acer Arena. The 30-year-old says he is indebted to Irwin for making his ''dream come true''. ''He's one of the reasons why I'm here where I am now,'' Noke said. ''He sponsored me and paid for my first flights to the States. He really pushed me to follow my career and follow my passion.''
While working in the security team at Australia Zoo, at Irwin's request Noke trained the crocodile hunter in mixed martial arts. It was this experience that Noke has carried into his burgeoning UFC career.
''He used to help us prepare for fights,'' he said. ''He had such an eye for detail through what he had been doing for so many years. You only have to watch the guy on TV to know how much passion the guy has got. If I could channel that passion in fighting for wildlife then that's a great start.''
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