Dynasty: Stuart McKinnon

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International Kickboxer Magazine, July/August 2013

Stuart McKinnon is a vocational fighter. When IK caught up with him, it was to talk about his recent win over tough New Zealander, Josh Tonna. Stuart has many other things on his plate, however. Family life, running his gym and contributing to the ongoing success of his younger brother, Steve, take up much of his time.

“I’m turning forty in August of this year,” he says. “I had my first Muay Thai fight when I was eighteen, and I was weighing in at seventy-seven kilos. Since then, there’s been a few distractions; going out, girls and partying, but it’s been thirty-one fights spread over twenty-two years.”

Martial arts training has always been a big part of the McKinnon brother’s lives, courtesy of their father’s influence.

“We started training in Shotokan karate, with dad. Between Steve and I, we’d had somewhere between one hundred and one hundred and fifty karate fights by the time we had reached the age of sixteen. Muay Thai was hot in the early nineties, so we went down to Melbourne and stayed at Bob Jones’ house and trained. From there, on we went and for a lot of years, we trained ourselves. Then we met Nick Stone and joined the Bulldog Gym. And now, we’ve been [training] there for twenty years.”

Being able to talk in decades rather than years, marks a significant milestone in both a fighter’s career and his life. That said, Stuart intends on being able to call himself a fighter for as long as possible. The itch seems to have returned just before he reaches his fourth decade.

“My last fight was Thor [Hoopman] five-and-a-half years ago. I won that comfortably, but I felt terrible. I didn’t have a good preparation… I think I was over-trained. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have. To be honest, I thought I was getting old! Recently, though, I felt like I was in a better place, so I thought I’d have another crack, and I felt great doing it.”

Stuart fought Josh Tonna, from Elite Thai Kickboxing on the recent Invincible 4 promotion.

“I knew he was going to be tough – he used to fight at super-heavyweight. He’s a very powerful, walk-forward sort of fighter. The plan was to go in, frustrate him and then make him angry. It worked – I won by knockout in the third round by head kick.”

After a successful outing of that nature, one would believe that nothing could hold Stuart back.

“I’d love to keep going. Mentally, I feel great; [it was] one of the best [fights] I’ve felt going in. I was relaxed and confident. I had to have three cortisone shots in either shoulder to get through the training, though.

“Four days out, I sprained my facet joint during a weights session. I was basically laid up in bed until the day of the fight. Warming up on the pads beforehand, I threw a few kicks, but it was a careful warm-up.”

Stuart’s strategy for fighting Tonna was successful; he caught the game New Zealander with a head kick in the third round and put him to sleep.

“As soon as we finished, it seized up. It got so bad, I was short of breath while I was talking into the microphone. I had serious trouble getting my legs over the top rope. Luckily, my physio was there and he managed to free it up. I think you feel less pain after you’ve won!”

The fight has invigorated Stuart’s passion for the fight game but the body will make the decision as to how much fight is left in this particular Bulldog.

“It’s good to train with the boys, not just train them. The specialist has told me that the cure is either rest or an operation; either way, I’m looking at about the same amount of time off. Time is not my friend approaching forty.”

That said, Stuart is not slowing down until he absolutely has to – as either a trainer or a fighter.

“I’ve developed bursitis in both shoulders, which means I can’t really hold Thai pads anymore. I do a few days with Steve [every week], but it takes the rest of the week to get over it. Voltaren has become my best friend!

“I’ve been holding pads for twenty, twenty-five years. I’ve been lucky. The trouble has only really started the last two years. I’ve come to realize I have to look after myself for the sake of longevity.”

Stuart’s incentive is strong now that younger brother Steve has been signed to the world’s number one kickboxing promotion, Glory.

“It’s great that Steve is in Glory  – it’s a bit of a break. At thirty-six it’s good to get it, even if it’s coming a bit late. It’s getting a bit tough in Australia for him to fight. There’s not much cash in it, so it’s good to get a run with those guys.”

Steve will fight in the ninety-five kilogram eight-man tournament that is included as part of the show for Glory 9, to be held in New York on June 22.

“His first fight in the draw will be Philipe Vedelin. He’s Belgian. He’s good; originally a Thai boxer. He’s had lots of fights, too. I think Steve is a little bit fast for him, but we’ll have to see how it goes.”

Steve is in a similar position to Stuart in terms of looking to develop a career after fighting.

“He’ll open up his own gym as well. He’s been doing personal training down at Bondi [Beach], so it’s more than likely he’ll do something there.”

Other than fighting, Stuart’s horizons have broadened with a young family.

“My little boy, Jett, is two-and-a-half. He already comes to the gym a couple of days a week – he’s had his own gloves since he was twelve months old! He watches, picks everything up and then does his own thing on the bag.”

Needless to say, Stuart’s wife has her own ideas of where Jett’s interests should be channeled.

“He’s not being a fighter!’ she says; his mum wants bigger and better things for him.”

With a baby boy and wife, Staurt’s life has undergone the necessary changes.

“I’ve settled down. No more crazy nights out. I’m running the gym full-time, provided my body doesn’t interfere. I’ve got a number of fighters training and working at the gym full-time, and they [are there] to help. I’m also promoting; Invincible 4 was my own show.

Stuart is rounding out a very successful career and moving into, as they say, bigger and better things. Just as McKinnon senior forged the careers of two of Australia’s best kickboxers, so too is Stuart set to continue Australia’s first – and oldest – kickboxing dynasty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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