The Duke of Canberra wants to keep his crown

Duke Didier jokes if you name a kid “Duke”, you’re going to get a loudmouth.

But the Brace mixed martial arts light heavyweight champion is serious when he says “this belt is not leaving Canberra”.

Didier (6-1) will make his long-awaited Brace light heavyweight championship defence against Jacob Malkoun (1-0) in five five-minute rounds at Brace 53 at the AIS Arena on Saturday.

The confident 29-year-old lives for the big occasions and he hopes another win in front of a rabid home crowd chanting his name will take him one step closer to the UFC.

“We don’t want that belt leaving Canberra, it’s my house,” Didier said with a wry grin.

“[Fighting in front of a home crowd] adds to the pressure but it also add to the emotion of the day. You’ve just got to use the good from the crowd and block out the pressure.

“I’ve been in high-pressure scenarios before and I always seem to go alright. It’s just about how you handle it in the build up, and I’m confident in my preparations. That’s what you rely on when the pressure adds up.

“Coming from an amateur sport like judo that probably doesn’t get the recognition for the work you put in, now I’ve got the ability to not only get that recognition but to use it to help build the sport in Canberra.

“I’m Canberra born, bred and fed, and I definitely want to see the fight scene prosper for years to come.”

Malkoun is UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker’s training partner and made a statement with a unanimous decision win over Cam Rowston in the middleweight division at Brace 47.

The aggressive Malkoun is an impressive wrestler and boxer – but none of that worries the former Commonwealth Games judo representative.

“I’m looking forward to going to war with him. His last fight on Brace was pretty wild, and I’m happy to do wild,” Didier said.

“Because of my judo background everyone always has the same plan for me, but that’s fine. If he wants to wrestle we can wrestle, if he wants to strike we can strike.

“I’ve been at this a long time so I don’t mind what his plan is, and I think my plan will be to make sure we win, it doesn’t matter how.”

Didier captured the belt when he beat Mike Turner by unanimous decision more than a year ago and endured a setback when he endured the first defeat of his MMA career in December.

Didier won’t have his usual mentor and UFC fighter Daniel Kelly in his corner this time around as he flies to Europe to prepare for his bout with Tom Breese at UFC Liverpool on May 27.

If any of that is supposed to worry Didier, someone obviously forgot to tell the “Duke of Canberra”.

He will have Ben Edwards and grappling ace Matt D’Aquino, a judo Olympian, in his corner, and a training camp in Thailand has him in the best shape of his career.

“I’ve definitely got plenty of experience and I’ve done a pretty good prep for this one that I will be able to draw on a lot,” Didier said.

“Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket was unreal, I definitely got a lot out of it. I can see why Dave Toussaint does that every year, because it was good and we even got to do conditioning together.

“It’s definitely something that I would like to tie into my preparations more often, just focusing on training with a lot of experts there, so I got a lot out of it.”

*This story was written for The Canberra Times but scrapped when the entire Brace 53 event was cancelled by the ACT government in the interest of fighter safety. Dark clouds immediately began circling the promotion.

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