Shannon Ross will never forget, only days out from Christmas, having to tell his wife he had just cost the family $20,000.

It was two years ago.

Midway through the Covid pandemic.

With Ross, a Gold Coast mechanic, and father of four, having just taken — and won — a massive fight in Abu Dhabi fight as part of his ongoing push towards a UFC contract.

But the bad news?

Apart from having broken his hand in said win, Ross was also ringing home to tell partner Bec how, um, the only flights out of the country for both he and his coach had skyrocketed to $7500 — each.

“And then quarantine back home was another four grand,” he recalls.

“Bec and I, we’d only just had our fourth child.

“We were renovating the house, too.

“And the costs of hotel quarantine, we were OK with that. Had already decided we were happy to wear that for my career.

“But learning the only flights home for three months were going to cost me $15,000? Yeah, that call started with ‘hey babe … aaah … I’ve just lost us a bit of cash’.”

Speaking now from his hotel room inside the Palace Station Casino, Las Vegas, Ross is talking through his incredible rise from Tugun Seahawks fullback to potential UFC flyweight star.

Early on Wednesday morning (AEST), this 33-year-old Gold Coast mechanic will enter the biggest fight of his career when he looks to earn a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series.

Having taken the past five weeks off work to train fulltime, Ross faces Brazilian Vinicius Salvador.

Apart from fighting in front of UFC president White, it will also be the first time Australia’s Eternal flyweight champion has thrown hands in almost two years — and the same Abu Dhabi card which cost him 20K, a unanimous decision win over American Donavon Frelow.

All of which continues the incredible rise of this fella who, in his early 20s, was throwing himself about as a 65kg fullback.

“Which was tough,” Ross laughs of his footy career. “Banging up my body for little more than the glory of winning on a Sunday afternoon.

“And because footy was taking such a toll, I eventually decided to give it away. Just started going to a local boxing and MMA gym to stay fit.”

Or so he thought.

“I hadn’t been there long when my coach says ‘I’ve got a fight for you’,” Ross continues. “So I’ve told him ‘nah, mate, I don’t want to fight. I’m just here to stay fit, stay out of trouble’.

“But he was a big Swedish guy, like a Viking, and he said if I wasn’t going to fight then I had to leave the gym.

“Which was a weird ultimatum, but I accepted.”

Better, Ross then went and won his MMA debut via KO.

The start of a run that by the end of 2019 – and with the UFC in Australia for a title blockbuster between Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya — would see him meeting with company matchmaker, Mick Maynard.

“I flew to Melbourne for a sit down meeting,” recalls the fighter who is also father to Taiah (15), Lacey (14), Nixon (6) and Havanii (3).

“And Mick, he was keen to sign me. Said he’d been watching me for a long time.

“But then Covid kicked off and put a halt to everything.

“So it’s taken a while.

“I’ve been working 40-hour weeks as a mechanic, training around that and then getting home at night to try and help my wife with our family.

“Which has been hectic, definitely.

“But now, I’m here.

“One day out from a UFC contract.”

Originally published as UFC: How Aussie Shannon Ross landed on Dana White’s Contender Series

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