I'm an ex-Premier League star who battled leukaemia and fought for my life for 13 months – now I'm bashing rivals in MMA | The Sun

FORMER Wolves goalkeeper Carl Ikeme won the fight of his life when he battled back from leukaemia.

Now, the ex-Molineux star is flooring his opponents as a Mixed Martial Arts champion – and has even enjoyed some success in Europe.

The 36-year-old was always handy with his fists when he was clearing crosses from his penalty area, clocking up more than 200 appearances as Wolves' No1.

But his career was cruelly cut short when he was 32 after being diagnosed with leukaemia in 2017 and the popular goalie was forced to retire from the game a year later.

Ikeme spent 13 months undergoing gruelling treatment before docs told him he was in complete remission.

But with his football career over, the former Wolves hero swapped his goalie gloves for fingerless MMA gloves after building up his fitness participating in the Brazilian martial art of jiu-jitsu.

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And Ikeme soon proved he is every bit as handy in a cage or ring as he was in a penalty box by becoming British open age champion.

The former goalie has also enjoyed success in Europe after picking up a bronze medal at the MMA European Championships.

Ikeme told local Wolverhampton paper the Express & Star: "I was just filling up my car at a petrol station near home and saw a sign for Gracie Barra, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu academy in Sutton Coldfield.

"I had always wanted to try that discipline, so I signed up for a taster session.

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"I was in really good shape at the time, it was around when I had done the 100-mile Velo cycle ride for charity.

"But I went along to the class, and I remember being absolutely gassed after a three-minute round.

"My legs were cramping, my back was in bits, and I suddenly realised that you don’t really know anything about fighting until you actually do it!"

Ikeme made his martial arts debut last year, beating fellow Brit Fuad Ahmed 4-0 in the first Raw Grappling World Championship at the IndigoO2 Arena in London, in a contest streamed on YouTube.

The former shot-stopper, who won ten international caps for Nigeria, confessed: "Competition really wasn’t in my mind at the start.

"I just wanted to learn a new art. I found it all a really humbling experience to be honest.

"It's about realising that nothing else matters when you are on the mat as it’s just two people concentrating on trying to get the better out of each other."

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