Regis Sugden, left, in his most recent fight against Arturo ‘El Moreno’ Chavez. Photograph: Jamie Lee Smith, (DN4 Photography)
Regis Sugden, left, in his most recent fight against Arturo ‘El Moreno’ Chavez. Photograph: Jamie Lee Smith, (DN4 Photography)

MMA fighter Regis Sugden says he is in better shape than ever before as he prepares to return to the cage following a long-term injury.

The 22-year-old Suggys Gym fighter, from Newark, is making his comeback on May 19 at Nottingham Motorpoint Arena against Derby’s Stephen Martin.

Fully recovered from an ankle injury that hampered his progress over the past three years, Sugden will be on the ACB87 card.

The show will be the first MMA event at the Nottingham venue since September 2012.

“I am absolutely buzzing for it,” Sugden said. “I cannot wait to start competing again and mixing it with the top European level competition.

“I am in better shape than ever before.

“ACB is a huge promotion that does shows in every corner of the world, from South Africa to the US, Australia and New Zealand.

“My goal is to start building my way up the rankings and get somewhere near the top ten.

“I am looking to keep winning — and one day get to the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).

“I have been to the arena to watch big events and walked past it many times thinking ‘one day, one day’.

“Now that day is almost here and I cannot wait to get out there and show people a completely different fighter.”

Regis, who has moved up a division to compete as a lightweight, said he was looking to re-establish himself as a top fighter on his debut with ACB.

“ACB want the best of the best. If you keep losing they will not bother with you.

“I am looking to build my reputation and establish myself by beating the best guys around that I can.”

As part of his recovery, Sugden underwent a five-hour operation on his foot.

The fighter said he found the lay-off frustrating as he tried to cope with being out of action, while cheering on his brothers — Bailey, a kick boxer, and boxer Chad — from the sidelines.

“The doctor said it was the longest he had ever operated on an ankle,” Sugden said.

“It has been a long road to recovery — a lot of time and effort has gone in to getting my ankle right.

“I have been watching Bailey and Chad do well from the sidelines, whereas normally I would be alongside them. That has been hard.

“I was not able to challenge myself properly until about six months ago.

“I was waiting for the ankle to start to feel better, but it felt like forever.”

'I still have the drive'

Regis Sugden last competed in the ring a year ago, defeating Arturo ‘El Moreno’ Chavez in Manchester on the TANKO Events TFC#4 card.

“I took the fight because I thought my ankle would be all right after my operation,” Sugden said.

“But it was not right so I had another year out. My last proper big-time fight is getting on for three years ago.

“The good thing is that I am young. I still have the drive, which might have been different if I was older.

“Physios and specialists told me that if I was 32 or 33 I would be looking to pack it in because of the time I have lost.

“But because I am young they said it was worth giving it a go.”

The head coach of Suggys Gym, Dean Sugden, said: “It (the operation) was a setback, but as soon as Regis’s treatment was successfully completed nothing was going to stand in his way.

“He was determined to be back doing what he does best as soon as possible.

“He has been working hard on every aspect of his game, on things that other people do not see as weaknesses but that he recognises as such.

“Regis is fitter and stronger than before and has made no secret of the fact this fight will not be going the distance. He is going for a knockout.”

Tickets for the show, priced from £35 to £150, are available online only at www.motorpointarenanottingham.com

People buying tickets should use the promotion code SUGGYS and choose from the options marked with Regis Sugden’s name.