YOU can't wipe the smile off Shellharbour mixed martial arts fighter Alex Volkanovski's face after he endured three days of torture to win one of five scholarships to the Tiger Muay Thai Academy in Phuket in Thailand.
The scholarship is the pinnacle of his career, which includes nine wins from his 10 bouts to date, and will mean he can train under some of the best muay Thai and mixed martial arts trainers in the world.
"It was definitely one of the craziest but awesome experiences that I've ever had," Volkanovski said from Thailand.
"To have just been invited to the scholarship was a great honour in itself, but to have been picked for one of the five scholarships from 26 legitimate professional athletes, just still blows me away."
He said the tryouts were insanely tough, as the instructors tried to break trialists down. However, they soldiered on which impressed the UFC coaches, who praised them saying it was some of the hardest training they had seen.
"Day one started with some strength and conditioning on the beach, which was not as good as it sounds - it involved massive stair sprints, bear crawls, carrying people in and out of water etc," he said.
"That day's muay Thai class was the craziest thing I have ever seen, as the Thai trainers were there to make a point and really break us down, they literally bashed people, with some guys dropping from knees and kicks to the stomach and head, elbows - it left people battered, some guys needed stitches and all this was while the trainers were holding pads for us.
"The MMA coaches had sympathy for us, saying it was never their intention for that to happen and they have never seen the muay Thai trainers so intense.
"Day two involved wrestling and Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ), it was still really hard but was mainly to see our grappling.
"Day three involved an early morning six-kilometre mountain Buddha run (six kilometres of really steep road run - really steep) then a BJJ comp straight after it with guys in and out of the tryouts. My division had 16 competitors, in which I did really well, taking out purple and brown belt grapplers and I ended up losing the grand final to an All American wrestler, who also got a scholarship.
"It was an awesome experience and I can't wait to see where this journey takes me."
Volkanovski will come home on April 29, before returning to Thailand intermittently.