MMA: NZ's Jay Jay 'The Māori Kid' Wilson making waves on Bellator stage

Kiwi featherweight Jay Jay 'The Māori Kid' Wilson has done his fair share of education in recent weeks.

During the build-up to his latest outing at Bellator 238 in Los Angeles on Sunday (NZ time), Wilson dished out a few lessons on the origins of his fight moniker to inquisitive local media.

"I had plenty of people asking me about it," says Wilson, whose pre and post-fight 'pukana' has almost become his trademark.

"I had a good talk with some of the American media guys and got into the history of the Māori, which was pretty cool.

"My Māori heritage gives me a lot of strength - we were warriors. Bringing that into the cage, with all my ancestors, means a lot to me."

Come fight night, class was back in session.

The 22-year-old phenom needed just a round-and-a-half to dispose of American Mario Navarro, keeping his flawless record intact and further establishing himself as one of the most exciting young talents in New Zealand mixed martial arts.

From the outset, Navarro - a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt - was no match for Wilson's world class, suffocating grappling offence and was pulverised from the top throughout the opening round, doing just enough to ward off a referee stoppage.

That trend continued in the second round, when a slick transition from a rear-naked choke attempt to an arm bar soon forced Navarro to tap and become Wilson's fourth submission scalp in as many bouts inside a Bellator cage.

"I'm feeling really good, just super pleased with my performance," he told Newshub. "I went out there and displayed a lot more of my game.

"I executed my gameplan that we'd been working at the gym, and I just went out there and did exactly the same work I'd been putting in there. Just another day at the office."

One moment before the transition to the fight-ending choke showed Wilson's currently state of confidence, when he spun to Navarro's side and looked to cinch in a 'twister' - one of the rarest and most complex submissions in the sport.

That kind of feat would've gone viral in an instant and - as the kids say - broken the internet, and he was only a matter of a step or two away from securing it.

"That was my goal," Wilson laughed. "One submission and I would've gone into the history books."

Wilson with his coaches after Sunday's win.
Wilson with his coaches after Sunday's win. Photo credit: Instagram/@jayjay_mma

Popularised by BJJ legend Eddie Bravo, only three fighters have successfully executed it - 'Korean Zombie' Chan Sung Jung and Bryce Mitchell in the UFC, and ONE Championship's Angela Lee.

"I've tried it plenty in the gym… I was in the position, so I just thought, 'I'm going to go for it and if I hit it, I'm going to blow up'.

"His hip got free and I thought I had to bail, but it was too late - he managed to recover and get into side control. I just had to relax and recompose, get my guard back and then sweep him, and took his back and finished him from there."

Wilson admits he may have pressed a little too hard to keep his four-fight streak of first round dispatches alive, particularly during one relentless striking salvo from above that would've emptied a lesser-conditioned athlete's gas tank instantly.

That said, he's not apologising.

"In all my fights, I'm going out and looking for the finish right from the start. I like to finish fights, I'm not keen on going the distance.

"Going forward, that's exactly what I'll be doing. I just need to learn to be more precise with my shots and look for the shots that will finish the fight, instead of just unloading."

Now 5-0 in his professional career, Wilson is starting to make waves. 

Sunday's event featured 'Cyborg' Justino's promotional debut, after her highly publicised defection from the UFC. Considered one of the greatest female fighters ever, her presence brought plenty of additional interest and Wilson is sure to have turned a few extra heads to his prodigious talents.

"I definitely felt more hype behind me this time, but I still feel grounded. I still feel level, I still know I'm human."

Both Bellator and Wilson are eager to keep the momentum going. He's already pencilled in May's Bader vs Nemkov event for his next bout and waits for an opponent to be confirmed.

Wilson's not bothered who will share the cage with him next. His focus is on time inside the gym at his headquarters at San Diego-based Alliance MMA - and the cage.

The rest - the big name fighters, the titles - will all follow in due course.

In a sport where athletes typically don't reach their prime until their early 30s, he's wise enough to realise that his professional career is still in its infancy. 

"I'm just taking it step by step, I'm in no rush. I know I have at least 10 more years left in this game and within those 10 years, I want to make history multiple times."

For now, at the top of the list of priorities for Wilson is an overdue trip home to Aotearoa and a few creature comforts life Stateside has him pining for.

"I want to eat some pies, I'm going to have a hangi and I'm going to go hunting."