Maroubra Beach is one of the most famous sections of Australian coast and not just because of its waves. It is home to notorious Sydney surf crew the Bra Boys, and is where big-wave surfer turned mixed martial arts fighter Richie 'Vas' Vaculik learned to pick himself up after being knocked down.
Speaking exclusively to Wide World of Sports, Vas says the ocean is a wilder beast than anything he'll ever meet in an MMA cage. There is safety on the canvas, according to the 29-year-old.
"If you've had enough, you just have a tap and it's all over," Vas said.
"The ocean can do what it wants with you."
It is learning to deal with this uncertainty that has steered Vas through a tumultuous life and now towards a chance at signing with the world's premier MMA organisation - the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Vas's infatuation with mixed martial arts started at a young age after being introduced to Brazilian jujitsu by his current coaches Bruno Panno and Alex Pradez. He insists chasing titles was never something he saw himself doing.
"I went in for just the experience, and fell in love with it,” he said.
"I can't believe where it's led to."
Disbelief, though, isn't a word many would associate with Vas's rise to the top. The 2011 documentary Fighting Fear, directed by his close friend Macario De Souza – of Bra Boys fame – follows his journey from a small loud-mouthed kid, picked on for being short, to a crowd favourite in Australia's mixed martial arts scene.
From the highs of winning his first four Cage Fighting Championship match ups, to the lows of his 2008 arrest and first MMA loss to Gustavo Falciroli in the 2010 CFC World Championship bantamweight title fight, Vas's determination and passion to prevail is obvious.
The film quotes two-time UFC World Champion BJ Penn as saying; "Life is about second chances – that's the mark of a man." If true, then Vas has definitely made the most of his – maturing as a fighter to bounce back with five more CFC wins.
Vas has now secured the big break he was after – a spot on reality television show The Ultimate Fighter: Australia vs UK - The Smashes. The series will pit the best Aussie and UK mixed martial artists against one another for a chance to win a UFC contract – a prize that has launched Ultimate Fighting careers for stalwarts Rashad Evans and Michael Bisping.
When asked what it would mean to win the series, Vas's smile seemed to say more than his words.
"To get that contract with the UFC, you couldn't ask for anything more."
The Ultimate Fighter finalist match-ups will be held on Saturday, December 15, making it the second UFC on FX event to head Down Under in 2012. The city and venue for the event are yet to be announced.
Fighting Fear will have encore screenings in selected cinemas from September 23. Click here for more details.