Twelve months ago Shay Walsh was eating through a straw.
A much-hyped fight had ended in a badly broken jaw and the Lancaster mixed martial arts fighter didn’t know what was next.
Fast forward nearly 12 months and Walsh, who turned 26 on Friday, has secured a training scholarship in Thailand that could transform his career.
After a gruelling month in Phuket in April, the former Lancaster and Morecambe College student secured a place on Tiger Muay Thai’s fight team and has a return to the cage lined up in July.
Walsh, who fights out of brother Sergio’s Lancaster and Morecambe MMA gym, knows that timing was everything as 26 fighters from across the world competed for five scholarships.
“The timing has been perfect,” said the 66kg fighter.
“My jaw was just about alright and I was ready to step it up.
“If these trials had happened a few months before I wouldn’t have been able to risk it.
“I don’t know any of the guys out there and they don’t really care about me too much and with a scholarship up for grabs the sparring was a bit rough and everyone’s trying to prove themselves.
“A few months earlier I couldn’t have gone out there and risked it against guys who were trying to take my head off.
“At the time I didn’t think it was going to work out too well but the timing was good, it’s a brilliant opportunity for me.”
The deal with the prestigious Thai gym means Walsh can train, live and eat for free but has to cover his flights.
“This club is a huge gym, it’s spread over land you wouldn’t believe,” said Walsh, whose professional record reads 10-3-0.
“I have to cover my flights and obviously any other money just so I’ve got it.
“I trained in America a couple of times a couple of years ago and it worked out really expensive.
“Compared to one of the America trips I could do Thailand five times.”
Having only returned to from Thailand on May 1, Walsh is flying out again on Saturday ahead of return to the cage when he competes for the ISCF British pro featherweight title fight against home favourite Marley Swindells in Swansea on July 5.
It marks a remarkable turnaround after the jaw break against Andrew Fisher in Liverpool in June last year.
“The first few months were a nightmare,” said Walsh, ranked 14th in the UK at featherweight.
“I was eating through a straw for a few weeks and it was a bad time.
“It was probably a good three months before I even started running even the impact of running was bad.”
But now he has the world at his feet as he aims to reach Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world’s largest MMA promotion.
“This is the time for me know,” Walsh said.
“I’ve been training for a long time but I’m starting to get into my peak years.
“I want to earn some proper money and fight on some big shows.
“UFC is the goal, they’re running the game at the moment.
“But the first target is to fight overseas. I’ve fought in Liverpool loads of times and my mates have come and that’s all good but when I’m 50 years old I want to say I took advantage of it and fought all over the world.
“I don’t want any regrets and these guys can make that happen.
“A fight in Asia or Australia would be awesome.”