'Like a job interview in front of 10,000 - I hate fighting'

"Imagine something that really matters, like having a job interview, but in front of 10,000 people. It's horrible."

On one hand, British heavyweight Austin, 35, who fights in European promotion Oktagon, relishes the prospect of competing in front of thousands of fans.

But on the other is the elephant in the room, an elephant Austin says many mixed martial artists are accompanied by, but refuse to acknowledge - he hates fighting.

"I love training, I love martial arts, I’ve done it since I was five years old. But it’s a horrible experience getting into a cage and fighting somebody," he says.

"Most of the people who say they enjoy it don’t. From walking out, to standing in front of each other while they do the announcements. Getting in a cage and having someone try and knock my head off... it’s awful man, it really is awful.

"I’m not scared of being hurt, it’s just a horrible experience. It’s the stress of the situation. You’re not fighting for your life but that’s how your body reacts to it and, as I get older and wiser, I just don’t enjoy it at any more."

It's rare for fighters to admit their dislike for competing but Austin points to former UFC star Nick Diaz as an example of one who has.

"Nick Diaz is the biggest fighter’s fighter there is, he's the coolest guy to have ever done it. But he has plenty of interviews where he says he hates doing it, he doesn’t want to do it," said Austin.

"Sometimes you don’t want to do something but if you’re good at it and can make money… there’s plenty of people out there who don’t want to go to work on a rainy day."

Echoing Diaz, Austin's reasoning for fighting, despite not enjoying it, is because he's good at it.

Austin has won 18 of his 26 professional fights, including an eye-catching victory over UFC interim heavyweight champion Tom Aspinall in 2015.

He is also on a three-fight win streak, triumphing in two fights since signing with European-based promotion Oktagon last year.

"The funny thing is the less I like it and the less I want to do it competitively, I become detached and it has given me clarity of mind - I’m much more able to make smart decisions and good choices," Austin added.

"No-one is forcing me to fight and go out there but I’ve got to a point where I can make reasonable money. And when you’ve done something a long time and you’re starting to see the rewards, suck it up and go with it a little bit - there’s nothing worse than wasted talent.

"I’m better than I’ve ever been - it’s a bit of a double-edged sword I guess."

'Working with psychologist brother has helped me'

The irony is not lost on Austin when he visualises the dilemma he faces when he competes in front of thousands of fans, with the London fighter joking, "Oh, I can't wait to get in there".

But there is also some truth to what Austin is saying, despite his dislike for competing.

"My brother is a sport psychologist and obviously, until very recently, I never bothered to utilise his skills. But I’ve worked with him a little bit over the last three fights," said Austin.

"So as I walk out to compete I’m aware of people around me but I’m very tunnel vision now. I picture me across from my opponent in the gym, and I think that’s helped me in terms of performance anxiety.

"But the the downside is, it’s an oxymoron... fighting in front of 13,000 people, the excitement, it's all kicking off - and I’m going to ignore them, basically. I guess it’s all coping mechanisms."