MIXED martial arts star Jack Shore is a man who knows what he wants – a successful first world title defence, an invitation to the UFC, and maybe the chance to follow in Joe Calzaghe’s footsteps with a headline fight in front of a raucous Principality Stadium crowd.

The 24-year-old from Abertillery will take to the octagon at the Viola Arena in Cardiff tonight to defend his Cage Warriors bantamweight crown against Scotland’s Scott Malone, nearly five months after winning the belt there by stopping Londoner Mike Ekundayo.

Unbeaten Shore, coached by dad Richard, headlines a Cage Warriors 104 bill which also features fellow Gwent and Tillery Combat fighters Mason Jones, Cory McKenna, Josh Reed and Kris Edwards.

MMA is booming in Wales, with Shore and UFC trio Jack Marshman, Brett Johns and John Phillips helping to thrust the country’s wealth of talent into the sport’s spotlight.

Shore has high hopes for the future, not least when it comes to his own prospects, which could really take off with an 11th straight victory this weekend.

When asked how close he is to being snapped up by the UFC, he said: “I don’t think it will be long.

“If I win in Cardiff then I’ll be 11-0, and if I finish him then I’ll have a 95% finish rate, and that’s what the UFC like.

“They want guys who are winning and finishing fights, so I don’t think I’ll be far away.

“I’d like to think I’ll be there by the end of 2019, if not sooner. I’d like to think there’s even a possibility I could fight in the UFC by the end of the year.

“It’s one fight at a time and I’m not looking past Scott Malone, but the UFC is the next step for me.”

He continued: “I know the UFC are watching. They spoke to my manager when I was 3-0 about signing up but I was too young then and hadn’t had the experience I needed.

“But now I’m a world champion, I’ve had 10 fights as a pro and 10 as an amateur, so that’s a lot of experience.

“I think I could go to the UFC now and compete with anyone, whether that is guys who have just signed or guys in the top five.

“I know they’re interested in me, it’s just a matter of time before that call comes.”

Tonight’s fight takes place just a few hours after the Dragons play the Scarlets at Principality Stadium in the next instalment of Judgement Day.

The city centre venue was the scene of boxing legend Calzaghe’s triumph over Mikkel Kessler in 2007.

So, what are the odds of MMA one day taking centre stage at the home of the Wales rugby team?

Shore said: “That would be nice. Maybe if I can get that superstar status in the UFC we could have Judgement Day in the daytime and me fighting on a show in the night.

“You never know. Joe Calzaghe did it for boxing and it had never been done there before, so maybe I could be the first one to take it to those heights for Welsh MMA.

“I’m only 24 and could do this for another 10 years if I wanted to, so who’s to say in five or six years it can’t go really big?

“We’ve got a lot of good boys coming through and there are guys in front of me, and they’re all pushing the profile of the sport in Wales, so there’s no reason why we can’t take it to that level in years to come.

“Even if I can’t take it there, I can lay the foundation for one of the youngsters to come through and do it.”

But before any of that, Shore knows he must get past Dundee’s Malone (6-1).

“It’s big for me,” he added. “A lot of people say you’re not really the champion until you defend the belt, so it would be nice to get a defence to my name.

“I’ve done the hard job in winning the belt, though some would say it’s harder to defend it.

“Hopefully I can get the win, do it in style, and then go from there.”