Fighter, whose childhood hero was David Beckham, one win away from scrapping in Frankfurt’s football stadium — The Christian Eckerlin story

Christian Eckerlin grew up watching David Beckham on television, and now he’s just one victory away from emulating his childhood hero and competing at a major football stadium.

On May 4, the German hero will battle it out with Miroslav Broz at Oktagon 57, knowing full well that a victory will unlock his dream of competing at Frankfurt’s home ground, Deutsche Bank Park, a venue which he not only frequented as a boy to support his childhood team, but also where he watched Beckham play during England’s 2006 World Cup victory over Paraguay.

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Growing up in Germany, it would’ve made sense for Eckerlin to aspire to be like one of his countrymen, but there was something about the Manchester United legend that he couldn’t get enough of.

In an exclusive interview with Sporf, the 37-year-old explained: “David Beckham was my hero. In Germany, when I say that, people reply, ‘Why don’t you pick Franz Beckenbauer’? But Beckham was a really good player. He changed the game with his style.”

With a love for ‘the beautiful game’ he just couldn’t kick, Eckerlin started playing himself, quickly unlocking a sensational talent. Utilising his skills, the natural-born athlete worked his way towards playing as a professional for 3. Liga side RV Darmstadt.

Eckerlin remembered: “It was a young dream of mine to become a professional footballer. The dream came 50% true as I played in the third division in Germany. It was a special time, I will never forget. I love football. I still go to watch Frankfurt.”

The gifted player’s career on the pitch came to an end when he was 21, but rather than say goodbye to his dreams of sporting superstardom, he jumped back on the horse and embarked on his journey towards the Oktagon history books.

Christian Eckerlin is the most popular fighter in German MMA history

At 14, before his footballing ambitions really took off, Eckerlin walked through the doors of a boxing gym for the first time. And he can still recall his first dramatic sparring sessions.

He reminisced: “I went to the club, and there were lots of Russians. They were very good boxers. They said, ‘Let’s have a spar’. I said ‘OK’, I didn’t know what that was. They beat me, ‘bing, bong, bang’. I had to stop. But six months later, I sparred again, and I started to have fun. My coach said, ‘You have to fight. You’re very talented’.”

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The sportsman continued: “I was still in football, but I remember going to watch a cage fight with a crowd of 2000 people, and I loved it. So, when I stopped playing football, I thought, ‘What do I do now’? I went to have an MMA spar with my friend Daniel, and because of my boxing background, I was good, and he didn’t expect it. I remember looking at a small TV in his gym, and Wanderlei Silva was fighting a Japanese guy, and I thought it was amazing. I’d always had a burning heart for football, but when I saw that fight, it started another fire. I thought, ‘I have to do this’.”

This moment inspired Eckerlin to follow an incredible path to national superstardom, most recently selling out the 18,000-seater Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany.

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While the MMA icon didn’t win that night, his adoring fans created an atmosphere he’ll never forget. And when Eckerlin sets foot in the cage on Saturday evening, in front of a packed crowd at the Festhalle, he knows that should he secure the victory, a blockbuster fight with Christian Jungwirth at Frankfurt’s football stadium likely awaits.

He beamed: “In my professional football career, I always wanted to play there, but God didn’t give it to me. But I hope he gives it to me in a different way. I want to fight there.”

Fans can watch Oktagon 57 live on DAZN.

Featured Image Credit: David Beckham / Oktagon MMA