Karate Combat fighter Samuel Ericsson boasts over 600,000 social media followers on Instagram - but he insists he doesn't want to receive any 'special treatment'.
Proudly sponsored by sportswear giants Gymshark and RDX Sports, the South-Korean born Swedish superstar quickly became an overnight viral sensation when he started uploading advanced karate tutorial videos to his Instagram page over four years ago.
Lightweight Ericsson, who also counts current UFC megastars Conor McGregor and Jon Jones among his followers, will make his highly-anticipated professional debut on Thursday, as he competes against Alberto Ramirez at 68 kg on Karate Combat: Season 3.
"Of course I feel good, but I also don't really want to be treated any differently to anyone else, I don't want to get any special treatment," Ericsson exclusively told GIVEMESPORT. "But you know, in some ways, I might get some benefits.
"But when it comes to the actual fight itself, I am a fighter on the roster, I don't want to be treated any differently, but I feel like the organisation, the staff, the fighters, they respect me for what I do and what I've accomplished in my career so far.
"I respect everyone, obviously, for what they are doing for this organisation; all of the fighters, the staff, the people behind the scenes, they all put in the same hard work as I do.
"I just really love the organisation, the people behind it, and everything that goes on behind the scenes. It's super, super cool, I'm really enjoying myself."
Like many of his contemporaries before him, Ericsson has sadly had to deal with his fair share of abuse on social media from online trolls.
But it doesn't seem like he's bothered by it at all; in fact, he rather thrives off the pressure of instantly being one of the most recognisable faces on the roster.
"To be honest, I don't really get so much hate on my Instagram anymore," the 29-year-old said. "If I do, it's usually the same sort of thing, which has made it quite easy for me to brush it off, because it's either, 'You're a fake fighter', or, 'You're just an influencer, you just show off on Instagram'. Those are some examples. The others might be, 'You're f------ short', 'You're a little baby', you know, that kind of thing.
"So I just try to brush it off, and you know, do my thing. But of course, when it comes to fighting, I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a lot of pressure. I know that a lot of people wants to see me fail and I also know that some people that look up to me, may, of course, turn their head away if I lose, I mean, that's the business.
"But I try not to think so much about the pressure, I try to stay focused on the task at hand, and, and yeah, handle myself in the best way possible. Take care of my training, take care of him, and focus on the goals I have in front of me."
While Ericsson admits that sometimes he can't help but read the very small section of hate comments, he is instead using that anger as motivation as he prepares to make his professional full-contact karate debut.
Most importantly, the former amateur MMA fighter wants to be recognised for what he truly is as a mixed martial artist - not by his impressive follower count.
"I'm more of a guy that, of course, I love to prove prove people wrong, but what I love even more is to prove to myself what I can do, right," he added.
"And if I can show what I'm capable of, if I can prove to myself that I can come back stronger, and win this fight, then I will also prove people wrong. But in the end, it's up to me to show my skills, and it's the same thing with Karate Combat.
"I've seen people are saying, 'You haven't fought for over three years, your last amateur fight you looked like s---, you will get whipped in there, you're not a fighter, you're just an influencer'.
"Of course I want to prove them wrong, but I want to prove to myself that I'm a professional fighter, and when I do that, I will also prove them wrong."
After all, this is the man that Joe Rogan, the legendary UFC commentator, once described as 'really talented' and 'really skilful' on an episode of the self-titled 'The Joe Rogan Experience' podcast on Spotify. Ericsson built his Instagram following from posting training videos to his Instagram page, but has since expanded to include lifestyle photos, workout routines and more. "Watch how fast this m----------- is," Rogan said. "So he does a lot of these, he's just really talented, really skilful, but he had to do a video addressing people that say he's speeding up his videos, but that's how it always is. He's good, yeah he's good."
Ericsson could barely contain his excitement. "Before he mentioned me on his podcast, I knew that he was following me, because I saw he was liking some of my posts," he said. "And then he actually commented on some of the posts, and then everything kind of blew up, like, so fast, you know, and it kind of blew me away as well. I just couldn't believe it.
"I messaged him afterwards and said, 'Wow, thank you so much, I really appreciate it. I'm grateful, thank you.' And he was like, 'It's an honour, you know, no problem, it's my pleasure'.
"Jon Jones was also commenting on some of my posts, he said I had great kicks and stuff like that. Conor McGregor also showed up on the Joe Rogan post and said, 'that's brilliant mate, congrats'.
"Of course, as someone who kind of has a big following on social media, I do get a lot of people watching my content, but when famous athletes show up, it means a lot to me to get that kind of recognition from people I deeply admire and respect.
"However, I don't want to value someone's opinion higher than somebody else. I have a lot of followers that I never, ever thought would actually find me or even care about what I do as a fighter, but a lot of them do, and lots of them say nice things about me as well. I can't thank them enough.
"I'm truly grateful to be in the position that I'm in and I'm so excited about the future, but I'm not letting anything get to my head, I know I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing, and maybe in the future, I can meet some of these people and learn from them."News Now - Sport News