NEW world champion James Webb is a man on a mission - to change the public perception of "cage fighting".

The 29-year-old, from Colchester, is riding on the crest of a wave after being crowned Cage Warriors Fighting Championship middleweight world champion at London's O2 Arena.

He wants to keep proving his talent as one of the best in Europe, hopefully following in the footsteps of Ultimate Fighting Championship superstar Conor McGregor.

And he also wants to alter people's perception of his sport - colloquially referred to as cage fighting - demonstrating it as an "art form" of skill and athleticism rather than one of "thuggery".

Webb's stock is rising fast and his biggest success so far was his victory against Norwegian Thomas Robertson, at the O2.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet, to be honest," said the former Gilberd School student, who earned his title shot after shining at the Cage Warriors 99 event in Colchester last November.

"My performances have gone to another level in the last few months.

"One of the main reasons has been the encouragement and support of my partner, Sidonie, which has definitely helped me become more focused.

"I've always seen my life like a puzzle and it's now complete.

"The last piece is now in place, whereas before there have been pieces missing.

"It's paying off because I've been winning fights very quickly and easily, although it was a real battle against Robertson.

"The second round was especially tough but I was able to get on top in the third and pin him down.

"It was brilliant and now I believe I'm among the elite, among the top ten in Europe.

"I'm very happy to be making my name in this sport - a sport that spawned the careers of high-profile people like Conor McGregor and Dan Hardy.

"I feel a lot of self-worth and believe there's a lot more to come."

Webb, who lives in Ipswich Road, was previously a keen footballer before turning to combat sports and taking part in his first Mixed Martial Arts event in 2014.

Since then the successes have come thick and fast.

He is a five-time national champion in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and also won the Amateur Mixed Martial Arts South-East Championships.

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt trains three or four times a day, often at the well-known SBG Swords gym in Dublin.

He believes fitness is an essential ingredient in his sport but can also understand why people have their misgivings.

"I understand why people refer to it as cage fighting," said the former pupil at Friars Grove Primary School.

"It's not inaccurate, but I never would never refer to myself as a cage fighter.

"That makes it sound too aggressive but I'm not a thug - I'm an athlete.

"Anyone who knows me will know I'm not that sort of person.

"I could have played any sport but, for me, it's about testing my skill set and that's why this suits me.

"Most of my success is based on my ability to frustrate opponents - to restrain them and 'choke' them.

"It's one of the best forms of self-defence and while there's some aggression at the lower end of the sport - people who just want to fight - it's about fitness and athleticism at my level.

"It's about tactics and outmanoeuvring opponents.

"It's an art form, rather than thuggery, and it's far more than getting in a cage and swinging punches.

"If you don't know what you're doing, you'll very quickly get found out.

"That's why I'm so determined to change people's opinions.

"That's what I'm all about and I can guarantee that if anyone watched me train and spent time watching me they'd be blown away."

Cage Warriors is Europe's biggest mixed martial arts promotion and bouts including Webb's are screened live on BT Sport.