COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Columbus-based athlete Ethic Dejaun recently became a World Kickboxing Organization (WKO) world champion. Despite the title, Dejaun was unable to fund travel to compete in the upcoming WKO Open British Championships.

To get him there, coaches at Columbus Karate International joined forces with All About Fitness Family to host a fundraising masquerade ball on Sept. 16. They hope to raise $2,000 to offset the financial burden of Dejaun’s travel. Ahead of the fundraiser, Dejaun discussed his athletic journey and hopes for impacting the Columbus community.

“I’m really using this as an opportunity to be a role model,” said 35-year-old Dejaun. “To show the kids that you can do whatever you want to do.”

Dejaun began his karate career in Oklahoma City. Growing up, he was inspired by his grandfather, a grandmaster in the martial art. Three years ago, he moved to Columbus, Georgia for work- and acting opportunities in the city.

After earning six world champion titles in karate, Dejaun made the decision to transition to kickboxing last year. His karate background allowed him to enter the sport at an elite level. He competed internationally in Guadalajara, Mexico for his first fight.

“It was a little bit [difficult] in the beginning,” said Dejaun about his switch to kickboxing. Although he felt good about the physical component of the sport, Dejaun had to overcome mental barriers to kickbox.

“I was able to adapt,” said Dejaun, noting that kickboxing requires a different mindset from karate.

The athlete’s Columbus Karate International coach, Tyrone Muhammad, explained he has high hopes for Dejaun’s upcoming competition and community impact.

“He’s very special,” said Muhammad. “It’s going to be a special moment to watch him win.”

Muhammad, and eighth-degree martial arts black belt, wants Dejaun’s athletic success to make him a role model for local youth. He explained mixed martial arts can provide a therapeutic outlet to help them “redirect their thinking towards something more positive.”

However, it is not just Dejaun’s skill which makes him special, according to Muhammad. The coach explained his athlete’s compassion, work ethic and positive outlook are what truly set him apart.

“I want people to know that supporting him on the international stage means more than just money,” said Muhammad. “It really means we’ve got to support someone who has taken time out of his life to do something positive and really serve as a role model for everyone else.”

After competing in Britain, Dejaun hopes to vie for another kickboxing world champion title in Italy this October.

The masquerade on Sept. 16 will feature a raffle hour supported by local organizations from 6 to 7 p.m., with the main event running from 7 to 9 p.m. Entry to the formal, adults-only event costs $25 per person which will go directly toward Dejaun’s upcoming competition. Additional food and drink prices are not covered by the entry fee.