UFC hits fever pitch as it returns to the Republic of Ireland


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Former Vice President of UFC for Europe, Middle-East and Africa, Dave Allen (Right) and Dermot O’Shea (Left) Image by Robin English

On Saturday 24th October the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) monolith that is the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the Republic of Ireland for the first time in over a year and the event will take place at the 3Arena in the Dublin Docklands.

Although Crumlin native“The Notorious” Conor McGregor himself will not be competing (with his attentions turned towards his eagerly anticipated featherweight unification bout with Brazilian Jose Aldo in Las Vegas this December), the line-up still features a talented bunch of Irish fighters for home fans to rally behind and support.

Among those making triumphant returns to the Dublin Octagon following victories on home soil in July of last year are Norman Park (lightweight) from Northern Ireland and Dubliners Neil Seery (flyweight), Paddy Holohan (flyweight) and Cathal Pendred (welterweight).

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Conor McGregor – Image by Dermot O’Shea

Holohan and Pendred train out of the same gym – Straight Blast Gym Ireland (SBG) – as well as fellow Dubliner Aisling Daly (strawweight), aged 27, who will be appearing in front of an Irish crowd for the very first time.

Pendred was actually born in Boston in the United States to Irish immigrant parents but his family moved back here when he was four years old.

The main event of the evening will see Irishman Joseph Duffy coming face-to-face withDustin Poirier of the United States. It would seem that, even in McGregor’s absence, The Notorious casts a long shadow over this bout. Duffy, who hails from Donegal, is the last fighter to have beaten McGregor in a competitive MMA bout way back in November 2010.

Poirier himself has faced McGregor but unlike Duffy came out on the losing side when he fought the Dublin native at UFC 178 in Las Vegas back in September 2014.

Duffy is a seasoned MMA fighter but is only a recent signing with UFC. The 27-year-old, who stands five foot and 10 inches tall, only recently returned to the rapidly growing sport following a near-three-year period spent on the professional boxing circuit, where he recorded an impressive 7-0 record.

Pendred and Holohan will be looking to preserve their 100% home record with victories against Tom Breese (England) and Louis Smolka (America) respectively, while Daly hopes to add her name to the list of local victors when she fights Ericka Almeida, a 26-year-old from Brazil.

Pendred, Holohan and Daly are all coached by John Kavanagh, McGregor’s trainer, at the SBG, a gym that was founded back in 2001. As well as such stellar talents as McGregor, Holohan et al, SBG also boasts a string of up-and-coming young fighters taking part in MMA events at Dublin’s National Stadium on the South Circular Road.

Dublin 8 and the Liberties area in particular retain an intrinsic link to the fast evolving and ever more popular world of MMA. Until recently, David Allen – a native of Grantham Street and former pupil of Synge Street CBS – held the title of Senior Vice President and General Manager of Europe, Middle East and Africa for the UFC.

Speaking to The Liberty newspaper earlier on this year, Allen was quick to emphasise the connection between Irish MMA and The Liberties area of the capital.

“A year ago, I got this note from a girl called Lynn Hunter who is Conor McGregor’s PR agent and when I got to the end of the note, I saw her address was No. 10 Grantham Street, and I realised that she has her offices where I went to primary school,” mused Allen.

While reminiscing about the UFC’s previous stop-off in Dublin last year, Allen was also again quick to acknowledge his heartfelt love of Dublin 8 into any anecdote.

While he was speaking about his return home in advance of the July 2014 event, when he was scouting for various venues to serve as locations for everything from the weigh-ins to press conferences, Allen highlighted the role of Kilmainham Hospital as a venue for returning fighters once upon a time, married with its role in hosting the new fighters signed up with the UFC.

“Kilmainham Hospital was set up as a hospital for fighters returning from war, and there we were with the new war and the new fighters coming in this day and age to Kilmainham Hospital,” he enthused.

With the July 2014 event arriving just as McGregor’s star was on the rise, and with his subsequent metaphoric acceleration to fame over in America, this year’s event promises to captivate a far larger MMA fan-base on these shores, in spite of the absence of the enigmatic and charismatic McGregor. Amazingly, tickets for the event sold out in the space of a minute and as the event promises to be the biggest of its kind ever held in this country, Dublin 8 is sure to see an increase in similar events in the future.

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