Over the last few weeks, we’ve taken in-depth looks at not only some of the best fighters coming out of the Emerald Isle, but the gyms and coaches that have nourished and trained these great fighters and prospects over the years. Now it’s time to take a final look at the Irish MMA scene and explore the promotions that have been the platform for showcasing the talents of these great athletes and fighters.
Working our way down from the top, we begin with the most successful and prominent (and controversial) promotion in the Republic of Ireland, Cage Contender. Based out of Dublin, Cage Contender is the brainchild of Irish promoter John Ferguson, and began as a six-man knockout tournament as short a time ago as August 2009. The promotion’s shows are based primarily in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, but have also had shows throughout Europe in the past too.
“The Cage Contender ethos is that there are Irish people in every corner of the world many of whom enjoy watching sport from the land they call home. With this in mind Cage Contender events showcase the premier MMA talent Ireland has to offer with a mixture of international stars and household names added to the mix.”
Some of those “international stars” include UFC and Strikeforce veterans Paul Daley, Dean Lister and Jeff Monson. Not only that, but Cage Contender was the launching pad for current UFC prospects, lightweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter Norman Parke as well as the hugely promising welterweight Gunnar Nelson.
As mentioned previously however, Cage Contender has recently been in the news for the wrong reasons, due to their failure to pay not only many of their staff members, but a lot of their competing fighters too. It appears however that this issue is in the process of being rectified, though huge questions remain. For now, the show must go on, with Cage Contender XVII taking place May 25th in the Newry Sports Centre in Northern Ireland, which is set to be headlined by UFC veteran Andre Winner as he takes on an as of yet unannounced opponent.
Although actually based out of London, England, Cage Warriors Fighting Championship, like Cage Contender, is one of the catalysts for many of the great Irish and European MMA fighters that have been, are on the cusp or are currently involved with the UFC.
Having only this past weekend hosted a ‘Fight Night’ event in the United Arab Emirates, Cage Warriors are not just major players on the Irish & UK scene and in Europe, but are also spreading their brand internationally now, having been mainly in the UK for the majority of its history. This international expansion is down in no small part to Irishman Graham Boylan taking the reigns of the promotion in 2010, and beginning it’s expansion across and beyond Europe.
Established as far back as 2001, Cage Warriors is one of the longest-running mixed martial arts organizations ever, outlasting the likes of PRIDE Fighting Championship and Strikeforce. With such notable names beginning their careers under its brand such as Conor McGregor, Michael Bisping, Dan Hardy and Cathal Pendred, CWFC retains a rich history in world class MMA excellence. UFC veteran Jesse Taylor has seen resurgence in fortunes since joining Cage Warriors, going on to become the promotion’s middleweight champion on New Year’s Eve when he submitted the dangerous Dubliner Chris Fields.
Up next for Cage Warriors is a June 1st event in Dublin’s The Helix venue as new welterweight champion Cathal Pendred (12-2-1) looks to defend his title and make one final push for a UFC contract against UFC veteran Che Mills (15-5, 2 NC). Also on the card is another title fight for the inaugural CWFC flyweight championship as Irishman Neil Seery (12-9) takes on Mikael Silander (8-1). The event will stream worldwide on MMAJunkie.com and on JOE.ie in the Republic of Ireland.
On a more local and national scale, Dublin’s Battlezone Fighting Championship has for a few years now provided the Irish MMA community with a great platform to showcase their talents against quality opposition, in sold out venues around the country.
Established in 2010 by Irish Judo champion, BJJ black belt and head coach of Team Ryano MMA Andy Ryan, Battlezone’s shows have always been some of the most exciting and value-for-money events on the fight calendar, whether you’re watching in the venues are at home for free on Setanta Sports in Ireland.
“Battlezone has always been about offering fighters and their clubs an opportunity to showcase their talent. Whether you’re making your debut or you’re a seasoned pro, we can promise you a good match-up on a good card at a sold-out venue and the possibility of your fight being broadcast around the world on TV” - Senkai Promotions CEO, Andy Ryan.
Next up for the promotion is Battlezone 8 which takes place in Cork on July 5th.
Based out of Tallaght in Dublin is the Ryoshin Fighting Championship. Like Battlezone, Ryoshin offers a similar level of quality competition for pros and amateurs alike. Its events take place in the Roadstone Club, Kingswood, Clondalkin in Dublin.
Ryoshin FC’s next show is in fact this weekend, May 18th and includes a bantamweight title fight as well as three ‘Iceland vs. Ireland’ fights, with a jam-packed undercard.
As for the rest, you don’t have to look or travel far for top quality MMA fights in Ireland, whether it be Man of War, Rumble in Rush, Celtic Gladiator and many more besides who all have fight cards multiple times a year.
It’s clearer now more so than ever that the state of the MMA scene in Ireland is blossoming nicely thanks to these great promotions and promoters willing and able to give a chance to young fighters and the sport of mixed martial arts in general. Add to this the great fighters that Ireland are producing and also the great coaches and their gyms that are nourishing and nurturing said fighters and it’s safe to say the Irish MMA scene one of the healthiest around.