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A Look at the Irish MMA Scene: The Gyms

Last week’s look at the Irish MMA scene focused on some of the most talented and prospective fighters training in the Emerald Isle such as UFC fighters Conor McGregor and Norman Parke, Cage Warriors champion Cathal Pendred, likely TUF housemate Paddy Holohan, and many others. This week, it’s time to take a closer look at the gyms and coaches behind these great fighters that were touched on last week.

While it’s normally the fighters that get most of the plaudits and adulation and are lauded as local and national heroes, their success can only ever be attributed to the men behind the scenes that train them through blood, sweat and tears on a daily basis. These coaches run a mixed martial arts gym not for personal glory, but rather to promote the sport they love with the ultimate goal of molding and creating champions on the biggest stages throughout the world.

First off, as was the case last week, we shall begin at the top of the food chain with Ireland’s most successful stable of fighters, SBG (Straight Blast Gym) Ireland.

“Do you want to be the best you can be?….then you’ve come to the right place! Carlsberg don’t do MMA clubs….but if they did, this would be it.”

SBG Ireland, run by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt John Kavanagh, has had a revolving door of killers and champions over the years, who have dominated on the local and European circuit for a while now, and are beginning to put their stamp on the international scene as of late.

Located on the Long Mile Road in Dublin, some of the most notable names under the tutelage of John Kavanagh and his team are Conor McGregor (13-2), Cathal Pendred (12-2), Gunnar Nelson (11-0-1), Paddy Holohan (9-0-1), John Michael Sheil (8-1), Chris Fields (10-5), Aisling Daly (13-5) and Owen Roddy (11-4). One to watch out for also is 16-year-old prospect James Gallagher, who is being touted by Kavanagh as a future world champion.

With two current UFC fighters in their stable in McGregor and Nelson (who splits his time between SBG in Dublin and Mjolnir MMA in Iceland, as well as Renzo Gracie’s gym in NYC), a current Cage Warriors welterweight champion in Pendred and a former CWFC middleweight champion in Fields, gold is SBG Ireland’s past, present and future.  While Kavanagh focuses on coaching BJJ and the Fight Team, Roddy takes care of Muay Thai, McGregor coaches boxing and Sergey Pikulskiy coaches wrestling.

Coming up in competition for SBG Ireland’s fighters includes a CWFC welterweight title defense for Pendred against UFC veteran Che Mills (15-5), Fields returning after a loss on New Year’s Eve to fight Frenchman Norman Paraisy (10-3) and Philip Mulpeter (5-3) versus Avi Jack (6-2) on the same card on June 1 for Cage Warriors 55 in Dublin. Nelson was scheduled to face Mike Pyle at UFC 160 on May 25 but pulled out due to a knee injury which required surgery. McGregor, meanwhile, is expected to appear on the UFC’s Boston card in August, which will be the promotion’s first show on FOX’s new channel, FOX Sports 1.

While SBGi are arguably the most famous MMA gym in Ireland, Andy Ryan’s Team Ryano MMA gym, located in Baldoyle in Dublin, offers just as much of a high pedigree of world-class training across all martial arts disciplines including BJJ, Muay Thai and judo in particular. With head coach Ryan being a 4th Dan judo black belt and a former national champion, this gym offers judo training unlike anywhere else on the island. As Ryan is also a BJJ black belt under Rodrigo Medeiros, the calibre of training and coaching in Team Ryano is arguably second to none in Ireland.

At Team Ryano in Dublin we believe that it is best to learn to fight in each range with an expert in that field so we run classes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) (groundwork),  Judo (takedowns) , Boxing & Muay Thai for stand up with experts in each field taking the classes so that our students can concentrate their efforts in the area that interests them most (or that requires the most work).”

Coming out of Team Ryano are CWFC flyweight title contender Neil Seery (12-9), Paul Redmond (7-3) and John Donnelly (7-6) to name just a few. Team Ryano have been and will be one of the more dominant teams on the national and European circuit for a long time to come no doubt.

Up next for Team Ryano’s main men are a flyweight bout for Cage Warriors’s inaugural 125 lbs title between Neil Seery and Mikael Silander (8-1), as well as Paul Redmond searching for his fifth consecutive win in the Cage Warriors promotion as he faces Englishman Marc Allen (7-2).

Up in the north of Ireland, in Ballymena (Northern Ireland) is the Institute of Mixed Martial Arts (IMMA), or Next Generation Northern Ireland, having affiliated with Chris Brennan’s Next Generation club.

“The Institute of Mixed Martial Arts Ballymena was founded in 2001 by Rodney Moore with the aim of providing high quality tuition. Starting off in a garage with only three members, the club has grown year on year and is now running a full time gym with over 60+ members in a town centre location.”

Teaching everything from MMA, BJJ, no-gi, personal training, boxing and Muay Thai to strength & conditioning and even Systema (a Russian Special Forces martial art), Next Gen NI is the place to go north of the border for anyone who wants to train to become a successful MMA fighter, or just to train for the joy of it.

The proof is in the pudding as they say, and “Stormin” Norman Parke (17-2), winner of last year’s The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes lightweight tournament, is all the proof one needs that Next Gen NI is the real deal.

Down in the south of Ireland in Ballycureen, Cork, is the Boxing Clinic, or MMA Clinic. Their pedigree on the local and national circuits show one of the most promising mixed martial arts gyms in the country and arguably the best outside of Ireland’s capital. With a constant stream of ‘W’s’ coming their way from shows such as Battlezone FC, Man of War, Clan Wars etc., the MMA Clinic is a staple on the Irish MMA scene.

Other notable teams on the national circuit include Performance MMA, Legends MMA, Rush Fight Academy, Ryoshin MMA Lucan and IFS.

If any of these gyms are anything to go by, there’s no better time in Ireland to take that plunge and see if there’s an MMA fighter lying dormant inside of you. The world class coaching is there in abundance, the examples of fighters succeeding on the highest stages is there also.


Next time I’ll focus on the many high quality and exciting MMA promotions based and taking place in Ireland, so keep an eye on next week!

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