Sunday 19 November 2017

Irish women UFC fighters: 'We train and fight twice as hard as Conor and the boys'

Aisling is currently starring in the new series of the hit US reality show The Ultimate Fighter, which pits the world number three against 15 other top professional female fighters in weekly televised cage fights
Aisling is currently starring in the new series of the hit US reality show The Ultimate Fighter, which pits the world number three against 15 other top professional female fighters in weekly televised cage fights
Fighter Aisling Daly
Joanna Kiernan

Joanna Kiernan

She is closer to a prestigious UFC world title belt than any of her male Irish counterparts, but pro-fighter Aisling Daly says women in the sport - just like in rugby - are not getting the recognition they deserve at home.

The world number three claims she trains and fights longer than rising UFC star and fellow Dubliner Conor McGregor, but is barely known in her home town.

She told the Sunday Independent: "It has a lot to do with Conor and how well he has done and because he is such a character. So although I am training and fighting longer than Conor, he has really put it on the map. It's the same with everything I suppose, like with the women's rugby, the lads get more attention."

Aisling is currently starring in the new series of the hit US reality show The Ultimate Fighter, which pits the world number three against 15 other top professional female fighters in weekly televised cage fights.

Almost three million viewers are tuning in to watch the hit TV series each week, which will culminate in the crowning of the UFC's first ever women's straw-weight champion (115 pounds) at the finale in December.

Aisling hopes to boost the profile of the sport and inspire more Irishwomen to follow her footsteps into the ring.

But she admits: "Very few women are comfortable getting that close to anyone - be it male or female. It can be intimidating."

Aisling said the success of the UFC's first and current bantam-weight champ Ronda Rousey - a judo Olympic medallist who also starred in The Expendables 3 - has raised the profile of the female fight game to new heights.

"What the UFC are doing with the women's division at the moment is a lot to do with Ronda Rousey, who has really put women in the UFC on the map," Aisling added. "They've seen how successful she is and how much potential there is to have a female champion, so it's a great time to be involved."

However, Aisling still believes women have to work twice as hard in the sport.

At the start of Aisling's mixed martial arts career, her trainer John Kavanagh - who also coaches Conor McGregor and other rising Irish UFC stars Cathal Pendred and Paddy Holohan - was reluctant to let her fight. "The fact that he was willing to coach a female fighter was a big thing, but I had to do a lot more than the guys to be accepted," says Aisling.

"When I arrived in John's gym I already had a blue belt in jujitsu, but I still had to wait almost a year before he'd let me fight. I had to jump through a lot more hoops than the lads did, because I think John didn't want to send me home to my mother with my face bruised," she laughs.

Aisling is now a professional and will make her official UFC debut on the finale of The Ultimate Fighter in December.

She adds: "I'm so close to being the UFC world champion - I'm the top in the world."

The Ultimate Fighter: A Champion Will be Crowned airs on Fox Sports 1 in the US on Wednesdays.

Irish viewers can see the show on BT Sport.

Sunday Independent

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