Saturday 18 November 2017

McGregor triumph inspires would-be champions to head for the MMA gym

Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor
Kim Nyman trains at Straight Blast Gym in Dublin
Two members of the Straight Blast Gym grapple during training
Members practise at Straight Blast Gym, where Conor McGregor trains, on the Naas Road in Dublin

Shane O'Riordan

Prepare for blood, sweat and tears. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) gyms across the country have received floods of applications for membership following Conor McGregor's title win in Las Vegas last weekend.

Known as 'The Notorious', the Dubliner defeated Chad Mendes to become the interim holder of the featherweight title, making history as the first Irish person to hold an Ultimate Fighting Championship belt.

And since then, Straight Blast Gym (SBG) on the Naas Road in Dublin, where McGregor trains, has seen interest spike dramatically.

"We've seen lots more people interested in becoming members this week. It's hard to say now how many people will actually join; for every 10 enquiries you might get, only one person might actually come along and stick with the training," said Ann Mulligan, manager of SBG and sister to McGregor's coach, John Kavanagh.

Dermot McGrath, co-owner of Pankration Kickboxing in Limerick, said: "We'd normally come in on a Monday morning with 10-15 messages on the phone from people enquiring about classes, having seen UFC on the Saturday night. That number doubles though when any of the Irish guys fight and it was the same story after McGregor's win."

McGrath is coach and partner of Invicta fighter Catherine Costigan, touted as the female answer to McGregor.

But many Irish people are now practising elements of the sport. "People are encorporating MMA into their lives without them even knowing," said James Murphy, a personal trainer with Zest Fitness who has brought some of his own MMA background into clients' exercise programmes to help them achieve results.

"People lose fat and build muscle quickly by training in similar techniques as used by MMA fighters.

But the attrition rate in MMA is high, says Vincent Connolly, trainer at Strange Wolves MMA in Galway city.

"It's not for everyone. You need to be OK with having someone else putting all their body weight on you, the physical pressure of it all, and to have the correct attitude.

"A lot of people may be OK with the physical aspect but they are unwilling to commit to the mental side of the sport, which is thinking about how to become better and how to improve your skills before stepping back in the gym every week," he said.

The gym has received plenty of interest, but as a not-for-profit club, it may only be able to train half of the applicants.

"By the end of it, we may only be left with five people who have the dedication to show up."

Irish Independent

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