independent

Thursday 19 July 2018

McGregor's SBG to give Drogheda a Blast

Mixed Martial Arts

Professional fighter Paul Byrne, pictured celebrating a victory in the ring, is to manage a new SBG Gym which is to open in Drogheda in the coming weeks
Professional fighter Paul Byrne, pictured celebrating a victory in the ring, is to manage a new SBG Gym which is to open in Drogheda in the coming weeks

Marcus Cavaroli

The sport of Mixed Martial Arts is about to reach a whole new audience in the Drogheda area after the world-renowned SBG announced plans to open a gym in the town.

Professional fighter Paul Byrne, who is from Tenure, will initially operate the 2,300 sq ft facility on the floor above former soccer star Gary Kelly's own gym in the Newgrange Industrial Park, with a view to expanding in the future, and the news is a huge boost for MMA in the locality.

Now it's hoped that the man credited for putting the sport on the world stage, Conor McGregor, can take time out from his busy schedule to perform the official opening, possibly as early as next month.

Byrne himself is a former BCMMA, British Kickboxing and Irish Muay Thai champion and fellow Louth men Daryl Clarke, Ciaran brother Ciaran and Conor Dillon among others have also had great success in the sport, and the interest in MMA locally prompted the move by SBG - the initials standing for Straight Blast Gym.

'I train myself out of SBG in Dublin on the same team as Conor McGregor, and [head coach] John Kavanagh asked me, was I interested in setting up in Drogheda,' Byrne recalled.

'This will be the 16th SBG gym in Ireland and the others have done very well, and Drogheda is a big town and there's great potential.

'MMA has really grown here and it's still growing and I don't know why it's been so successful, but I suppose Conor McGregor has brought a big interest to it and a lot of young people growing up look up to him.

'It's a tough sport, but the MMA Board have brought in new safety regulations and rules and it's safer than boxing because you take fewer blows to the head.'

Training in BJJ, Muay Thai, MMA, kickboxing and other disciplines will be available from day one, with a top-of-the-range Fuji matted area and Fuji wall padding. There'll be a foundation programme for children who'd like a gentle introduction to the sport, while wrestling will be included at a later stage and there are plans to add a cage fighting ring next year if the venture proves successful.

'I know Conor McGregor to see from training in the same clubhouse and I've been talking to the director about booking Conor to get him down for the opening, but John Kavanagh will definitely be there,' Byrne revealed.

As for the Tenure native's own professional fighting career, which dates back to 2001, his advancing age dictated that it was time to move in a different direction.

He said: 'I still fight professionally, but I'm 36 now and coming to the end. I still go up to SBG daily to train and if a good fight is available then I'll take it, but I might only have a couple left.'

Drogheda Independent

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