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Dubs star Philly McMahon: I'd love to have a go at MMA


Philly McMahon, Dublin, with the Sam Maguire Cup at the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Series 2015 launch

Philly McMahon, Dublin, with the Sam Maguire Cup at the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Series 2015 launch

Philly McMahon, Dublin, with the Sam Maguire Cup at the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Series 2015 launch

"I THINK the most interesting thing for me is to go and do a sport where you've no back-up from your friends," says Philly McMahon.

"That's a big statement for anybody. To step into the ring and say 'it's me against you'.

"I think that's a great thing."

Conceivably, McMahon could be talking about the life of a Dublin corner-back in the not-so-splendid isolation, man-to-man marking days of the 2013 and '14 seasons but he's actually advocating the Corinthian virtues of one of his other sporting interests, Mixed Martial Arts.

It fits the image.

McMahon, the tough-as-wraught-iron defender from Ballymun, not a man to sidestep confrontation on the pitch, in an octagon.

It's impossibly cool now, of course, but McMahon's interest pre-dates all that.

As a kid in Ballymun, McMahon did a bit of boxing. Nothing too serious but later, when he set up the first of his gyms, a friend - Owen Roddy, one of Conor McGregor's team - asked could he use it for MMA.

"He wanted to lease ... we were renting my studio to do that.


"So I got more involved in it that way because I had the time to do it because I was in the gym the whole time.

"But outside of that, I didn't have the time to train. So when he went up and set up his own premises then, I only got up to it when it was off season.

"It's one of those things that you'd love to do, to compete in it," McMahon admits. "But you wouldn't be able when you're playing.

"It interests me massively.Whether I'm too old when I finish my career, that'll be another question to answer."

McMahon, for those unfamiliar with his backstory, owns BK Strength and Conditioning, a high performance gym that specialises in athlete training and strength building.

He is also the owner of Fitfood Ireland, the Twitter bio description of which reads: "an affordable paleo delivery lunch service".

McMahon has also worked as strength and conditioning coach with Shamrock Rovers.

Sense the theme here?

"I was always interested in learning off strength and conditioning coaches and I was always lucky in that Dublin have had excellent strength and conditioning coaches, so I've learned off some of the best people in the country," said McMahon about the origin of his obsession.


"I've learned bits and pieces off people and I've done the education side of it as well.

"I've gone to different places all over the world to learn off the best.

"Initially, the interest just came from training but it's built into a profession for me."

A profession, perhaps uniquely, of obvious physical benefits for his football, though not one in which he is dogged by it in his time away from the game.

"I think ... it's not too bad in Dublin, actually. It could be worse. But it's not too bad.

"People in my gyms actually don't want to talk to me about Gaelic football," he explains.

"It's great. I suppose, as a footballer, you know who to surround yourself with as well. You don't want to be talking to people outside of football about football.

"In my profession, people don't want to talk about GAA. So I'm lucky."

Presumably, all that exposure to gyms and devotion to nutrition means the slog of pre-season isn't quite so sloggy for McMahon?

"No, I get a bit of slagging about it but not really. I like to stay in shape alright, definitely.

"But I like to enjoy my life as well.

"Not that you don't enjoy your life, because it's your profession. But you have to switch off now and again.

"As a footballer, to get a little break when you can and get stuck back into it and peak when you need to peak."

None of which explains how or why he became Philly McMahon, the Dublin footballer and maybe, unsurprisingly, it wasn't the straight-line approach many of his Dublin team-mates took. "I was never a big GAA fan, to be honest," McMahon admits.

"I'd go to the odd game when I was younger. But I was just a player. I just played it, rather than being a spectator when I was younger."


He was one of a raft of players to come through the hands of Paddy Christie in Ballymun Kickhams' underage system, one that also spawned the talents of James McCarthy, Dean Rock, Davey Byrne and Alan Hubbard.

"I suppose, like every other footballer, you find something that you love," McMahon outlines.

"And you become passionate and you bring all your attributes together and it makes you who you are.

"Paddy was a massive influence on me when I was young in terms of tailoring me as a footballer and showing me the ropes.

"I'm very lucky to have had that mentor."

Still, there's a fair leap to go from talented underage club player to arguably the most underrrated footballer in the best Dublin team to emerge for 40 years.

"When you're an inter-county player, it's strange. Because when you're young, you go 'wow, can I play inter-county football at senior level?'

McMahon recalls: "There's players there that have been really good players at underage but have never made it to senior football and I've seen plenty of them come through Dublin.

"I was probably an average footballer at that age," he adds. "I suppose when I was under-21, I started to grow a bit more. I started to physically develop and started to enjoy football. Then I suppose, getting the opportunity to get good coaching and good management in Dublin and with the seniors, letting the players express themselves."

McMahon concludes: "That makes us the team we are today."