Saturday 16 December 2017

Conor McGregor: Paddy Holohan is going to steal the show

Paddy Holohan
Paddy Holohan

Tom Rooney

The UFC Dublin card was dealt a devastating blow last with the news that Joseph Duffy was out of his main event bout with Dustin Poirier due to a mild concussion, but according to those who know him best, Paddy Holohan will be more than able to fill the headlining slot.

It's part and parcel of elite MMA that injury can strike at any time, particularly when it’s most inconvenient. On countless occasions over the years the UFC have been forced to rejig high profile events when marquee fighters have been struck with malady.

But for Joe Duffy and, indeed, his opponent Dustin Poirier and all involved with UFC Fight Night 76 at 3Arena on Saturday night, this most recent development is desperately cruel.

The promotion’s third show in Dublin had already lost its mouth-watering co-main event between top heavyweights Stipe Miocic and Ben Rothwell, as injury forced the former to withdraw and a suitable opponent was unable to be found on time for the latter.

Duffy sustained a flash knockout in sparring at his gym in Montreal, so when he arrived in Dublin on Monday, the UFC sent him for tests and it was revealed he had suffered a minor concussion, which has precluded him from competing.

In the immediate aftermath, Antrim’s Norman Parke offered to step in and fight Poirier, but the American justifiably declined in favour of waiting for Duffy to return to health. Even Conor McGregor took to Twitter to half-heartedly offer his services.

For Duff it represented an opportunity for a high-profile homecoming which, had he been successful, would have seen his fast-rise in the UFC taken an even more pleasing trajectory.

But the show must go on. Holohan’s bout with Hawaiian Louis Smolka had initially been plucked from the preliminary card and moved into the penultimate fight after the aforementioned heavyweight showdown was cancelled, but now the Tallaght man has been tasked with saving the depleted show in his beloved Dublin.

Parke and his opponent Reza Madadi will now occupy the penultimate bout, as the Bushmills man seeks to halt a two-fight losing skid.

Such has been the upheaval in the event, the UFC have offered fans refunds on their tickets at the point of purchase.

For John Kavanagh and Conor McGregor this would be a premature move on the punter’s behalf, because Holohan, even without any experience on a main card, will be more than value for money.

He made his debut as the first fight on last year’s show at the then O2 Arena and finished Josh Sampo via submission in the first round, and has gone on to win two of his subsequent three outings.

Kavanagh believes his Team SBG pupil is deserving of his new heightened position and, with such a gregarious demeanour, will revel at top billing.

“A year ago he was starting the prelims on what turned out to be one of the most talked about cards in UFC history, so to come back a year later in a (top position of a main card), it’s amazing," he said.

“But it’s earnt. He earned it in the gym, he earned it with his results and he has that charismatic X-factor as well; he’s interesting. People want to know more about him and that’s key with this.

“You’ve got to be able to fight for sure, but you’ve got to be yourself, and hopefully being that is interesting,” he said.

Outside of Holohan, Kavanagh will also be cornering Cathal Pendred and Aisling Daly this weekend, and says that his fighters have noticeably changed with the prospect of competing on home soil.

“It’s definitely familiar but UFC Dublin is special. When the UFC is around Vegas and stuff like that - it feels different when it’s in Dublin, more personal – Vegas is so big, with so many events on, but when the UFC rolls into Dublin, it’s different.

“You can just feel it in the gym in the weeks leading up to it. The way the guys are pushing themselves, so we’re expecting three big fights on Saturday night,” he said.

Conor McGregor went on claim that all of his teammates are in fine fettle and will make for compelling viewing in the octagon.

“I tell you what, Paddy Holohan is going to steal the show. Aisling Daly is looking phenomenal, and Cathal is looking strong. I’m looking out for my people and it’s going to be a good night,” he enthused.

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