Saturday 21 July 2018

It looks like the UFC won't be visiting Ireland in 2016

With that in mind, we take a look back at the promotion's showcases in Ireland

Conor McGregor in action against Diego Brandao during their featherweight bout. UFC Fight Night Dublin, The O2, Dublin. Sportsfile
Conor McGregor in action against Diego Brandao during their featherweight bout. UFC Fight Night Dublin, The O2, Dublin. Sportsfile

Tom Rooney

Irish fight fans hoping that the UFC will make a third trip in as many years to these shores probably shouldn’t hold their breath.

The world’s biggest promotion is back in Europe this weekend for UFC Fight Night 86 in Zagreb, which takes place on Sunday and is headlined by a heavyweight bout between Junior dos Santos and Ben Rothwell.

The event is their first in Croatia and is to be followed by yet another jaunt into unchartered territory on May 8, when UFC Fight Night 87 goes ahead in Rotterdam as the company breaks ground in Holland.

Irish flyweights Neil Seery and Paddy Holohan will both compete there against Kyoji Horiguchi and Willie Gates repectively. Adopted Irishman Gunnar Nelson also features that night as he looks to bounce back from his loss to Demian Maia at UFC 194 when he takes on Russia’s Albert Tumenov.

Speaking to in Zagreb, James Elliott, UFC Vice President and General Manager of UFC Europe, Middle East and Africa, confirmed that the promotion is planning a show in Germany for the third quarter of the year and a possible return to the UK in the fourth.

The UFC have visited Germany on four previous occasions, the most recent of which came last summer in Berlin. Indeed, in 2015 they also hosted inaugural showcases in Poland and Scotland. The trio of events were sandwiched by cards in Stockholm and Dublin.

Thus, if the UFC were to equal their five visits to Europe last year in 2016, it would seem as though the omens aren’t too great for Ireland.

Given that they’ve already been to London in February and James Elliot has intimated the tentative that the fourth and fifth shows are intended for elsewhere, the 3Arena will not be housing the storied Octagon for the foreseeable future.

Over its near 23-year history, the UFC has visited Ireland four times. The maiden show came all the way back in June 2007 for UFC 72 at the Odyssey in Belfast.

Neil Seery celebrates victory over Jon Delos Reyes. UFC Fight Night. 3Arena, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

To kick-start 2009, Dana White and co stopped off in Dublin with UFC 92 in the then O2 Arena. It was there a teenage Conor McGregor told his idol Chuck Liddell that one day soon it would be him wowing the baying hordes under the bright lights.

Just one Irishman fought that night, McGregor’s SBG teammate Tom Egan, who was beaten by John Hathaway. 

Perhaps even in his adolescence McGregor’s powers of prescience had manifested because, over five years later, it was his compelling star power that finally brought the UFC back to the Irish capital.

July 19 2014 will likely go down as the most significant and seminal night in the history of Irish MMA. At UFC FN 46 five Irish fighters competed in front of a near unhinged capacity crowd in the 02 Arena, and each and every one of them emerged victorious.

19 July 2014; Cathal Pendred celebrates after beating Mike King during their middleweight bout. UFC Fight Night Dublin, The O2, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

McGregor would save the best for last. After annihilating Diego Brandao as quick as you can say ‘break out the red panties’, the combat world was put on notice when the hometown boy informed us that the Irish weren’t here to take part, but to take over.

Such was the event’s resounding success and the meteoric rise of McGregor in the interim, a swift return to the emerald isle was inevitable.

The venue may have been the same but the sign above the entrance was different for last October’s UFC Fight Night 76 at the 3Arena.

Originally scheduled to be headlined by Donegal’s Joseph Duffy - at that point the last man to beat McGregor – and Dustin Poirier, the lightweight bout was scrapped just a week out due to a concussion suffered by the former.

This only compounded the fact that the initial co-main event, a heavyweight match-up between Ben Rothwell and Stipe Miocic, had also been pulled from the card.

Aisling Daly weighs in for her strawweight bout against Ericka Almeida. UFC Fight Night Weigh In. 3Arena, Dublin. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

So Paddy Holohan and Louis Smolka were bumped from the preliminary card all the way up to the summit of the billing. Their bout was brief but frantic with Smolka winning via first round submission.

The heady feats of the previous year were never likely to be repeated, especially with Conor McGregor sitting dapper among the masses as his title showdown with Jose Aldo loomed large.

Still, Neil Seery earned a well-deserved and long over due Performance of the Night bonus for his second round submission of Jon Delos Reyes, while the Queen of Irish MMA, Ais Daily, was greeted with a deafening din as she made her way to the Octagon to soundly defeat Ericka Almeida.

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