UFC Here To Stay – Whether They Like It Or Not

Modern day Ireland has many problems. We’ve only just exited a long period of terrible austerity, the threat of water charges still looms large over our heads and there’s also the small matter of a badly failing health system. And yet all that considered, this country is rarely more embarrassing than when no-mark politicians attempt to make a name for themselves with scurrilous, uneducated remarks about a sport they know little or nothing about.

I’m referring of course to Catherine Noone, a Fine Gael TD who referred to MMA and the UFC as “a vile so-called sport” and wanted any future events planned to be held in Ireland banned. In an interview with Ryan Tubridy on 2fm she described it as “ultra-violent, where gruesome injuries are all too frequent” despite admitting on-air that she had never even watched it before. Face palm, I know.

The remarks clearly stink of someone attempting to gain as much self-publicity as possible months out from a General Election. Whilst Noone did have the good grace to admit her faults when later challenged, by then, the damage had already been done.

The most frustrating facet of such opinion is that it is the tip of the iceberg as regards crass dismissal of mixed martial arts within certain circles here in Ireland.

Ray D’arcy, Today FM breakfast presenter at the time, scolded Cathal Pendred – one of Ireland’s premier MMA fighters – live on his show in a frankly disgraceful interview in which he asked a baffled Pendred: “How do you feel about people paying money and rich people sponsoring the sport to watch you and another man fight?” like he’d never heard of boxing before. He would go on to admit he found the whole idea “disturbing”.

Numerous negative articles were written and published in various national newspapers in the aftermath of UFC Dublin – one of the biggest and most iconic Irish sporting events of 2014 – in a contrarian stance to counter the huge buzz that the show had created amongst the public. The exasperating aspect of these conservatives’ point of view regarding MMA is that the same people who lash it for its violence probably enjoy nothing more a good brawl in hurling or Gaelic football.

Disappointingly, this ignorance has reared its head again days out from a massive event in Boston where our own UFC stars, Conor McGregor, Cathal Pendred and Paddy Holohan bid to take the sport by storm once again. McGregor has already hit superstar levels and victory on Saturday evening (Sunday morning Irish time) in America could mean a title shot at Croke Park in front of 80,000 people – a spectacle that few would have seen in Ireland before.

Whilst McGregor is brash beyond belief, his talent is undoubted and one of the very few elite level sportspeople we possess. In a recent sports’ science documentary, the Dublin native was tested in three categories: speed, balance and movement. The results were amazing. The professors examining him found him not just to be elite but they claimed he was “elite compared to his fellow elite athletes”; a freak of nature.

UFC Fight Night Boston

Whether these naysayers like it or not, MMA will continue to thrive and McGregor’s ascent to the top of the game – with the likes of Pendred, Hoolahan, Chris Fields and Norman Parkes in tow – will help the sport grow exponentially here in Ireland. In the years to come, young boys will dream of being the next UFC champion just as much as they will of pulling on the green jersey of Ireland or their local county GAA colours. They’re not just here to take part, they’re here to take over.