Irish Amateur MMA Team Demonstrates Depth of Talent Beyond Conor

Photograph by and courtesy of Per Haljestam

Conor McGregor’s dual weight, world championship victory in New York, as the headliner for UFC’s historic debut at the Madison Square Garden, saw Irish MMA at an all-time high.

Beyond Conor, Irish athletes have become renowned across MMA’s professional divisions, through the likes of Aisling Daly, Joseph Duffy and Neil Seery – to name a few.

Scratch deeper, and under the helm of the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA), Ireland’s Amateur MMA team has demonstrated the depth of talent that the Emerald Isle has to offer.

David Fogarty
World Silver medallist Fogarty returns with team Ireland for the IMMAF Europeans

Debuting under the IMMAF banner for the first time in 2015, the national team made an impactful entrance at the 2015 World Championships at UFC Fight Week in Las Vegas. Here, Frans Mlambo championed in the Men’s Featherweight category and Sinead Kavanagh scored Silver in the Women’s Featherweight final (- the winner of which had her title revoked this year on a doping charge).

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Team Ireland for the 2016 IMMAF European Open

At the inaugural IMMAF European Open in Birmingham, in November of the same year, the team picked up its second IMMAF Gold medal and three Bronzes: Ben Forsyth scooped Gold at Light Heavyweight, while Bronze medals were attributed to David Fogarty (Men’s Flyweight), Thomas Martin and Lee Hammond (Lightweight), and Ryan Spillane (Heavyweight).

Ireland went on to cement its reputation as a top ranking team, as it dominated the medals count at the 2016 World Championships in Las Vegas. David Fogarty returned to earn Silver at Flyweight, while Matthew Sheehan won a first-time Gold at Light Heavyweight. Nathan Kelly attained the Men’s Featherweight Silver medal, while Eoghan Drumgoole and Cian Cowley took Bronze at Featherweight and Welterweight, respectively. Team Ireland now ranks at number 5 in the IMMAF World Amateur MMA Rankings.

As the 2016 IMMAF Euroepan Open descends on Prague in two weeks time, returning Irish medallists include David Fogarty (Flyweight), Lee Hammond (Lightweight) and Ryan Spillane (Heavyweight). Meagan OLoughlin returns after last year’s preliminary loss to ultimate Silver medallist, Aja Saxmark, at the 2015 Europeans. The remainder of the team are to make their first appearance under IMMAF.

Can Team Ireland follow up on Conor McGregor’s unprecedented success at UFC 205 and make history at the 2016 IMMAF European Open?

See below for biographical information for Team Ireland:

Danni Neilan – Women’s Flyweight 56.7 kg (125 lbs)
Age: 26
Hometown: Roscommon
Occupation: paediatric physiotherapist
Amateur MMA record: nil
Medals/titles: “Handful of medals from Brazilian jiu jitzu, wrestling and striking.. All tournament level”
Fight style: “I like to be everywhere…standing, fence, ground..”
Previous sports experience: “I spent my entire life riding horses and competed since the age of 7.  I worked exercising race horses on the Curragh,Co. Kildare,  for six years in the second largest national hunt yard in the Ireland. I got my jockey licence at the age of 21 and I rode in a handful of jump races. Greatest achievement was becoming Irish hunt chase champion with my team from Roscommon in 2011.”
Reason for registering for the European Open: “I am a rookie and have been doing martial arts for less than two years. I have had to learn fast. I am extremely hard working and determined and love to constantly challenge myself against the best competition. I have no doubt that I will be the European Champion and will be bringing that gold medal back to Ireland.”
Other background information: “I found out about MMA two years ago while on a date with a fighter I met on Tinder. Before this I had no clue even who Conor McGregor was! Shortly after the date I decided to move away from the equestrian industry and walked into an MMA gym . I was instantly hooked! If I didn’t “swipe right” that night, God knows – I still would be riding horses and not about to embark on a European Championship as a proud fighter with an Irish flag.”

Meagan OLoughlin – Women’s Flyweight 56.7 kg (125 lbs)
Age: 24
Hometown: Dublin
Occupation: Barber
Amateur MMA Record: 4-5
Titles/ medals: Machine MMA European Champion; All-Ireland IKF K1 Champion
Fight style: boxer
Reason for registering for the European Open: “I want to test herself against the best in Europe’s best and win a medal for Ireland.”

Dylan Kennedy – Flyweight 56.7 kg (125 lbs)
Age: 19
Hometown: Drogheda
Record – 1-1
Medals/ titles: BJJ European medals, including Gold
Fight style: All rounded
Previous sports experience: football (recreational )

David Fogarty – Flyweight 56.7 kg (125 lbs)Name Dave Fogarty
Age: 27
Hometown: Dublin
Occupation: photographer
Record: 5-2
Titles: IMMAF World Silver medallist, IMMAF European Bronze medallist, IBJJF European Gold medallist, IBJJF World Bronze medallist
Belts: BJJ Blue Belt
Fight style: BJJ

Austin Lynch – Bantamweight 61.2 kg (135 lbs)
Age:20
Hometown: Dublin/Finglas
Occupation: Baker
Amateur MMA Record: 4-2
Titles/ medals: Cage Legacy Bantamweight Champion
Belts: Blue Belt, Brazilian jiu jitsu
Fight style: boxer
Reason for registering for the European Open: “I want to represent my country and challenge myself against Europe’s best and win gold.”

Alexander OSullivan – Lightweight 70.3 kg (155 lbs)

Age:18
Hometown: Dublin
Amateur MMA record: 10-2
MEdals/ Titles: Akuma MMA Champion; Headhunter MMA Champion; Shinobi MMA Champion; Cage Ring MMA Champion; Enfusion K1 Champion; former Adrenalin MMA Champion; former Irish Open junior BJJ Champion; Dublin Open BJJ Champion; former Irish, Leinster & Schools Judo Champion; former Dublin, Leagues & Leinster Boxing Champion;  All-Ireland & Cadet boxing Silver medallist.
Fight Style: Boxer
Reason for registering for the European Open: “I want to test myself against Europe’s best and win a medal representing my country on an international stage.”

Lee Hammond – Lightweight 70.3 kg (155 lbs)
Age : 20
Hometown: Crumlin, Dublin
Record – 3-2 mma record
Titles:  Grappling medals, jiu jitsu medals from blue belt tournaments
Belts: Jiu Jitsu Purple Belt
Previous sports experience: Soccer (aged 6-18)
Reason for registering for the European Open: “To win gold and test myself against the best amateurs”

Mark Gallivan – Welterweight 77.1 kg (170 lbs)
Age – 24
Hometown –  Malahide
Occupation – recently graduated with degree in Sports Management and Coaching; currently part-time waiter
Fight record (Amateur MMA) – 5-1
Medals/ titles: Gold medal in all Ireland Brazilian jiu jitsu NoGi 2015, Silver medal in absolute weight category of 2015 NoGi Championships
Fight style: well-rounded grappler
Previous sports experience: soccer, GAA
Reason for registering for the European Open: “It would be a dream come true to represent my country in the sport I love.”

John Byrne – Welterweight 77.1 kg (170 lbs)
Age: 26
Hometown: Dublin, Ireland
Occupation: Financial Services
Amateur MMA record: 8-1
Titles / Belts:  Blue Belt in BJJ, 3 Amateur MMA titles (Welterweight x 1, Lightweight x 2)
Fight style: MMA
Previous sports experience: Swimming
Reason for registering for the European Open:
“I love to challenge myself – Simple as. I want to test myself at the highest level and show that I am one of Europe’s top Amateur fighters and the IMMAF European Championships gives me the platform to do that. The fact I could fight 5 times in a week is another huge positive as any extra experience at amateur level is essential and I think it will help with a smooth transition to the professional ranks next year. I am on a 7 fight win streak and I am going to use that momentum to run roughshod through the competition and win a gold medal for Ireland and my team SBG. I look forward representing my country and flying the Irish flag high.”
Other background information: “Growing up I was a little pudgy barrel. I got teased quite a bit, nothing too harsh. Everybody use to say I was like a pudding and so the nickname Pudner was born. I started MMA when I was 18 and the weight just start to fall off me, the nickname stuck however. People still call me Pudner or Pud to this day, its strange when someone says my actual name. I love it, it makes me laugh. Thankfully the teasing stopped, people know better now or else I’d wrap them up in a triangle choke haha.”

Colin Meagher – Middleweight 83.9 kg (185 lbs)
Age:  22 (born on 11th of Feb 1994)
Hometown: Cloneen village (countryside) near Clonmel in Tipperary
Occupation: “I have just graduated college with a level 8 honours degree in Health Science with  Nutrition. I currently work part time in Elverys sports in Clonmel and also run my own  MMA facility called The Pit MMA in Tipperary.  I commute to Dublin ( 2 hour’s) everyday for training.  Sometimes I might bunk for a few nights either in my car or with a team mate.”
Amateur MMA record: 4-3 -0, 1 DQ. 2 wins by TKOs, 1 win by Armbar
Previous sports experience: karate (from 6 yrs), followed by boxing (from 12 yrs), then MMA (from 16 yrs.)   Competitive Motocross,  rugby and GAA (teens until 17). Current BJJ purple belt under coach John  Kavanagh.
Reason for registering for the European Open:
“Competing in the European championships will allow me to get one step closer to my ultimate goal. With the intention of turning pro in 2017. None of my amateur fights have gone the distance.”
Other background information:
“My father passed away tragically when I was only 8 years old while he was testing a rally car on Slievenamon mountain . He was a very famous rally driver in his time named Frank Meagher.  My mother believes I got my competitive streak from him.  I have 3 siblings including an older sister, a younger sister and a younger brother. We were all under age 10 when my father passed away and so we were brought up by my amazing mother alone. My biggest training partner over the years has been my 16 year old brother, Frank, who I coach  in my gym.”

Tadhg Dixon – Middleweight 83.9 kg (185 lbs)
Fight Name: “That’s a Nice”
Age: 25
Hometown: Dún laoghaire
Occupation: Shop assistant / Assistant Coach at Legends MMA
Amateur MMA record: 5-2
Medals/ titles/ belts: Clan Wars Middleweight Champion, kickboxing brown belt
Fight style – MMA
Previous sports experience:  judo (Primary school), boxing, taekwondo (age 9-11 yrs with my current coach), No-Gi grappling, kickboxing, basketball (secondary school)
Reason for registering for the European Open: “To prove to myself that I’m the best in Europe and to see how far my lifetime of training has gotten me.”
Other background information: “I nearly died from a combination of Meckel’s Diverticulum and Septicaemia in March 2014, resulting in the removal of 10 inches of small bowel.”

Ryan Spillane – Heavyweight 120.2 kg (265 lbs)
Fight name: “The Hulk”
Age: 19
Hometown: Blarney, Cork
Occupation: Assistant MMA Coach at SBG Cork
Amateur MMA record:  2-5
Medals/ titles: Former Battle Arena Amateur European Heavyweight Champion, 2015 IMMAF European Bronze Medallist, Cork Open BJJ White Belt Ultra Heavy Weight Gold Medallist
Fight style: MMA
Previous sports experience: Played Rugby for Muskerry Rugby Club and was part of the Junior Munster Development Squad for a number of years
Reason for registering for the European Open:  “Last year, I was very new to amateur MMA competition and I managed to get the Bronze. This year, I’m settling for nothing short of Gold. I’ve had a couple of set-backs during the summer months but I’ve completely refocused all my efforts into my tactical awareness, boxing and S&C. I want to do the World’s in 2017 and then consider turning Pro after that”

To keep up to date with the latest Team Ireland news follow @IMMAAOnline on Twitter

For more information about the 2016 IMMAF European Open Championships go to: http://www.immaf.org/championships/2016-immaf-european-open-championships/

BUY TICKETS: http://bit.ly/2fbYaJE

14th November 2016

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