CORKMAN GRAHAM BOYLAN has stepped down as CEO of Cage Warriors Fighting Championship, Europe’s top mixed martial arts promotion.
Boylan has been at the helm for Cage Warriors since 2010 and is recognised as having played an enormous role in the recent growth of MMA in Ireland.
He informed the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship board of his decision yesterday, following a meeting to map out the promotion’s schedule of events for 2015.
“It’s time for me to start a new chapter in my life so I have stepped down as CEO of Cage Warriors, but I’m very proud of what we achieved in the last four years,” Boylan revealed exclusively to The42.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time as CEO of a brilliant promotion. My team and I established the number one mixed martial arts organisation in Europe, and I’m very thankful to every single person who played a part.”
When Boylan initially took the reins five years ago, Cage Warriors had become a dormant brand, having previously launched the careers of the likes of Michael Bisping and Dan Hardy.
However, CWFC soon came to be regarded as the leading MMA promotion in Europe, with over 200 of the best fighters from across the continent competing exclusively for the promotion during Boylan’s 48-event reign.
The departure of the Leeside native represents a significant blow to the European MMA scene, and particularly in Ireland. After assuming control of Cage Warriors, the London-based businessman made the growth of Irish MMA one of his priorities.
“Cage Warriors is a brilliant organisation” said Conor McGregor in an interview last year. “They’re doing great things for European MMA and they’re giving the platform for guys like me who came through. They’re vital. I’m forever grateful for the opportunities I got.”
Cage Warriors staged eight events in Ireland during Graham Boylan’s tenure as CEO, including two unprecedented sold-out New Year’s Eve shows at The Helix in Dublin in 2012 and ’13.
The seven Republic of Ireland fighters currently signed to the UFC are all veterans of – or were previously contracted to – Cage Warriors, including former champions Conor McGregor, Cathal Pendred and Neil Seery. Boylan sought to provide Irish fighters with opportunities to showcase their talents on the international stage.
As for his future plans, Boylan says he will continue to have a degree of involvement in MMA. He’s currently managing fighters like Donegal’s Joseph Duffy, who’ll make his UFC debut in Dallas next month.
Boylan said: “Joseph can go right to the top. The UFC understand his potential and they’re excited by the fact that he was the last person to beat Conor McGregor. In the short term, I am focusing on helping Joseph and my other fighters to develop their careers, along with my other business interests.
“As for another promotion? Maybe, and there are certainly some interesting conversations going on about how to further the growth of the sport in Europe. I may play a role in that too.
“I understand that my resignation will come as a surprise to fans, as it has to the board, but I know Cage Warriors will continue to do great things but it’s obviously important that the board is given time to find a successor and get the show back on the road.”
While Ireland is currently experiencing a golden generation in terms of MMA talent, there’s no doubt that Graham Boylan was hugely instrumental in bringing the sport into the public consciousness here for the first time.