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'I couldn’t even hold my kids. But if I've to break both hands again to get the win, I will'

With one fight left on his current contract, Wexford’s Brian Moore is fighting to secure his future with MMA promotion, Bellator.

BRIAN MOORE RETURNED to his stool after the first round last November knowing he had a problem.

In his third fight in just over a year, the Wexford mixed martial artist was looking to pick up his first run of consecutive victories under the Bellator banner since signing back in 2016.

That hope began to fade when he realised he had broken his right hand.

It was all but extinguished in the second round when he broke the left.

Brian Moore Bellator bantamweight, Brian Moore. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

“I was beating Noad [Lahat] easily,” Moore tells The42. ”That felt like an easy fight.

“Every chance I got, I was catching him. He was fading hard.

I went out in the second round and dropped him - twice – with the only hand I had left, until that one broke as well.”

Moore soldiered through to the final bell. He settled for a decision loss, taking his record to 2-3-0 with the promotion.

Decisions would needed to be taken to rehabilitate his record.

Misleading

Without making excuses for his defeats, ‘The Pikeman’ is right to point out that there should be some caveats to take into consideration when looking at his Bellator record.

Picking up his debut fight at short notice against Daniel Weichel, a man who’s previous record with Bellator was seven wins and one defeat (to 145lbs champion Patricio Freire) proved to be his first stumbling block.

“I fought Daniel when no one else would. He beat me fair and square that night.”

Bouncing back to record an emphatic TKO victory against Michal Horejsi, he then stepped up again on short notice to face another top five contender in AJ McKee.

The American, currently 13-0 and at the time 9-0, was given a full Irish welcome when he went toe-to-toe with the then 30-year-old at the 3Arena.

“He did great after I slipped. He took my back and he choked me out. Fair play to him. He hasn’t been challenged other than that.

“He’s had a very easy run of it. That’s a fight I want to get back. I do still believe I can hang at featherweight.”

Brian Moore lands a kick on AJ McKee Moore lands a head kick during his defeat to AJ McKee. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Moore exhibited his own array of finishing techniques with a submission victory over Giorgio Belsanti but last year’s defeat to Lahat was a missed opportunity to propel himself into the 145lbs title reckoning.

“I was in a lot of pain after that fight. Those were some really tough times.

“I was back doing everything I possibly could to get my hands recovered quickly because the loss stung so badly.

I still hung in there. It’s been a tough time but it’s after lighting a bigger fire in my belly to go back and do it properly.

“I wanted to get back in there and show the world what I can do – making my recovery even quicker than it should be.”

Less than five months and some extensive surgery on his right hand later, Moore is now deep into his fight camp for Bellator Birmingham next month.

He would admit himself his exuberance to return to the cage and do everything within his power to get back into the win column.

“I was back training within a week. That’s unheard of. I got a stationary bike because it was the middle of winter and I wasn’t allowed cycle outside.

I was doing as much as I possibly could. I was taking my supplements and doing everything I could to aid the recovery process.

“I took every precaution and step I needed to get back in there.

But if I have to break both hands to get this ‘W’ I will.

“I couldn’t even hold my kids who I love with all my heart. But if I’ve to break both hands again, OK fine. But I’m coming away with the win.

“I won’t break these hands again though. They’re rock solid. Stronger than ever.

“We’re happy with the [rehab] that we’ve done and I’ve been assured they’re stronger than before.

I’ve been dropping guys in sparring with both hands. I’m ready to go. It may as well not have happened.”

Brian Moore dejected after the fight Brian Moore. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Bantamweight Division

The defeat last time out, coupled with the injury, did prompt him examine his career and make some tough decisions.

Instead of attempting to immediately rectify any losses at featherweight, the 31-year-old is wiping the slate clean and dropping down to compete in the bantamweight division.

The decision, he says, was moreso pragmatic than an attempt to avoid slipping down the ranks further at 145lbs.

“It’s about levelling out that playing field. I’m a strong guy, I was doing power-lifting before I got into MMA.

“So I’ve always had that strength. But I’ve always been giving up a massive size advantage.

Before my last fight, the night before I had two pounds to cut. My opponent missed weight by over two pounds. When we stepped back into the cage, he was about a stone heavier.

“And even then I kicked his ass with both of my hands broke. This is going to make it a level playing field for the first time in my career.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to go back to 145lbs, I’ve some unfinished business with some big names up there too.

“But 135lbs right now is where I see my future.”

His future, from the outside looking in, is decidedly less certain.

Taking on promotion debutant Son Le Binh on 4 May will be the last fight on his current contract with Bellator.

A defeat in his opening fight at bantamweight could seriously hamper his negotiating power when it comes to a new deal with Scott Coker’s promotion and this is before we consider any possibility that he could feasibly suffer hand injuries once again.

Moore insists he hasn’t for a moment considered his MMA will be continued elsewhere.

“Bellator and myself have a very good relationship.

“They look after me and I look after them. That’s why I’m not saying goodbye to the featherweight division.

Who else are they going to call if someone drops out of this featherweight grand prix tournament?

“They’re going to call the guy they always call. The guy who’ll always take a fight on short notice and take a risk against a top five guy – twice at this stage.

“They’re going to give me that call. I know I can hang out with these guys at featherweight and try get back in there again.

135 for me at the moment is a clear path to gold. I don’t think any of them possess what’s needed to beat me. I’m just very honest with that.

“Some of these guys have turned down fights with me at featherweight. I can’t wait to showcase what I can do in this division.”

He continued: “There are always those concerns. I’m ultra confident going into this and ultra-confident going into this division.

“They’re going to see someone who can bring excitement to the 135lbs division.

If you look at the division itself, it’s entertaining but it’s not that entertaining. There are lads using ‘elusive footwork’ but they’re not getting into fights.

“They are a lot of decisions [results] in a bantamweight bout, but there won’t be in a Brian Moore fight.

“My last fight went to a decision but I had two broken hands. I was good enough to get to a decision. I wasn’t going to stop.

“When they see the product I’m going to put there on 4 May, they’ll give me another contract for sure.”

Brian Moore makes his entrance Like fellow Irish MMA star James Gallagher, Moore has made the move to bantamweight. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Professional approach

His approach to fighting has changed since 2017. Realising the amount of preparation required to compete at the top level, Moore has taken a more professional approach.

Managing his own facility, Moore Fitness, in Wexford and finishing work on building a house for his wife, Noreen, and two daughters, the last few years have been incredibly challenging.

“I’m trying to spin a lot of plates,” he admits. “With all those things combined I’ve been able to take a step back in the coaching role I’m in and manage it more from the outside.

This is my career know and I’ve very much been treating it that way.

“I’ve been able to see progress ever since I made those changes. I’ve become a much better fighter and a much better martial artist.

I’ve studied the game because I haven’t had to be elsewhere. Not only am I training more but I’m studying the game.

“I’m a very present father. I have two beautiful girls and I want to see them grow up everyday. I don’t like to be away from them too much.”

Earning his chance to compete with such a well renowned promotion, Moore isn’t exactly going to let his chance slip away easily.

“Camp has been going superbly, up until the last couple of days. I’m fighting off a bit of a cold. That didn’t keep me down for long. This has been my most diligent camp.

“I work on my striking with my head coach John Kavanagh and my long-term striking coach, Stephen Murphy.

I was ready to rock and roll maybe eight weeks out, I felt so sharp. Anything past that has been a bonus.”

Looking in, Moore’s position does seem somewhat precarious – but the SBG fighter doesn’t see it that way.

The same drive that dragged him through the ranks in BAMMA and smaller promotions again is what keeps him here fighting to this day.

Neither broken hands nor contract negotiations are going to dampen his enthusiasm toward his craft.

“I’m buzzing for this. I can’t wait.

Just watch. I’m telling you, I’m going to be the world champion at 135lbs.”

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