Darren O'Gorman lands a kick during his win against Gary Morris last September. Gary Carr/INPHO
Rebel forces

Darren determined to be 'the first Cork person in the UFC'

Bantamweight prospect O’Gorman aiming to topple SBG rival at Cage Warriors 81 in Dublin this weekend.

AS HE PREPARES to begin his 2017 campaign this Saturday night, Darren O’Gorman (4-1) says he intends to pick up the first of four victories over the course of the next 12 months which he expects will leave him on the cusp of the UFC.

In an attempt to take his career to the next level, O’Gorman relocated to London last August to train full-time as part of the MMA Clinic team. The move eliminated the distractions that surrounded the 23-year-old in his native Cork.

With his focus firmly fixed on the path to the top in mixed martial arts, O’Gorman is planning for a successful year ahead, starting with this weekend’s clash with Straight Blast Gym opponent Blaine O’Driscoll (3-1) at Cage Warriors 81 at Dublin’s 3Arena.

“He seems like a good all-rounder but I definitely think I’m better in a lot of areas,” O’Gorman said. “I’ll be able to use my reach to my advantage and if it hits the floor I’d be confident that I’m going to tap him. It seems like a good fight for me to add another win to my record.”

The bout will also provide O’Gorman with an opportunity to exact a measure of revenge against the SBG camp. In September 2015, the Ovens native suffered the only loss of his professional career when he was TKO’d by Frans Mlambo at BAMMA 22. However, O’Gorman insists that he has reinvented himself as a fighter in the intervening 18 months.

“I wasn’t myself in there that night,” he said. “It wasn’t that I hadn’t prepared or anything like that. I was just very flat-footed inside there. When I was pressured against the cage I wasn’t able to do much and then he caught me with that shot.

“But I’ve improved in every aspect since then. For the fights it’s just about working on my cardio because my game is improving constantly. I’m a much different fighter now from when I fought Frans Mlambo.”

Darren O'Gorman lands a punch Darren O'Gorman and Frans Mlambo trading strikes during their September 2015 bout in Dublin. Gary Carr / INPHO Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

After a year-long absence from action, O’Gorman returned to winning ways last September with a third-round submission of the experienced Gary Morris at BAMMA 26. Saturday’s clash with O’Driscoll will subsequently be O’Gorman’s third outing in a row in front of what’s set to be another substantial crowd at the 3Arena, although tickets are still available.

Cage Warriors 81 will be the organisation’s first event in Ireland since August 2014. Previously Cage Warriors has provided a platform for Irish fighters like Conor McGregor to launch successful careers. With the event being broadcast live on Eir Sport 2 and UFC Fight Pass, O’Gorman hopes it can do the same for him.

He said: “It’s my third time fighting in the 3Arena so it’s starting to feel familiar to me. The last time there was a bit of pressure as it was my first time back in there since I had the loss, but I’m feeling so comfortable since getting the win that I can’t wait to get back in there.

“It’s a bonus to be fighting on an event with so much coverage and interest but that’s not something I’ll be thinking of on the night. I’ll be treating it like any other fight.”

The success of Irish fighters on the world stage has mostly been confined to the capital so far. With the exception of Donegal’s Joseph Duffy, all of Ireland’s UFC representatives have emerged from Dublin. O’Gorman, who’ll be joined on this weekend’s card by fellow Leesider Lloyd Manning, is eager to ensure that Cork soon features prominently on the MMA map.

“That’s definitely important to me,” O’Gorman said. “I’m always flying the Cork flag. I told myself a couple of years ago that I wanted to be the first Cork person in the UFC. If I can get a few wins under my belt this year then I don’t see why that can’t be achievable.”

Darren O'Gorman bloodied in between rounds O'Gorman: "I'm a much different fighter now." Gary Carr / INPHO Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

Although he recognises his relative lack of experience, O’Gorman believes that 2017 can be the year in which he establishes himself as a fighter with the ability to compete with the best in the world in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Three of his five professional bouts have ended in the first round, with O’Gorman taking all four of his wins via submission. He knows that more time in the cage is required.

“I’d like to be knocking on the door [of the UFC] at least in 12 months’ time,” he said. “I want another four wins under my belt in the next year. I’d be 8-1 at that stage and there’s people in the UFC with that record. I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t fit in there with them.

“I could see myself holding my own in there now. I’d just like to have more rounds under my belt — I’ve only had seven professional rounds so far — so once I get those numbers up I think I’ll definitely be ready for the bigger fish.”

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