Fighting Irish

UFC still not ruling out Dublin return in 2018 despite Liverpool detour

The MMA organisation’s reported event in the Irish capital on 27 May is set to take place in Liverpool instead.

Large crowd at the 3 Arena A view of Dublin's 3Arena during UFC Fight Night 76 in October 2015. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

DUBLIN’S LOSS HAS been Liverpool’s gain, but the UFC says a return to the Irish capital before the end of the year is still a possibility.

The UFC’s last visit to Irish soil was in November 2016 when UFC Fight Night 99 took place in Belfast. However, Dublin hasn’t hosted the leading organisation in mixed martial arts since Louis Smolka submitted Paddy Holohan in the main event at UFC Fight Night 76 at the 3Arena in October 2015.

That wait looked set to end after reported recently that the UFC was working towards staging an event in Dublin on Sunday, 27 May. But those plans have since changed.

With the UFC eager to capitalise on the hype surrounding undefeated Liverpudlian welterweight Darren Till, the organisation announced last Friday that Liverpool’s Echo Arena will play host to UFC Fight Night 130 on that date instead.

“We’re going to go to Dublin at some point. There’s no doubt about that,” UFC executive David Shaw told MMAjunkie. “We’ll also go to a variety of other cities — not only in the UK and Ireland, but around Europe. We’ll get there, there’s no doubt about that.”

The UFC came to Dublin twice between July 2014 and October 2015, a period during which the organisation at one stage had eight Irish fighters on its roster. However, the importance of the Irish market has decreased significantly in the meantime.

The four Irish fighters who competed at the most recent Dublin event — Paddy Holohan, Aisling Daly, Neil Seery and Cathal Pendred — have all since retired.

BOX-UFC-GBR-FRA-US-MMA-COMBAT UFC executive David Shaw. AFP / Getty Images AFP / Getty Images / Getty Images

Conor McGregor remains the UFC’s lightweight champion but hasn’t fought in 16 months. A bout in Dublin is also unlikely for McGregor, who’s at his most valuable to the UFC in Las Vegas. There are currently just two other Irish fighters contracted to the UFC.

Russian-born featherweight Artem Lobov, who has trained alongside McGregor and under John Kavanagh at Straight Blast Gym in Dublin for over a decade, is due to take on Alex Caceres at UFC 223 in Brooklyn on 7 April. Montreal-based Donegal native Joseph Duffy isn’t expected to return to action for several more months as he recovers from injury.

Nevertheless, David Shaw insists that Dublin remains on the UFC’s radar, with the organisation yet to finalise its schedule for the remainder of 2018. Last Saturday, London was the venue for the first UFC event to take place in Europe this year.

“Our approach to the rest of the year is all kind of up in the air right now, so there’s definitely a possibility we could go to Dublin,” he said.

“But we’ve also got a number of other things on our radar. We keep working hard on France, Russia is always a possibility, we want to get to Scandinavia again.

“At this point we don’t have anything concrete to share but [Dublin] is always on the map. What Conor [McGregor] and [John] Kavanagh have done specifically in Ireland for our sport, we’ll always be grateful for. It’s always going to be on the shortlist.”

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