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Irish MMA fighter gains Channel 4 fame with success on SAS reality show

Ryan Roddy passed the gruelling Special Forces selection process.

THE SELECTION PROCESS for the SAS (Special Air Service) is sometimes known as “the world’s toughest job interview”, and an Irishman was one of just two people from a group of 30 who survived it on a Channel 4 programme which concluded this week.

SAS: Who Dares Wins saw the recruits undergo a series of gruelling psychological and physical challenges at a military base in Wales over the course of eight days, during which they were entirely cut off from the outside world while being put through their paces by five Special Forces veterans.

Television - SAS: Who Dares Wins The instructors on SAS: Who Dares Wins. Source: Ryan McNamara (Channel 4)

The list of torturous tasks included an eight-mile combat fitness test, intense interrogation and a 24-hour hike across harsh terrain with no sleep and minimal food and water. Ryan Roddy, a professional MMA fighter from Derry, and Englishman Freddy Iron were the only two who lasted the distance.

“I guess I’ve always had a bit of an interest in the military. With the history of Northern Ireland, the SAS obviously had a big part to play and I was interested in that,” Roddy explained to The42.

“I was curious to see what kind of people they were and to meet them. Obviously they’re very secretive and you’re not supposed to know their identities. That was the intriguing part for me.

“I didn’t have any pre-conceptions but I didn’t go in expecting to get that much out of the process, to be honest. But when you come out, what you think you can take, you realise you’ve got way more in the tank. I didn’t expect it to be so difficult.

Ryan3 Ryan Roddy Source: SAS: Who Dares Wins/Channel 4

“All the recruits were coming from sports backgrounds but it wasn’t long before we were all looking at each other, thinking: What have we gotten ourselves into? They [the instructors] were relentless. They just kept going and going and going. A lot of guys quickly realised that it wasn’t for them. You could see it in their faces.

“You could be out running on an exercise for four or five hours and when you think it’s over, they say okay, let’s go again and you do another three or four hours. It didn’t stop. There was very little sleep — sometimes none at all — and there wasn’t anywhere near enough food. But the amount of stuff you can do on so little is incredible.

“Sometimes if you were last in the queue you might not get any food at all. And that could be you done for the day, because there was no such thing as breakfast, lunch and dinner. You just got food every now and then.

“One morning I had two fried eggs and a glass of water at 6am. We were out for the day and I didn’t eat again until 1am the next morning. And we were flat out, running all day.”

Source: Channel 4/YouTube

While the physical aspect of the programme was incredibly challenging, the psychological tests were even greater. In the last episode, which aired on Monday, Roddy impressed the instructors by how well he handled the interrogation process. But it was far from easy.

Roddy: “The physical stuff was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’d rather have four or five MMA fights back-to-back than do that again. But the psychological bit was the hardest. The interrogation, I didn’t expect it to impact me so much. You hear that it’s bad — obviously it’s illegal under the Geneva Convention — but you think that you’ll be able to sit it out no matter what, even though it went on for 24 hours.

“But when you’re in there, it’s ridiculously bad. You lose the plot a little bit. You lose all sense of time. They’re blaring music in your ears, there’s sleep deprivation, they’re screaming in your face all the time; you’re under serious pressure.

“When you’ve got the hoods on, there’s no light whatsoever. So it’s the same thing whether your eyes are open or closed. Black, all the time. You’re okay for the first three or four hours but you start to lose it a wee bit then. You start seeing things in your mind’s eye and it messes with your head.”

Int The interrogation process on SAS: Who Dares Wins. Source: SAS: Who Dares Wins/Channel 4

Having passed the test, the experience has steeled Roddy for what’s to come in the future. He’ll never endure something so difficult again so there’s nothing to fear, and it has had a hugely positive impact on his confidence as a fighter.

His last fight against highly-regarded Englishman Chris Fishgold was arguably his toughest yet. It ended in a draw but the Magherafelt native admits that it’s a fight he may not have been keen on in the past.

“The show was actually filmed back in June and afterwards I was offered that fight with Chris Fishgold. In all honesty, maybe I wouldn’t have taken that fight before,” Roddy said.

“I probably wouldn’t have backed myself because he’s quite a big name and he’s talented. But coming out of the show, it gave me belief in myself. I definitely felt the difference going into the fight.”

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Source: Cage Warriors TV/YouTube

Roddy added: “When you’ve been through an experience where you’re trying to function at your maximum after having no sleep for 48 hours, I appreciated everything I have a lot more when the show finished. Just simple things like having a soft bed or food in the fridge. You never appreciate those comforts as much as you do when you haven’t had them for a while.”

Roddy, a lightweight fighter who’s based in Newcastle, has a solid 7-1-1 professional MMA record, with his only loss to date coming against current UFC fighter Paul Redmond. The 25-year-old is hoping that his appearance on SAS: Who Dares Wins can help as he pursues his aim of making it to the top in mixed martial arts.

His profile has certainly benefited as a result. Roddy has been inundated with interview requests — he was a guest on BBC Breakfast earlier this week —  and his social media following has multiplied.

“It can only be a good thing,” said Roddy. “Every fighter is looking to get to the UFC. I’m in a good position with my record and my age, so I’m sure having this wee extra bit of attention won’t hurt.”

And if that doesn’t work out, there’s always a career in the SAS, right?

“Absolutely not. If anything, this experience just put me off it. I was never that way inclined anyway but they do that for six months; we did it for eight days and it was horrendous. Definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

The full series of SAS: Who Dares Wins is available to watch online by clicking here.

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