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Just weeks after he was forced to quit the UFC, Paddy Holohan has realised his dream

The disappointment that accompanied the SBG fighter’s sudden retirement didn’t last long thanks to a new project.

Former UFC flyweight Paddy Holohan.
Former UFC flyweight Paddy Holohan.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

WHEN NEWS OF Paddy Holohan’s retirement from mixed martial arts broke in April, it came straight out of left-field.

With his return to UFC action scheduled to take place 13 days later, Holohan announced that he was being forced to bring an end to a successful professional career that began with fights in local community halls and ended on the biggest stage in MMA.

A rare blood disorder called Factor XIII, which has affected Holohan since birth, was at the root of the development. His mind and body were more than willing to continue, but since the issue — which Holohan never disclosed — had been brought to the UFC’s attention, the organisation’s medical requirements deemed him no longer fit to compete.

It was hugely disappointing for Holohan. Having spent seven years working towards a place in the UFC, his time in the spotlight was over after just five appearances in the octagon. However, the blow has been cushioned by the fact that the 28-year-old recently achieved something he had been dreaming of since his earliest days involved in MMA.

Earlier this month, with Holohan and Straight Blast Gym Ireland boss John Kavanagh at the helm, the former UFC flyweight opened SBG Tallaght — a brand new, state-of-the-art facility in the heart of the community in which he was raised and still lives.

Fighting always appealed to his competitive side, but long before he first stepped into a ring or a cage back in 2007, Holohan was captivated by the concept of consuming information and passing it on. His own gym might only be a couple of weeks old, but Holohan was a coach first, a fighter second.

“I honestly knew from day one with my very first technique — it was a pendulum swing from north-south control — that I wanted to teach and be a coach,” Holohan told The42.

“I remember going home and showing anybody that would listen. Then I’d go away and learn something else and I’d come back and show them that. Learning something, showing it to someone else and seeing that look on their face, that always gave me a huge amount of pleasure and I still get the same pleasure now as I did back then.”

Plenty of hard work has been invested in getting SBG Tallaght off the ground, but Holohan is grateful for the smooth transition from professional fighting to full-time coaching.  A lull in between would have been far from ideal.

I honestly don’t know where I’d be now if I didn’t have the distraction of getting the gym up and running. The retirement was a shock to everyone else but it was a massive shock to me too.

“I had been fighting for nearly 10 years with what I have but I’ve never even had an injury in all my fights and in sparring about 10,000 more rounds on top of that. But I’m very glad that I had such a big thing to move on to and focus my attentions on after finishing fighting. I can’t even think about how hard it might have been otherwise.

“This has been a long time in the works. I always said that I’d open a gym in Tallaght when I retired. The retirement has come a lot sooner than I would have been planning but I’ve still managed to do that. But it was good timing that it came when it did so I’ve been lucky that way.”

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For Holohan, beginning a new chapter in his life in the immediate aftermath of the end of his fighting career also sends an important message to young, up-and-coming fighters, many of whom are placing all their eggs in one basket by abandoning other professions in order to train full-time, with a view to carving out a lucrative career in the UFC.

In a sport where life-changing salaries are the preserve of a handful of superstars such as Ireland’s UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor, that’s a perilous policy.

“You don’t know when it’s going to end and it’s often, like it was for me, out of your own control. Any money I made in the UFC, I was thinking forward in terms of my son. It wasn’t my money then. You have to have something else on the go as well,” Holohan said.

“You can’t expect it to last for the rest of your life, because it won’t. Believe me.”

Paddy Holohan, along with fellow UFC veterans Conor McGregor and Cathal Pendred, will be at the Mansion House from 5pm on Saturday for ‘An Evening With John Kavanagh’, as the SBG Ireland head coach marks the launch of his autobiography, ‘Win or Learn’.

Click here to buy a ticket for the event. To be in with a chance of winning a pair, tell us who Paddy Holohan defeated in his UFC debut. E-mail your answer to pauldollery@the42.ie before 12pm on Thursday, 23 June.

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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