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Dublin: 13 °C Saturday 23 February, 2019
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Paddy Holohan ready to take the next step towards a title shot at UFC Dublin

“If it was next year and they asked me do I want to fight Demetrious Johnson in January, of course I would.”

Irish UFC flyweight Paddy Holohan.
Irish UFC flyweight Paddy Holohan.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THINGS WILL BE a little different for Paddy Holohan (12-1) on Saturday at the 3Arena.

Normally when he shares the bill with team-mates from Straight Blast Gym, Holohan’s fight is first up.

He’s grown accustomed to being on the front line and it has earned him the nickname ‘The Berserker’ — a title given to Norsemen who were the first warriors into battle.

Holohan led the line for his team in the UFC in Boston back in January and in Dublin last year, as well as on several occasions over the years on the domestic circuit.

But now the tables have turned. This weekend at UFC Fight Night 76 in Holohan’s hometown of Dublin, the 27-year-old Tallaght native will be the last of three SBG fighters to compete on the night.

Aisling Daly and Cathal Pendred will both be looking to return to winning ways on the preliminary card, but Holohan has managed to secure a UFC main-card slot for the first time in his career.

Ascending the order of fights has never been one of Holohan’s direct aims, but it is an indication that he’s doing his job well; a result of his progress in the UFC’s flyweight division. Paddy Holohan is on the rise.

UFC Fight Night Boston Paddy Holohan en route to victory against Shane Howell back in January. Source: AP/Press Association Images

“I don’t envy any of my team-mates or have any jealousy towards them when they’re ahead of me on a card,” Holohan told The42 as he prepares for Saturday’s bout against highly-regarded American prospect Louis Smolka (9-1). It’ll be the penultimate fight on the live TV broadcast, which will be aired from 9pm on 3e and Setanta Ireland.

“There’s a little bit of weight of expectation on your shoulders to start that party and get it going when you’re on first, because some of the fans have probably been to the bookies to do an accumulator and they’re looking you in the eye. They’re pleading with you not to ruin their docket at the very first hurdle. You don’t want to be the guy to let down their accumulator.

“Yeah, it’s nice to have a little laugh about it but these things aren’t really important. Whether I’m first on the card or last, it won’t have any impact on my performance.”

Saturday’s opponent enhanced his reputation as a fighter with a bright future when he overcame Holohan’s fellow Dubliner, Neil Seery, back in July at UFC 189 in Las Vegas, when he displayed an impressive level of grappling.

Holohan isn’t concerned about Smolka’s competence on the ground, but he is expecting a different fight from his last outing — a dominant defeat of Vaughan Lee via the judges’ scorecards at UFC Fight Night 72 in Glasgow in July.

Holohan: “I feel comfortable no matter where the fight goes. To be honest, the little guy that’s standing at only five feet high who’s looking at the floor and swinging his hands at you, they’re the dangerous guys in there. You can’t prepare for a guy like that who’s wailing at you, swinging those hands. But I know Smolka is a little bit more about looking for shots and setting you up, and I love that kind of fight. To me, that’s like playing chess.

Patrick Holohan 18/7/2014 Paddy Holohan weighing in for his UFC debut in Dublin in July 2014. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Vaughan was loading up and swinging that right hand non-stop in that last fight at times and I couldn’t advance. It slows the fight down. With Louis Smolka, neither of our frames are made for that kind of style.

“There’ll be grappling exchanges and that’s absolutely fine with me. I’m not concerned at all when it comes to where this fight is going to go.”

A win for Holohan will leave him at 3-0 for 2015 and 4-1 overall in the UFC. Smolka is also aiming for his third consecutive victory. Only former title challenger Joseph Benavidez has a longer current winning streak of all the contenders in the 125lbs division.

Holohan is working towards the top, where dominant UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson has remained unscathed for over three years. Crossing paths with Johnson in 2016 is what Holohan is aspiring to.

CORRECTION UFC 191 Mixed Martial Arts UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. Source: AP/Press Association Images

“Absolutely, 100%,” Holohan said. “I’ve just put my head down, I’m working and I’m grinding. I’ve found a nice little pattern to my preparation and I’m getting better with every fight. Getting to that point is what I’m working towards.

“Demetrious Johnson has been there for a long time. I’ve been there for just over 15 months and I’m only 27 years of age, so I have a lot of learning on the job to do. But I’m developing every single day and I think our gym is right up there.

“All I can do is keep beating the guys the UFC are putting in front of me. If it was next year and they asked me do I want to fight Demetrious Johnson in January, of course I would.

“I’ve come from nothing so to challenge for the greatest title on the planet for my division would be an honour. And I believe I would be a great challenge. I would go in there and fight my heart out for that belt.

“Hats off to Demetrious for keeping that love for it as well. Sometimes winning can be your worst enemy. When you’re always winning, and doing it as dominantly as he’s been doing, it can be a challenge to keep the love for doing it. You have to hand it to the man, he’s a machine.”

Saturday’s appearance on a main card might be Paddy Holohan’s first, but if his career’s upward trajectory continues, it certainly won’t be his last.

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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