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'I only started this because I was a fat kid trying to lose a bit of weight'

Dublin’s Paul Redmond makes his UFC debut tomorrow night in Stockholm.

Image: Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors

THERE WAS A definite turning point in Paul Redmond’s mixed martial arts career, and he remembers it well.

To put it in perspective, Redmond’s time in MMA should be split in to two parts. The first ended when he was easily brushed aside by Tom Maguire in his sixth professional bout.

“He punched the head off me and the fight was stopped in the first round,” Redmond recalls. “After that I went out the back and cried my bleedin’ eyes out.”

That was March 2012. At that point Redmond wouldn’t have predicted a UFC debut within three years, but that’s what awaits him tomorrow night in front of an expected crowd of 28,000 at the Tele2 Arena in Stockholm.

“I said to myself after that Maguire fight, there’s not a fucking chance I’m putting this much effort into training and cutting weight only to go out and take a beating like that. I let nerves overcome me, but that never happened again.”

Redmond made a promise to himself that he has yet to break. Since then he has put together a 7-1 record, an impressive run under the Cage Warriors promotion that recently brought him to the attention of the UFC.

Two weeks ago Redmond was on a construction site in Dublin, earning his salary as a plumber. Then the phone rang and an offer from the UFC came from the other end of the line.

The circumstances? Not ideal. Usually a lightweight, Redmond would need to cut a further 10lbs for a featherweight bout against the undefeated Mirsad Bektic. He had been planning on a move to the lower weight class anyway, but he could have done with more than 14 days to get there.

But when you’re offered an opportunity you’ve been working towards for a long time, you don’t hesitate to go the extra mile. It would be a miserable two weeks for the man from Donaghmede, but at the end of it he’d walk out in front of the second-largest crowd in UFC history. A dream fulfilled.

Cage Warriors 52 Paul Redmond in action during his Cage Warriors victory against Alexei Roberts. Source: Dolly Clew/Cage Warriors

“In a perfect world I’d have had a bit more time to prepare, but that doesn’t bother me at all at this stage, to be honest,” Redmond told The42. “I’ve been dreaming of getting that call for ages so I’d have needed my head tested if I turned it down.

“I was told someone had pulled out injured for the Sweden card. Of course I wanted in. I had no idea who the opponent was, I didn’t ask that until the following day. That’s how much I wanted it.”

A move to the UFC will bring Redmond some extra cash, so for the time being he’s knocked the plumbing on the head in order to throw the kitchen sink at his MMA career.

“There’s only a handful of Irish people in the UFC and I’m lucky enough to be one of them now. I’m not going to do this half-arsed. I don’t want to look back on my life and say the best thing I did was be a plumber.”

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While competing in the UFC has been Paul Redmond’s aspiration since he started progressing through the Cage Warriors ranks in 2012, his goal was very different when he first walked in to the Team Ryano gym on Dublin’s northside seven years ago.

“I only started this because I was a fat kid trying to lose a bit of weight. I was a fat waster and a pisshead, constantly out drinking and acting the fool.

“I used to watch the UFC on TV and I heard there was a gym near me. It turned out that it was one of the best gyms in Ireland.”

Training under Andy Ryan, one of Ireland’s elite coaches, Redmond wasn’t quite an overnight sensation. The ‘acting the fool’ continued simultaneously at first, and it showed when he had his first amateur fight.

“I walked in with a big belly on me and got choked unconscious in 15 seconds. The guy I fought was massive. He had muscles on top of muscles. I couldn’t even speak, I was that nervous.

“Andy pulled me aside afterwards and told me there was no point continuing unless I cut out the drinking and the messing, so my attitude to training changed after that.”

His attitude to competing wouldn’t change until the aforementioned fight against Tom Maguire, but he’s certainly reaped the rewards for making the adjustments.

“I was lucky enough after that because Andy managed to get me a fight with Cage Warriors. That was a massive deal for me because I’d never fought on a big show like that before.

“I got two wins there and started to realise that yeah, I could make a good run at this. Losing to Tom Maguire and then getting the first of seven wins with Cage Warriors just a couple of months later, that whole period was the turning point.”

Redmond was generally an underdog at first, but playing that role is something he’s gotten plenty of enjoyment from.

“I’m not big or muscular so people don’t think I look the part. I remember when I fought Alexei Roberts in London, a few lads that were in the crowd told me afterwards that they had put bets on how fast I’d be knocked out.

“They thought I looked like a 15-year-old girl or something. But that’s grand. I finished Alexei in the second round.”

Redmond’s opponent tomorrow night at UFC Stockholm also has the backing of the bookies, but the 28-year-old Dubliner isn’t daunted by the prospect of trying to inflict a first professional loss on Mirsad Bektic.

“Even talking about it now… me, in the UFC… I think it’s just weird,” he says. “All I can do is sit back and laugh about it. I just think it’s funny. But I know I can hang with these guys. I know I can compete.

“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for. I’m sure there’ll be nerves but they won’t get the better of me. There’s no fucking way I’m letting this pass me by.”

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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