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'MMA saved my life. I wouldn't like to think what I'd be doing if I didn't have it'

A new documentary on the next wave of Irish MMA fighters airs on RTÉ tonight.

Dylan Tuke with team-mate Paddy Holohan.
Dylan Tuke with team-mate Paddy Holohan.
Image: YouTube

IT IS SAFE to say the popularity of mixed martial arts has blown up in Ireland over the past two years.

“The sport has gone from nobody knowing it, to everybody knowing it,” says MMA writer Peter Carroll during the intro to a new documentary that airs on RTÉ Two at 10pm tonight.

The Fighting Irish tracks the rise of the sport in this country, with interviews from current UFC fighters Conor McGregor, Paddy Holohan, Aisling Daly and the recently-retired Cathal Pendred as well as SBG Ireland founder John Kavanagh.

During the hour-long programme, we meet a number of young prospects hoping to follow in the footsteps of the above names by carving out professional careers at the elite level.

Filmed ahead of September’s BAMMA 22 event at the 3 Arena, a trio from SBG — mother and former national boxing champion Sinead Kavanagh, “council kid” Dylan Tuke (both making their pro debuts) and devout Christian Frans Mlambo — are all aiming for victories in one of Europe’s top promotions.

“MMA saved my life,” explains Tuke. “I was a little annoying idiot of a kid and thought I knew everything but ever since then my life has been on a different path.

I wouldn’t like to think what I would be doing if I didn’t have MMA.”

We also see Johnny ‘Jitsu’ Redmond of Team Ryano preparing himself to fight in front of 5,000 fans on the night.

McGRegor Fighting Irish McGregor features in the documentary.

Like it or not, the success of McGregor and others has opened the door for the next generation of Irish children to consider taking up MMA as a hobby or even a profession.

“The path is there now,” says McGregor, who has become a household name. “It has been paved. Now they can say to mammy and daddy ‘Look at Conor, ma. Look where he’s at. Look what he’s driving. Look where he’s living.

I couldn’t do that. I had to convince my mother and father that’s what I was going to do. But not these kids coming up, real young they show them a picture of me and my success.

“Then all of a sudden mammy and daddy are side-by-side on the mat cheering them on. Supporting them the way it should be and the way it is in other sports.

“That’s a recipe for success right there so I think the next wave will be phenomenal.”

The Fighting Irish is on RTÉ Two at 10pm tonight

Source: RTÉ2/YouTube

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Ben Blake

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