South Africa’s Garreth “Soldier Boy” McLellan fights Bubba Bush in the opening bout of the night at UFC Dublin on October 24th. I had the chance to speak with him in the build-up to that fight and he’s extremely focused on getting things right for this fight.
“The preparation has been hard work,” McLellan told me. “We had a lot of holes that we needed to fix up and we needed to make sure certain areas were a lot better than they were before. So we worked really hard on that. We also realise that there is a certain level that you need to compete at in the UFC and we had to up our game quite considerably. So we’ve pushed hard and camp has been tough; it hasn’t always gone as perfect as we’d want it to, but that’s part of the game. You need to adapt, learn from it and make sure you can put in a good performance on the night.”
It will be the second time McLellan has stepped inside the UFC octagon after losing his debut by decision. Many fighters making their UFC debut have told of experiencing ‘octagon jitters’, so I asked McLellan if they affected his performance. “It’s definitely something that played a part, it’s something that caught me massively by surprise. I’d been in title fights; fighting for the title, being the champion and having to defend the belt on many occasions. I thought I could handle it. I thought I had it under control. It was tough, I think you just get caught up in the whole moment and you don’t actually go in to do your job. So we’ve had a big mental system and mind-set change. I worked very much on the mental side to make sure it’s 100% perfect and that it doesn’t happen again because we don’t want the same result. We’re coming to win.”
The MMA crowd in Ireland are known for the atmosphere they generate and McLellan is looking forward to experiencing it. “I’ve heard the Irish fans are unbelievable and that they rank right up there with the best in the world so that’s very exciting for me.” McLellan may also have the raucous Irish in his corner as he has Irish roots. “I come from an Irish heritage; I’m half Irish and part Scottish. My mom’s side is O’Hara and my dad’s side is a McLellan from Scotland so for me it’s sort of like a homecoming. It will be an honour to ply my trade in front of an amazing crowd and I’m excited to feel the energy they bring.”
McLellan’s fight will be first up on the night, which can be a positive thing for a fighter. “When you’re first up you always want to set the tone for the rest of the card. It’s nice because I don’t have to wait. I can go in there, get my job on and get going with things. I don’t have to sit around and wait for the process to start.” As far as his opponent, Bubba Bush, goes, McLellan knows what he has to do. “He’s a big middleweight, incredibly strong and has a good wrestling background as well as his jiu-jitsu being top level so we’ve processed that to make sure we can compete in those areas and so we can execute what we want to do. I’m not one who likes to watch too much tape on my opponent, I have a team who do that and come back to me. This time around we’ve had a look together. We’re comfortable with what we need to do and it’s just about executing it on the night.”
One of the things fans often wonder about fighters is how they got started in their careers. “I started karate at a young age.” McLellan said. “I’ve loved martial arts my whole life. I started with karate when I was 9 and progressed, but my first passion was rugby. “I played rugby at a very high level. That was kind of what pushed me into martial arts. I used it for conditioning purposes and I went to an MMA coach to make sure my conditioning and physicality was at a lot better for rugby and it just pulled me in a different direction.”
Of course, McLellan won’t be the only fighter on the card of UFC Dublin with a rugby background. Ireland’s Cathal Pendred is another fighter with a similar story. McLellan spoke of some of the benefits of transitioning from rugby to MMA. “If you’re a rugby player you have a natural hand-eye co-ordination so you pick up things quite quickly. You’re used to the physical side of it, the constant contact, roughing it up and getting in somebody’s face. Rugby is not a sport you back down from, you’re punching holes and getting stuck in. That’s very much what happens in MMA. In rugby you also get installed with that work ethic that you need to achieve. It stood me in good stead and I’m sure it did for him (Pendred) as well.”
There have been a number of African fighters in the UFC and, for one reason or another, it hasn’t quite worked out for any of them to the extent that they could command an event on their own continent. This is something that McLellan wants to change. “I’d love to bring the UFC to South Africa and be on the main card or maybe even headline it at some stage,” He said. “That would be a massive achievement and it would be the cherry on the top of my career to say that I was successful in what I wanted to achieve for MMA in this country. We started out in little halls, or a parking lot or maybe a tent with 20 or 30 people watching and now we have a big promotion here that’s doing very well and producing a lot of talent. For us to be able to say the UFC came to this country and we’re now part of that premier league would be amazing. I want to be the front runner and the leader of that to show the world we are capable and I’m doing everything I can to make that happen. We have some fantastic talent and those guys can definitely compete at that level. We have some great gyms and some really good coaches as well. Once we show the world what we’re capable of, the doors are going to open for everybody.”
McLellan was quick to express his gratitude to his fans and wanted to let the Irish fans know what to expect from him on October 24th. “Thanks to the fans for the amazing support that you give me constantly,” he said. “Come and watch a fight guys. Soldier Boy is coming to do the work he always does. He’s coming to make an impact. He’s coming to make noise and he’s coming to show the world what he’s capable of.”
Will Fleury discusses incident on “The Fighter” and upcoming bout on December 16th
Earlier this week footage from EFC’s “The Fighter” emerged on social media. The video showed SBG’s Will Fleury being struck with countless illegal blows to the spine and to the back of the head. At first glance viewers would look and see the first strike then await the referee to stop the action and warn the other fighter. Unfortunately, that did not happen, at long last, the fight was stopped, however, instead of a disqualification win for Fleury. It was ruled a no contest. The video bodes the question to what the referee was doing as well as raising the awareness of fighter safety.
Following all the in cage drama, Fleury was forced out of the show after being told he was concussed despite no medical tests being done on him. With everything said and done, Will looks back on the situation with frustration after all the errors made by EFC.
“The situation was a mess on a number of levels. There was huge potential in the show if they’d let me fight on. But they’ve made a series of inexcusable errors that have led to this ridiculous situation. I think they wanted to brush this all under the carpet and pretend it never happened. They basically treated me like I was a problem that they didn’t want to have to deal with.”
When looking at the in-cage issues Fleury does not blame EFC, as it was, of course, the referee’s fault. The manner in which they went about removing him from the show amongst other things is something he found speculative though.
“The EFC is a promotion, their goal is profit, not fair sport. In fairness, they can’t be held accountable for the referee’s incompetence. But, how they decided to deal with it afterwards was very questionable.”
Currently, in MMA, fighter safety is one of the most talked about things, from weight-cutting to late stoppages. Ireland, in particular, takes extra precaution with the introduction of Safe MMA. In his bout, Fleury’s safety did not look like it was in the best interest of the referee. Fleury recalls meeting the ref a week later and showing him the footage only to be taken back and annoyed at the referee’s response of not seeing any issue.
“If your role as a referee is to ensure fighter safety, he clearly failed miserably. Honestly, I think he’s just not competent for the job. I don’t know how long he’s been involved in the sport for but I met him at a show a week later and showed him the video. He didn’t really think any of the shots were to the back of the head, I got so angry, I couldn’t talk to the guy. Also, It was called a no contest because my head was moving apparently that doesn’t make sense either”
Considering his health was at risk due to the referee’s actions, Will is feeling fit and well with no issues coming out of the fight.
“Yeah, it honestly seems fine. I genuinely felt fine right afterwards and in the days after too. I was winning challenges in the house 16 hours after the fight. looking at the footage is very grim tho, who knows what sort of damage its done in the long term, hopefully very little”
For those who don’t know, Will is scheduled to fight Gordon Roodman on December 16th. Not exactly pleased with the new fight offer, he is glad to finally be able to showcase his abilities but doesn’t see this fight as any consolation for what happened.
“I wouldn’t say pleased. But it gives me a welcome outlet for my frustration and I finally have a platform to show just how good I am at whooping ass. No, It’s not really a consolation. I don’t think they give a shit about what’s fair. They just reckon they can make money from me. You can expect a 1st round TKO/KO”
Will has a very close friendship with teammate Ben Forsyth, having fought before he detailed how they became friends afterwards. After mentioning how it’d be cool to fight on the same card as Ben he details that getting those ever so scarce fights at the higher weight classes come first.
“Ben contacted me about becoming less of a twat so I gave him some advice and things blossomed from there. Yeah, that’d be great but our number one priority for both of us right now is just getting the fights.”
Will then went on to detail the hardship in getting fights on the regional scene.
“Yeah, it’s a serious struggle especially when you’re known to be a good fighter and people are trying to look after their records. there’s also just not that many guys. I’ve fought twice and I’m already the best Middleweight in Ireland. If it were up to me I’d have a lot more but still, that shows you how few guys there are. and if anyone has an issue with me being the best Middleweight in Ireland make 84 and I can prove you wrong”
For those who haven’t seen the footage mentioned above, here it is. Be sure to keep an eye out for Will in his upcoming bout a few weeks from now.
EFC was approached for a comment on this footage, however, have unfortunately not responded.
This is how my time on TF1 ended. 15 elbows, 11 directly to the back of the head, 3 to the spine with the other elbow after the referee tries to stop him. I had been dominating this fight up to this point and was keen to continue (I have to full fight footage proving this). I was told I couldn’t. The fight was declared a no contest rather than a DQ as I was “moving my head”. I was then booted out of the tournament because I was “concussed” (never did any tests to prove this and I was winning challenges in the house 16 hours after this happened) I was the best fighter in that house by a considerable distance and would have smashed any of the other 10 contenders if given the chance. I proved it in every training session and every legal moment in any of my fights. I’ve been denied the chance to earn a decent contract and get my title shot. I’m Will Fleury. I win shit these fucks have disturbed the natural order and I will restore it. #Bullshit #TF1 #irishmma #EFC #mmanews #mmafighting #trykeepmedown #rawbastard #resilientbastard
Today’s MMA news round-up
Today has been a pretty busy day when it comes to MMA news. We’ve had it all today from new champions to commissioners being slapped to fighters being flagged by USADA. It’s been hectic to say the least so here are the highlights of today’s news.
1. Conor McGregor causes havoc at Bellator 187
Yes, that’s correct, Conor McGregor at Bellator. Following the win of his teammate and friend Charlie Ward at Bellator 187 the UFC Lightweight Champion entered the cage to celebrate with Ward, however, their celebrations did not go to plan. Referee Marc Goddard wasn’t pleased with this in the slightest and tried get McGregor out. This didn’t go down too well as McGregor confronted the referee who initially pushed him. See the video here:
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) November 10, 2017
This unfortunately was not the only incident as Conor appeared to slap an official who tried to get him off the top of the cage.
Credit to @BryanLaceyMMA for this one
— Bryan Lacey (@BryanLaceyMMA) November 10, 2017
2. Bellator to hold 8 Man Grand Prix for Vacant Heavyweight Championship
Earlier today it was confirmed by MMA Fighting that Bellator would crown a new Heavyweight champions following a report from MMA Junkie. There is no official dates yet, however, they do hope to start on January 20th and crown a new champion by the end of the year. There are some big names bidding to become the new champion, they are:
King Mo Lawal
3. Anderson Silva flagged by USADA for potential doping violation, out of UFC Shanghai Main Event
Former UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva failed a USADA doping test and was pulled from the UFC Shanghai Main Event. The sample was collected from an out of competition test on October 26th. This is now his second time failing a doping test. Last time he was hit with a one year suspension and a heavy fine. No more information on the matter has been made available yet in relation to suspension.
4. UFC newcomer Grant Dawson also flagged by USADA for potential doping violation
USADA had a field day today in terms of fighters testing positive for doping. Grant Dawson, who has yet to even get a date for his debut was flagged for a sample collected on October 18th. The 23 year old was signed after impressing on Dana White’s contender series where he scored a second round submission on Adrian Diaz.
5. Martin Nguyen becomes ONE Championship’s first ever two division champion
Featherweight Champion Martin Nguyen stepped up to Lightweight to clash with title holder Eduard Folayang in effort of making history. Many ruled Nguyen out but he silenced all critics when viciously knocked out Folayang to take home another title. See the knockout here:
Credit to @Jolassanda for the video.
Martin Nguyen KOs Eduard Folayang
to become the first 2-division One champion pic.twitter.com/TueUy2Nycc
— Jolassanda (@Jolassanda) November 10, 2017
6. All but one fighter make-weight for UFC Norfolk
Things were running smoothly today at the UFC Norfolk weigh ins until Matthew Lopez stepped up to the scales for his bout with Rafael Assuncao. He weighed in 2.5lbs over for his bout. The fight will go ahead, however, Lopez will lose 20% of his purse. Both Pettis and Poirier successfully made weight for their Main Event fight tomorrow night.
7. One new BAMMA champion while Lahore defends his belt in style
Despite some streaming troubles for the first two fights, BAMMA finally got one up in time for fans to see the final 3 fights. In the World Flyweight Title fight, Andy “Taz” Young fell lost his belt to Spaniard Daniel Barez via Majority Decision, After being docked a point in the opening round Barez came back strong to take home the World Title.
In the Main Event of the evening then, the anticipated match up between Alex Lahore and Richard Kiely went down. There was a lot of hype surrounding this one in the build up to the fight but it went as planned for Lahore. The champion pressured for a takedown in the first until finally succeeding, following some work on the mat it looked as if Kiely was about to gain some advantage on top. Only for Lahore to lock in a Kneebar and finish off the fight retaining his belt.
— BAMMA (@BAMMA) November 10, 2017
8. Cage Warriors 89 gets a shake up
The Cage Warriors Belgium card had an incredible addition today as they announced via newsletter that Karl Amoussou will defend his belt against Dominique Steele in the Main Event. The fight for the Vacant Heavyweight Championship was then demoted to co-main with a change in opponents for Mauro Cerilli. Dutchman Nills van Noord stepped up to face the Italian after Light Heavyweight Champion Karl Moore was forced off the card due to injury. This dampened his hopes of becoming the first Cage Warriors two division champion since Conor McGregor.
McGregor hints a title unification bout with Ferguson on Irish TV
UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor made his first appearance on Irish television following his mega-money fight with Floyd Mayweather last night on the famous ” The Late Late Show” where he talked about post Mayweather, potential fights, fatherhood and promoted his movie ” Notorious” which follows McGregor from his first headlined PPV against Chad Mendes to win the interim featherweight title to the second fight with Nate Diaz in August 2016.
One of the notable talking points on the show was that McGregor stated he is currently in talks with UFC about a new contract and a potential fight with the new UFC interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson seems likely to be his next fight to unify the titles.
McGregor has yet to defend his title since winning it in Madison Square Garden last year at UFC 205 and has come under criticism for not defending the title after moving up a weight class to capture the lightweight belt but the Irish man said he wanted to put the division right again by unifying the titles.
The host asked if a potential fight would happen on St Patricks Day in New York but McGregor dismissed the fight by saying ” Leave St Patricks day to St Patrick, I’ll have St McGregor Day”
McGregor also spoke about a potential trilogy fight with fan favorite Nate Diaz and stated that a trilogy fight between the pair would have to be contested at 155 pounds for the title after fighting twice at welterweight.
As of right now, no decision has been officially made on who or when McGregor will next fight but with the recent announcement that UFC would be holding a PPV in Boston in 2018, many have speculated that a potential return for McGregor would take place in the TD Garden as the Irish man as competed in Boston twice and been victorious on both occasions over UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway and Denis Siver.
Expect many questions to be answered by the Notorious one in the coming weeks as negotiations for his return to m.m.a seems to be on the horizon.
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