Friday, March 2, 2007


By Jim Burman

Mixed martial arts is spreading deep this year, with more activity anticipated in Ireland this year than any other before. Jon Kavanagh, Ireland’s first and only Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, has announced plans to hold a Cage Rage Contenders (the feeder show to Cage Rage) show in Dublin on May 26 with Chris Brennan (18-11-1) versus Samy Schiavo (7-4) already booked to headline.

Promoter Paddy Mooney has also announced he is planning a]the return of his Cage Wars promotion in April with big plans in the coming months. Mooney was the first promoter to run a show featuring a cage in the United Kingdom a mere five years ago and is now planni ng shows in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and one in Scotland around August.

Unfortunately, Mooney’s return to promoting is on the region’s busiest MMA night in years – April 21 - when both the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Cage Rage are holding events. Mooney is quite pragmatic though, partially because he is promoting a show a (short) plane ride away from both.

“I think the UFC it is more likely to impact upon Cage Rage than on Cage Wars,” he says. “It is unfortunate that the events are being held on the same day, as like myself, Dave and Andy [Cage Rage promoters] would on any other date be likely to attend the UFC show. I would think that an organization like the UFC would be planning their show schedule several months in advance and they would probably prefer that this date clash did not occur but once the machine is running it is very difficult to stop. Cage Rage has a great following in London and as usual will most likely sell out. The UFC press machine will probably allow them to have a large pull in Manchester, attracting the TV fan because of the “TUF” shows and the TV coverage of the UFC shows. I think both shows will have top attendance.”

And what about the UFC’s return to Europe and their rumoured plans to hold a show in Belfast, Northern Ireland somewhere between June and September?

“I think it is great that the UFC have come to Europe again,” says Mooney. “As for Belfast, personally I think happy days. My only doubt is the amount of money they would have to spend to make the show a success for the small amount of return they would get. London is probably going to become the home of UK UFC. If they plan to come to Ireland, I think Dublin will be the spot - most of the top performers in music don't even come to Belfast.”

Mooney also is clear to point out the cultural differences between Dublin and Belfast.

“Northern Ireland has very different views on things with many small minded political types who would just love to make a name for themselves off the back of banning a sport like ‘Ultimate Fighting.’ Dublin is a multi-cultural city with a large population and would most likely be able to attract the crowds. For my money, I would love it to come to Belfast and if I can do anything to help make it happen I will be right in there.”

So far, Colin Robinson (3-1) versus Wes Sims (18-8-1) is the only fight to be announced for Cage Wars’ April show with Mooney reticent to reveal other matches just yet ( “It seems that when I announce a fight the fighter is suddenly very popular with other offers,” he comments ) although he has already forged links with gyms across the globe as part of his ‘master plan’.

“We are going to be using fighters this year from some really cool gyms in the U.S. including Jorge Gurgel’s gym, Matt Hamill’s gym and Scott Adams’ [SLO Kickboxing] fighters also. The Hammer House will have some guys for us to include. Then we have Cyril Diabate and the Schaivo brothers from France, from Holland Martijn De Jong, Remco Pardoel and Olaf Inveld will all be sending great competitors.”

So the driving force behind the plans?

“What we want to do is allow UK and Irish fighters to focus on international opponents, allowing them to move up the ladder a bit,” says Mooney. “We plan to affiliate with several shows in the U.S. and keep ‘pond hopping’ fighters over, again focusing on building solid reputations for UK and Irish fighters. Most UK fighters can't get good, or rather, any purse from U.S. shows. No one knows them, so we hope to be able to subsidize them to be able to go and progress until such times as they can command a decent purse or even make a living from it.”

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