I arrive early, and already the place is like a pressure cooker. I’m down on the docks of Dublin, and as my taxi rattles along the river Liffey, the crowds filing into the 3Arena are moving at pace toward the venue. 4 deep and made of all shapes and sizes.
Already I get a sense. This one is going to be different. The pulse of the people is vital for live sport, especially combat sport. For the event to be a success it needs continual investment from the bodies in the seats in order to thrive. Would tonight provide the chapter so desperately needed to move Irish MMA forward?
Inside the Arena itself, the tension turns up notch as the first few fights go by. The people are switched on in a way only an Irish crowd can be. There are raucous chants, the odd Ric Flair cry and after two wins in particular few eyebrows are raised when a plastic pint glass sails through the air and into the cage.
Things soon settle into an escalating rhythm, and the first real roar comes when Will Fleury’s name is called out in pre fight. Fleury rewarded the crowd with a dominant win, outmuscling, then outclassing Shaun Taylor through rear naked choke.
The energy levels go up again when Richard Kiely devastates Bucher with a looping overhand right, fulfilling his prior prediction in style.
Another explosive moment comes when Charlie Ward lets go of a sledge of a left hand, crumpling Jamie Stephenson to the canvas. The crowd is packed the rafters now, an MMA sell out for the first time in a long time, and they are here to party.
Charlie Ward questions why he is isn’t on the main card. We can only nod our heads in agreement.
The arrival of Kiefer Crosbie keeps it going. Star power and violence see him break and tap Olezjicnak.
We are ready to go now, and for the main card the room is alive. 9000 voices belt out Sweet Caroline for the Sky cameras.
Richie Smullen and Paul Redmond get the hometown reception they deserve and the crowd carries them to wins.
There is a palpable moment of panic when Queally loses a tight decision to arch rival Price, but when the 23 year old James Gallagher makes the walk and dispatches Steven Graham, a man on a 5 fight win streak – the old hall is as full and as electric as it ever has been.
He takes his bows and closes the show with a nod to a room that did its job all night.
Here’s to many more Irish MMA nights like this. Its feels like the second coming of MMA has rolled around again in Ireland.
This time we’re ready.
Written By: Brian Dolan
Read Brian’s Interview with Will Fleury – ‘ The Comeback Kid’ right here