Ciaran McFadden is beyond a doubt, one of the busiest people I have interviewed to date.
As we sat down to chat at 9pm, Ciaran was driving home from the gym. Not content with running his own printing company by day, Ciaran runs Kombat Jiu Jitsu by night.
Add an eight-week-old baby girl and his own training into the mix and you get an idea of the amount of juggling being done.
“I am wanted everywhere,” he playfully says. Sounding a lot less stressed than you might imagine.
The Derry man’s love affair with martial arts began in 2007, when he was in University. While at college, he trained in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Upon returning to Derry, he transitioned to the Japanese form, as he was unable to find a BJJ gym nearby. He eventually earned his black belt in this discipline.
Ciaran will be stepping into the cage this Saturday in the hopes of winning the Clan Wars Heavyweight title.
Having fought at both welterweight and middle weight, heavy weight is not Ciaran’s usual stomping ground. However, having been away from competitive MMA for a number of years Ciaran was eager for an opportunity to get back into the action.
He will be facing Juls Werdis of Konfliction MMA.
Ciaran’s last fight was in Chaos Fighting Championships in 2013, where he faced Chris Meanie. Chris is a BJJ Purple belt.
Ciaran submitted him via triangle choke to claim the Chaos Middleweight title. Since then competition has taken a back seat. I asked him if he felt he might have a bit of cage rust going into Clan Wars.
“I wouldn’t say so. I train 5 or 6 days a week, every week. So, it makes no difference whether I compete or not. I am always competitive in Jiu Jitsu. I have never stopped training for any period of time… If anything, I am a better version of myself than I ever was.”
I was curious about Ciaran’s motivation to move up in weight class. I asked him what was behind it.
“I got offered (a fight) at heavyweight, just with life commitments now. Eight weeks ago, we just had a wee baby, so it would have been very hard for me to commit to a really strict regime and diet…
“It has been a bit easier because I have been able to eat the calories I needed to train.”
Not having to go through the traditional weight cut most athletes face during fight week has been a novel experience for Ciaran this time around.
“I feel good. I feel fresh. It’s weird in the last week, I don’t feel drained. I don’t have to cut weight.”
Weigh in will be done by video for this fight. Ciaran is already “well under” the prescribed weight so he has no reason to fear the scales. I asked Ciaran if there was a disadvantage in this, and potentially having to face an opponent quite a bit heavier than himself.
He assured me he had no concerns about it. Going on to tell me that he had faced opponents in grappling competitions who weigh in excess of 50kg more than he does!
“I am used to fighting bigger guys, so I am not too worried.”
I have had the pleasure of chatting to lots of martial artists, but Ciaran is unique in that he also trains other fighters. In fact, Kombat Jiu Jitsu’s Sean Devine, will be sharing the card with him this Saturday.
I wanted to find out how the 32-year-old balances the demands of both roles.
“I have sort of grown into that. At the start I would have found that more difficult. Whereas now, if anything it sort of motivates me more. You will have your off days with training and as a team we push each other. If one guy fades, the other guy pushes him…If I was training on my own it would be a lot harder. Not to mention, you’re setting an example. It’s good for me to be able to show these boys how hard I can push physically.”
He doesn’t foresee having to compete directly with his fighters at any stage in the future. Traditionally a Jiu Jitsu gym, I wondered what direction Ciaran has in mind for Kombat. I asked whether he thought they would stay focussed on BJJ or if he envisaged MMA becoming more central to the club.
“We definitely have a group for both. At the start it would have been more Jiu Jitsu, but now the MMA team seems to be growing. We are a lot more active on the fight scene this last while. A part of that is just because we are only getting to a point where boys are ready to be fighting… The more that happens, the faster everyone evolves.”
Ciaran recognises that you need to be well rounded to fight in MMA. His strong background in BJJ means he is very comfortable on the mat. However, he has been working with Kevin Anderson, who is a K1 coach to ensure his striking is also on point.
“I feel pretty confident no matter where this goes, on the feet or standing, I am not too worried… It’s important for MMA now. You’ve got to have the full package.”
In terms of competitive MMA, I asked Ciaran what his ultimate ambitions are.
“I love fighting, I love training, I love competing. Who knows, I might take a run at the pro division after a few more fights, get a bit more experience, dust myself off…Motivate myself to get the weight down a wee bit. Maybe take a fight at a lower weight class, and pro then.”
We wish Ciaran the best of luck with all of his many endeavours.
Written by: Arwen Sheridan