Joe McColgan: Hunting the Hunters

The story of Irish MMA has been portrayed in both the Irish and worldwide mainstream media as being a tale of two gyms; with the main focus upon John Kavanagh’s ‘Straight Blast Gym: Ireland’ and Andy Ryan’s ‘Team Ryano’. While this has been influenced by the representatives each gym has sent to the world’s premiere MMA competitions**. It is refreshing to see a new wave of fight fans from around the world are discovering fighters from other gyms with star potential. The stand out example is Fight Academy Ireland’s Joe McColgan, the 24 year old displays a confident and ambitious side when interviewed, this confidence is displayed in his own fighting nickname; The SBG Hunter.

BAMMA 26, on the 10th of September last,  was one of the first major professional cards in Ireland to display the advancements made in fighter safety, the first date for BAMMA 26 in Ireland was postponed due to the unfortunate passing of Portuguese fighter Joao Carvalho after a TEF event, just a few weeks before the original date set for BAMMA 26. BAMMA’s organising team were exemplary and the event hosted one of Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association’s first amateur bouts on a European card, Battlezone 16 had previously hosted Ireland’s first ever amateur MMA fight under the new regulations set out by the IMMAA.

There is no doubt that Joe McColgan was the star of the night following his victory over SBG’s Peter Queally. While many of those in attendance at the 3 Arena that night were in shock at McColgan’s dominant performance, the result itself was not shocking. Despite only having a 1-0 record before the fight, members of the media covering the event were identifying McColgan as having the skill set to trouble Queally. Many suggested that McColgan, who boasts a skill level and composure far beyond most 1-0 professional fighters, could upset the SBG man’s chance to make it to the UFC.

McColgan’s performance at the event went beyond many people’s expectations. He denied Queally the opportunities to implement a game plan and instead displayed an intelligent and composed performance; he showcased a highly developed counter-punching style that won him many fans on the night.

McColgan did not hang around, he promptly called out SBG’s Artem Lobov in a bid to face ‘The Russian Hammer’ on the UFC’s Belfast card in November, the UFC’s first event in Northern Ireland since UFC 72 in 2007. McColgan told the Dublin crowd he wished to fight Queally’s training partner Artem ‘The Russian Hammer’ Lobov at UFC Belfast, McColgan wanted the opportunity to fight Lobov on home soil after facing Queally in SBG’s own back yard. The bout caught the attention of all who were present at the BAMMA event and soon Colgan’s Twitter account was filled with fans supporting his call for a Northern Irish fighter to fight an Northern Irish born fighter on the card scheduled for the 19th of November.

When Lobov was matched with Teruto Ishihara, McColgan promptly changed his focus to Dillon Danis, the Marcelo Garcia BJJ black belt who contributed to Conor McGregor’s training camp to help the Irish man prepare for his UFC 202 bout with Nate Diaz. Danis had told Ariel Helwani about his desire to compete in MMA on the latter’s MMA Hour.

A double gold medal winner at the recent IBJJF No-Gi Pan Ams, Danis had been a part of Conor McGregor’s preparations for the UFC202 rematch with Nate Diaz, and had won much acclaim for McGregor’s improved grappling against Diaz.

In recent weeks there have been some back and forth between the two with the recent announcement that Bellator MMA and BAMMA will be holding a joint card in Dublin on the 16 of December. McColgan, for some unknown reason has yet to be matched on that card, despite being the stand out performer at BAMMA 26.

While McColgan believes his record speaks for itself and his recent victory against Danis’ SBG team mate Queally makes him an ideal candidate to present Danis with a challenging debut to the MMA scene, Danis had previously identifies some goals left in his jiu jitsu journey when talking to Helwani. Danis is due to compete on the Polaris 4 card on the 29th of October, which would leave him ample time, in some media member’s eyes to prepare for a MMA debut. In an interview with the, where McColgan was directly named, Danis said that McColgan was not on a high enough level to compete with him competitively:

I’d play with that kid. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I haven’t seen anything about it but people at the gym told me. He’s a bum – not even close to my level. I’m trying to aim for bigger things. ~ Dillon Danis

Through several social media posts it is obvious that Danis would prefer to make his debut on a UFC card, how would a debut on UFC Fight Night in Albany, New York alongside SBG team-mate Charlie Ward suit the New Jersey native?

McColgan, on SevereMMA’s Talking Brawls Podcast, told presenters Niall McGrath and Peter Carroll that he felt disrespected and that he would present a challenge to Danis that would not be experienced with another opponent:

What grounds does he have to say that I’m not on his level? If this was pure Jiu-Jitsu, yes, I’m not on his level. He’s proven that, but in MMA he hasn’t proven shit. What’s he done? He’s done nothing! ~ Joe McColgan

This writer would love to see such a bout occur, but with Danis’ packed schedule, with the aforementioned Polaris 4 event on the immediate horizon and another fight camp helping Conor McGregor preparing for UFC 205 following that, it does not look possible for McColgan to get the fight he, and many of his fans, wants. With Danis’ status as one of the top level draws in competitive jiu jitsu, it is doubtful whether BAMMA could afford to sign him, or whether Bellator MMA would be willing to sign an under prepared Danis.

As always with the sport of MMA; styles make match ups. There is no doubt that with McColgan’s ability and confidence to take on all comers from SBG: Ireland, there is no doubt that fans, both old and new, of the Fight Academy Ireland fighter will be eager to see what McColgan’s future holds.

**(Neil Seery (Team Ryano), Conor McGregor (SBG), Gunnar Nelson (SBG), Aisling Daly (SBG), Artem Lobov (SBG) and Charlie Ward (SBG) are all currently signed to the UFC, James Gallagher (SBG) and Paul Redmond (Team Ryano) are currently signed with Bellator)