The Irish base of Salem-founded Straight Blast Gym was launched by martial artist John Kavanagh in 2001. With MMA still dominant only in Asia and the Americas, it was a potentially thankless task, with Dublin not even remotely recognized as a potential source of MMA talent. Sixteen years on, Kavanagh can look with pride at an impressive list of alumni from the SBG:

#5 – Aisling Daly (Ireland)

Now retired for medical reasons, Daly was Ireland’s first female Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and began her professional MMA career with a bang. Winning her first nine fights, she was prevented from reaching a rare 10-0 milestone after losing to Lisa Ellis via decision at Bellator 26. Her fortunes undulated thereafter but she at least bowed.

#4 – Taylor Lapilus (France)

As of August 2017, Lapilus’ record stands at 11-2, with the Frenchman winning all three of his UFC Fight Night appearances to date, and he is looking increasingly like a safe way to use the £200 bonus bet currently available on bet365. His bantamweight debut, in June 2015, was particularly impressive. On that occasion, Lapilus won by TKO (punches) over Ulka Sasaki.

Lapilus took his professional record to 4-0 with this destruction of Chresus Mokima

#3 – Artem Lobov (Russia)

One of the most erratic fighters in the UFC roster, Lobov is an absolute monster on his night. Defeat in his last fight (at UFC Fight Night: Swanson vs. Lobov in April 2017) left the Russian with a record of 13-13-1. It is worth noting that seventeen of his twenty-seven fights to date have been settled by decision (with a 7-10 record therein)

#2 – Gunnar Nelson (Iceland)

By September 2012, SBG Ireland had been bereft of a representative in the UFC for three years. Nelson’s first UFC bout (at UFC on Fuel TV: Struve vs. Miocic) broke that dry spell in style, with the Icelandic karateka and BJJ expert overcoming DaMarques Johnson in the first round with a rear-naked choke hold. Nelson is also a four-time international medalist in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

This victory for Nelson over Zak Cummings was rated Performance of the Night

#1 – Conor McGregor (Ireland)

There can be no doubt as to the identity of SBG’s greatest product to date. Drawing comparisons to Rocky, McGregor began life as a humble tradesman – although his trade was plumbing, rather than ‘debt collecting’. It was at the SBG that he learnt how to strike effectively, and subsequently, his ability to deliver a quick-fire knockout has won him many fans. So too has it earned him a historical bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

The bout has made him a vital cog in the history of professional boxing; defeat for McGregor would see him grant Mayweather an unprecedented 50-0 professional record. A shock win for McGregor would see Rocky Marciano’s 62-year old record remain unbeaten – most likely forever.

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