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.
#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.