A Message from John Kavanagh


Yesterday a positive preliminary meeting took place between Minister Michael Ring, a representative of Sport Ireland, Professor Dan Healy and senior civil servants. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the future of MMA (mixed martial arts) in Ireland, its regulation and safety measures at competitions.

Ireland now has close to 100 MMA clubs across the country, the majority of which have active competitive MMA teams under the Irish Amateur Pankration Association (IAPA)

Over the course of the next few weeks, a series of meetings are to take place between the IAPA and government officials to commence work towards regulating our sport efficiently and safely.

Although the professional end of the sport receives the most media attention, it only represents the tip of the iceberg. MMA is enjoyed both recreationally and at an amateur level by many 1000s nationwide; and I, as President of the IAPA, look forward to a meaningful dialogue with our government as we set about putting in place best practice for MMA clubs and constructive support at the grass roots level. MMA is only growing in popularity and, just like any other sport, we need our own national governing body working in partnership with Sport Ireland as we enable many young athletes to train and compete.

Last year, the IAPA sent a team of amateur MMA competitors to compete in international championship events under the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF). We were able to successfully represent Ireland at the 2015 IMMAF World Championships of Amateur MMA in Las Vegas and at the 2015 IMMAF European Open in Birmingham (UK), winning gold medals at both. This year we are preparing a full team to represent the Republic of Ireland in the 2016 IMMAF World Championships.

I see this acknowledgment by the Sports Minister and government officials as a very positive first step towards our excellent athletes receiving the same level of support and recognition as Ireland's fantastic national sports teams do when they travel and represent their country. We have a lot of work to do, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I'm happy that after nearly 20 years of promoting MMA in Ireland to be making that first step.

The Irish Amateur Pankration Association (IAPA) is an associated body of national governing body, the Irish Amateur Wrestling Association (IAWA). It is made up of IAWA affiliated club members from wrestling, grappling and the martial arts community in the Republic of Ireland. It also enjoys the support of a network of gyms, athletes and promoters.

 - John Kavanagh, SBG Ireland

The Bright lights of Bellator Await SBG's James Gallagher

via Fightland. Written by Peter Carroll


Today, Bellator announced the signing of 19-year-old James Gallagher. The 3-0 featherweight has been tipped for the top since his early teenage years and if his first pro outings were anything to go by, he had no intention of spending too long on the regional scene.

‘The Strabanimal’ has been calling for the biggest stages since claiming his first win pro win back in October, a first-round submission of Denis Ahern. After claiming two more submission via choke over Declan McAleenan and Gerard Gilmore, the writing was on the wall for one of the bigger promotions to take note of him.


Gallagher has been touted as one of the most promising fighters on the Irish MMA scene since his teenage years. Even at such a young age, ‘The Strabanimal’ already had his mind made up about his future. In school, all Gallagher thought about was fighting so he eventually just stopped going at the age 15.

That wasn’t as much of a risk as it seems, because the young Irishman had a better idea than most people his age about how he would fare in the sport. Gallagher had his first amateur fight at 13 years of age.

After leaving school, Gallagher moved to Dublin where John Kavanagh took him under his wing. Eventually moving in with the celebrated Irish coach, Gallagher’s life has been completely immersed in the fight game ever since.

I can still remember looking on in awe as he went through the blue belt adult divisions of the Irish Jiu Jitsu Open like a knife through butter as a 15-year-old. His initial plan was to win the jiu-jitsu world championships before making the full-time commitment to MMA, but the allure of the fight game proved too strong for the Tyrone youngster.

Gallagher wanted to win the amateur world championships before going pro and was a key training partner to Conor McGregor in the lead up to UFC 189 as the world championships as the world championships fell on the same week as the July card.

The purple belt displayed his stellar ground game with a third round rear naked choke against American champion Sam Agushi, but unfortunately, he was forced to pull out of the competition afterwards due to an injury that he suffered during the contest. It was his last act after clocking up a fantastic record of 15-3 in the amateur ranks, especially when you consider how young he began competing at.

Gallagher’s only outing at the IMMAF world championships still turned a lot of heads and he was signed up to a deal with KHK MMA shortly afterwards, who also back UFC frontrunners Frankie Edgar and Khabib Nurmagomedov.

An Investment for the Future

Despite only competing as a professional on three occasions, Gallagher boasts a sturdier fan base than the vast majority of fighters. Bellator has reacted quickly and signed the young SBG fighter, which makes sense due to the other promotions that would have gained interest had he added to his unbeaten record.

Although you would liken skill set more to Gunnar Nelson’s, Gallagher has the same flair for fashion and unwavering self-belief that McGregor has become notorious for. Such is his confidence, there is no opponent that Gallagher doesn’t think he can beat, and for that reason, Bellator need to play their cards right with him.

At such a young age and still only seven months into his pro career, there is no need to rush Gallagher. However, his SBG teammate Paddy Holohan believes that Gallagher is ready to take on whoever the promotion choose to put in front of him.

“The youth and the talent that James has forces him to have a lot of responsibility. He’s an animal to go that young lad. If I knew what he knew what he knew when I was his age, I would’ve been out for world domination.

“I would’ve been still choking out lads in school or something,” he laughed. “James has a lot of discipline, he never flaunts his fighting skills outside of training or competition. He’s very capable too. He might only have three fights, but if Bellator gave him some old veteran on the back end of his career for his debut, he could shock a lot of people and take a very big jump, very quickly.”

Bellator must try to make their events more accessible in Ireland to capitalize on Gallagher’s fan base. Garnering a lot of attention from such a young age, there is unquestionably a lot of Irish MMA fans will be desperate to watch his debut live.

Gallagher will fight one more time before he makes his Bellator debut when he fights fellow Irishman Sean Tobin on June 4 at BAMMA 26 in Dublin’s 02 Arena. There is no doubt that the surging featherweight prospect will want another first round finish to carry into his first outing under the Bellator banner.