Ryan Tubridy takes a tour of SBG with Coach Kavanagh

We were delighted to be able to host 'The Late Late Show's' Ryan Tubridy earlier this week at SBG Concorde. Coach John gave him the full tour and some insight into the world of MMA. John will also be appearing on the show tonight to discuss SBG, the success of Conor McGregor and the upcoming BAMMA Show at the 3 Arena, featuring no fewer than 9 SBG fighters!

Coach John earns 3rd Stripe as Black Belt

Everyone at SBG would like to congratulate our very own Coach John Kavanagh for recently earning his 3rd Stripe Black Belt under SBG founder Matt Thornton, who had these words to say on his Facebook Page.

"One of the best indications of a healthy lineage is that each generation becomes better than the one before.

John Kavanagh is proof of that.

Having cornered more than a thousand fights, and then applying a thoughtful intelligence to that wealth of experience, John has reached the highest levels a coach can reach.

All of us within SBG are so proud of his success, and the success of his team.

As a coach it was an honor and a privilege this weekend to award John his 3rd stripe as a black belt. He understand Jiu-Jitsu on a level well beyond where I've gone, and our young students who follow, will take it even further.


Matt Thornton, SBG Founder

WIN or LEARN - An Evening with John Kavanagh


Join John Kavanagh, the godfather of Irish MMA, for this special event to be hosted in The Round Room at The Mansion House, Dublin. In this exclusive evening, John will give guests an insight into his successful philosophy and approach that helped a small, unfunded and unsupported club in Dublin, make an impact within the world's fastest growing sport. His story is at the very heart of the explosion of MMA in Ireland.

At the event, attendees will be some of the first fans worldwide to receive a signed copy of Coach Kavanagh's eagerly anticipated autobiography; Win Or Learn. Guests will have the opportunity to learn firsthand about John's truly inspirational approach to life and his take on being the man behind the most talked about fighter in combat sport. John will be joined in conversation with Mike Sheridan, senior editor of entertainment.ie.

This event is a must for anyone who wants to understand how to follow a dream and realise a vision.

The event will take the following format:
Doors will open at 5pm one hour in advance of the show beginning. The talk will be broken into two parts with a brief intermission in between. After the talk guests will be invited to ask questions. Those who have purchased VIP tickets will meet with John Kavanagh following this.

Following the event attendees will be invited to join John us in 37 Dawson Street for afters.

ROAR under 18s must be accompanied by an adult.
For all event and PR queries please contact: [email protected]

John Kavanagh heads up new Irish MMA body


THE IRISH AMATEUR Pankration Association (IAPA) last night announced that it will establish a national governing body for Mixed Martial Arts with John Kavanagh as president.

The move means that IAPA will break from its existing place within the structure of the Irish Amateur Wrestling Association (IAWA) and set up the separate Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA).

The move comes after Sport Ireland boss John Treacy insisted that there must be a recognised governing body for MMA before it sets out on ‘a long road’ to gain full recognition from sport’s administrators.

In a statement, the IAPA thanked the IAWA for ‘invaluable support’ to this point:

“In particular Michael McAuley and Daniel and Keith Kennedy,” the statement says, “without their advice and guidance we would not be in the position we are today.

The IAWA have been a tremendous source of support, but we feel that it is now time to establish our own National Governing Body to enable the recognition and regulation of our sport in its own right.”

With Kavanagh as president, the IMMAA has set out its intention to ensure all competitors are registered with the body, control medical checks before fights and advise promoters intending to run amateur MMA events in this country, including recommendations for referee and judge appointments.

IMMAA will be a member of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) and will adhere to their rules and guidelines.

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.

John Kavanagh reveals the GAA coach who has been a 'massive influence'.

via Independent.ie

On Wednesday afternoon, with hundreds of MMA fans and a small army of the sport's reporters packed in, it feels very intimate. John Kavanagh, however, wouldn't agree. He has known many exceedingly more confined locations that played host to the sport of combat. He's standing back from both crowds. For now, he's happy to survey.


One of his fighters is up there on the stage, busily going through a series of striking, grappling and movement workouts with other members of the support team. He's just one of many who call Kavanagh coach. But none of the rest - roughly 20 pros in all - are quite like him. No-one who has ever opted to mix martial arts for a living is quite like this one.

Conor McGregor's every flex, every shadow punch is cheered as though it's a devastating decider. Kavanagh, however, looks to be studying each one a whole lot more intently. This is the most relaxed fight week of the Notorious team's wild journey to the top of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but it's no time to get lazy.

McGregor will again break with logic and precedent and move up two weight divisions to take on Nate Diaz in a welterweight showdown that is the headline act of UFC 196 in Las Vegas tonight. He's topping the bill in Sin City for the third time in eight months. This whole circus is in danger of becoming a bit, well, routine. Spending so much time on the Strip, the threat of Vegas fatigue kicking in is a real one.

"Emmmm, yeah. Yeah, there is a bit of (Vegas fatigue)," Kavanagh tells the Irish Independent. "But then you know, it's nice today. You can feel it starting, the ball is rolling again. We're here getting some nice energy off the fans. You know, it balances out.

A third visit in short succession. But the previous two make it a whole lot easier to come running back. They were nights for the ages. Chaotic, kaleidoscopic occasions when this neon metropolis shone bright on McGregor and his coach, the only one he's ever had.

First there was the watershed night in July when Chad Mendes was downed and an interim featherweight title claimed. It was summed up by the image of McGregor and Kavanagh - 11 years into their partnership - savouring the realisation of a dream atop the octagon.

Outright world championship status was then confirmed in just 13 seconds when McGregor again made good on his promises in December and downed Jose Aldo Jr.

"You do pinch yourself now and again to be part of this," Kavanagh says as he looks at the sea of smartphones raised to capture McGregor's workout. "To be part of this history, this story. Maybe I'll have my grandkids on my knee some day and we'll put on a video of a crazy night and a crazy fight and say 'oh, this is what your grandfather used to do'."

Or maybe he won't have to put on a video. He could read the grandkids a book instead. Amid all of this madness and night after night spent honing the rest of the brigade at his Straight Blast Gym in Bluebell, Kavanagh is putting the finishing touches to an autobiography. He's just 39, so putting his life story to page wasn't something he'd yet considered. Penguin Ireland had some convincing to do.

"I just had so many people saying it to me, (to do it). My natural reaction was like 'What! Why?' But when word got out then, I got a massive response from football players and rugby players and entrepreneurs," says the Rathfarnham native.

"They were all interested to see how this, all of this was built. How did I go from 14 years ago being in a shed with a couple of lads to standing here in Las Vegas with the most popular fighter on the planet?

"I'm getting my mother to proof-read it and she's as surprised as me. She thought it was going to just be an MMA story but it's actually not. It's a tale of coming from nothing to something, overcoming obstacles and finding success in business and in sport."

It's been some journey. Truly. While McGregor's voyage from reluctant plumber to multi-millionaire has been pored over, his coach's has rarely got the same treatment. Never an enthusiastic sportsman in his youth, Kavanagh all but fell into this life while on a very different path. His mind if not his heart was set on becoming a maths teacher.

While studying mechanical engineering in DIT, he saw a video of UFC 1 and was intrigued. He took up MMA and jiu-jitsu and was hooked. He never made it near a blackboard. His first gym was the very definition of intimate, a tiny place in Phibsboro. Nonetheless, at 24, it was a place to call his own.

Read more: 'He's an injured gazelle, hoping he gets spared ... he'll be eaten alive'

"I'm coming towards the end of (the book) now and looking back over some of the fights and gym incidents, going from one gym to another. All these places have stories, have lives of their own," says Kavanagh.

"Going back over it makes me smile. It was fun writing it. It forced me to take a half second to stop and be proud of things. And also realise that Conor is my first big fighter but you know, I'm 39. And now I have a bunch of guys coming up. He is phase one. How many of them will I add?"

While he has always been vociferous in his assertion that it is McGregor's maniacal work ethic that has been most pivotal on route to the top, Kavanagh has played a massive part. His achievements with the Notorious One, who first pitched up to his door as a squeaky 16-year-old, saw his name put forward alongside those of Cody, Schmidt and O'Neill for end-of-year coaching honours.

But what of the Irish coaches who inspired him?

"Two names jump out. And they came just at the right time, which has been a big part of my life," he says. "They would be Kieran McGeeney, GAA legend and all of that. He taught me a lot, so bloody much, about competitive mindset.

"I came from academics, I was going to be a maths teacher before all this. So I had never studied anything with sport, I'd never really achieved anything personally in sport. So I just didn't really know about high level sport and what it takes to win. McGeeney was a huge influence on me in that respect.

"He just booked a private lesson with me. I had no idea who he was. But I worked out with him and I thought to myself pretty quickly, 'this guy's not normal'. He was just different. And he's just had a massive influence on everything I've done since."

"Then I would also credit Eoin Lacey and John Connor from the ISI (Irish Strength Institute). What I liked about ISI - and for that matter what I liked about Kieran McGeeney - was the attitude. It was not like what you get a lot. I didn't want to be the best in Ireland. I wasn't training my guys to be the best fighters in Ireland. We were training for, well, for this.

"I remember I was trying to get the MMA rules changed in Ireland about seven or eight years ago and I said to the other coaches that we have to change the rules to mimic UFC rules, and the reaction was 'why, sure we're never going to have someone there?' I said 'well you mightn't but I will'."

His fighter has wrapped up his workout and provided his latest media offerings. McGregor is now tottering along a divider that separated the stage from the throng of supporters. Security and minders are holding his ankles for fear anything happens to the fighter the UFC is banking on to be their billion-dollar baby.

McGregor teeters on determinedly, obliviously. He takes a memory card's worth of selfies and signs children's T-shirts, baseball caps, a lookalike's Tricolour.

One woman offers him a $5 bill to autograph and he scolds her. "Just a fiver - come on!"

For the first time all afternoon, Kavanagh, confident that things will be over before the end of the first round tonight, takes the stage. He walks towards the back, turns and again surveys, taking in the scene for a moment. Then he disappears behind the curtain.

Some journey.