Comment: Absence makes the heart grow fonder as Irish MMA fans are treated to enthralling Bellator event.

It was Bellator’s first event in Dublin since 2017 and the appetite for MMA in Ireland is still ravenous if last night is anything to go by.

I was wondering how much interest there would be in Bellator’s Dublin event in the couple of weeks before the fights took place. Most of the social media posts I encountered were fairly negative towards headliner James Gallagher.

Gallagher of course is team mate of one Conor McGregor and the delight of him losing late last year to Ricky Bandejas across social media platforms made me skeptical somewhat that people would be hastily jumping onto Ticketmaster to snap up tickets for his fight against Steven Graham.

Let’s not kid ourselves. There’s a lot of similarities between Gallagher and McGregor in how they both sell their fights. Brash, cocky and unrelenting in their choice of words to their opponents or critics.

Personally, I have no problem with any of these antics. It’s proven to sell fights and PPV’s so I guess, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

That’s all well and good to say that but I was beginning to think that people are getting a bit tired of the same old stick however, a packed to capacity 3 Arena last night said differently.

Is it the lure of James Gallagher that brought punters to the arena in their droves or was it people just showing up to support their friends and team mates?

The answer is probably a mix of both but I would argue that with BAMMA now likely ceasing to exist and the UFC concentrating on other European markets, the return of a big show in one of the best arena’s in the country got people’s attention.

The last MMA event in the 3 Arena was last May when Kiefer Crosbie defeated Jack Plant in one of the best fights to take place on Irish soil in an epic first round war that ended with a TKO victory for Crosbie.

Since then, BAMMA are nowhere to be seen and Bellator have been making big moves to secure top European talent and coupled with a TV deal with hype machine giants, Sky Sports, it’s certainly a big component as to why people’s interest was piqued.

No official attendance has been read out but an estimate from well respected media in the arena suggested that 7,000 people showed up to watch one of the biggest night’s for professional Irish MMA.

With the UFC showing at the same time in Prague, this is a pretty staggering figure given the pull they have with fans – casual and hardcore alike.

We’re fortunate that we have some incredible up and coming amateur talent being showcased in amateur shows across the country but professional MMA will always carry more of a draw and in a country that has been starved of huge events, last night is a clear indication that despite its detractors, MMA is still a big draw in Ireland.



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