JOHN KAVANAGH was in Conor McGregor’s corner as ‘The Notorious’ avenged his only loss against Nate Diaz at UFC 202 in Las Vegas last month in one of the most compelling main events in UFC history.
And this weekend the world renowned and hugely respected Straight Blast Gym Head Coach will be in the corner of Derry man, Steve Owens at the Foyle Arena as he makes his professional MMA debut in his hometown at the ‘Real Fighting Championship’.
Kavanagh’s one of the best in the business so it’s a huge honour for Owens to have the Dubliner follow him into the Octagon on Saturday night.
Fellow SBG teammate and retired UFC star, Paddy ‘The Hooligan’ Holohan will also be in attendance as special guest and who’s to say one of the most recognisable faces in the business, McGregor, won’t be there to lend his support? Don’t be surprised should he choose to join his SBG teammates on the night!
“A lot of people will have watched McGregor’s fight in Las Vegas and saw John Kavanagh in the corner. And then they come to this event in Derry and he’s sitting in my corner,” enthused Owens.
“It’s a nice feeling. It’s weird at the same time. He was in Vegas at a multi-million pound fight and the biggest in UFC history two weeks ago and now he’s helping me in Derry.
“Hopefully he sets his eyes on a few other Derry fighters while he’s here and they get a chance. It’s all about creating opportunities.”
As a co-promoter of the event, Owens has had his hands full during fight week and the fact he’s had a third change of opponent in the lead up certainly hasn’t helped.
He was originally in line to fight South African striker, Alex Masuku, before he pulled out and was replaced by Paul Lawrence of Rush Fight Academy.
Now he takes on the talented lightweight, Keith McCabe from Dublin and, like McGregor’s epic UFC 202 main event, Owens is expecting a real war of attrition in the headline bout.
With SBG and Team Ryano, there’s a bit of domestic rivalry there. They’re the two best clubs in the country and we’re two of the up-and-coming fighters so it makes for a very interesting fight.Steve Owens
McCabe fights out of Team Ryano in Dublin, so there will certainly be added spice as the rival Dublin clubs come together.
“I’m excited, everything has fallen into place. I will always be ready and expect anything. I never be comfortable with an opponent because you never know what’s going to happen.
“I always train to break down any opponent. Whether its a grappler, wrestler, striker, southpaw. No matter what I’m always prepared for him.
“I can take him out in different ways. I’ll alter my style with his and take him out! He’s definitely a step up in class. He’s coming off a big win at BAMMA. But that’s better for me. I want to be tested. I don’t want easy fights.
“I’m fighting a well rounded fighter so I’ll prepared.
“With SBG and Team Ryano, there’s a bit of domestic rivalry there. They’re the two best clubs in the country and we’re two of the up-and-coming fighters so it makes for a very interesting fight. If it didn’t happen on Saturday it was going to be soon.
“I’ve always wanted to headline a big MMA show in Derry and now it’s happening.”
Big hitting K1 world champion, Brian Houston, is also on the hugely exciting bill as he takes on Derry Guinan in his second professional kickboxing bout and Owens reckons it will be his toughest test yet.
“K1 might not get the spotlight MMA gets but with Brian fighting it might get more interest. He’s getting bigger and stronger. Guinan is a very rounded K1 fighter. He’s got great kicks and is so fit. He’s got power punches and is fast and accurate so it’ll be Brian’s toughest test yet.”
Tickets are selling out fast but you can still get them at Yellow Moon, Shipquay Street and Pure Gym on Strand Road, priced at £25.