TOP Derry MMA prospect, Steve Owens, was crowned professional European 80kgs K1 champion in spectacular fashion in England last weekend as his stature in the fight game continues to grow.
The Bayview Gardens man, who remarkably took the fight at just three days’ notice, stepped up in weight to face Gareth Burbidge (Eagles Wales) at the TFC Promotions’ Warlords 2 event in Somerset and delivered a knockout blow to clinch the vacant title.
The fight was scheduled for eight rounds but Owens stopped his opponent in style with a flurry of punches in the sixth to end the contest early and take his professional K1 record to 5-0.
Having left his full-time job as a tiler and called a halt to his studies in Sports Therapy at the North West Regional College, Owens packed up his bags and left to train at the SBG in Dublin this year - the home of UFC star, Conor McGregor.
And, Owens, who makes his MMA debut in September, feels he’s starting to reap the benefits of that decision and from his top class training camp in Dublin under the supervision of hugely respected coach, John Kavanagh.
“I quit my job, left my course and got whatever money I could get together and went to Dublin. It was exciting,” said Owens. “I’m improving ever y day. There’s so much to work on in MMA. SBG caters for my needs and my mindset and I can see a massive improvement in myself.”
While he wants to pursue a career in MMA with the end goal the UFC, he felt the opportunity to fight for the vacant K1 European title was too good to turn down. “I was training twice a day anyway,” he explained. “But I was struggling to get an MMA fight and had two or three fights pulled on me. So I just wanted to get in the ring and get a fight.
“I went back home for a week and, on the Tuesday, I got a phone call telling me about an opportunity in England against a fighter who is 9-1 and is without an opponent. He was a weight class above me at 80kgs and I normally fight at 75kgs.
“Considering it was a bigger opponent and I had three days’ notice and didn’t do much stand-up training leading into it, I was delighted. I just go for it nowadays and it seems to be paying off.”
Owens’ gameplan was to pace himself and warm into the fight due to his lack of stand-up training in the days leading up to the fight. But he was forced into making a move when his opponent’s kicks began to take their toll.
I’m improving ever day. There’s so much to work on in MMA. SBG caters for my needs and my mindset and I can see a massive improvement in myself.Steve Owens
“It was a tough fight. Every time I was hitting him with shots I was wobbling him. I didn’t want to run out of gas. I didn’t have that extra week or two training so was trying to pace myself.
“He started hitting me with leg kicks in the third and fourth round and it was taking its toll a bit. I decided to switch it on then and out-boxed him by far. He took two standing counts and then I knocked him out.
“I could have played it safe and waited until I got my MMA fight, but I didn’t and went over there on three days’ notice against a bigger opponent on his home turf for a title.”
His new European strap will go nicely with the ProAm 5 Nations title he won in Derry last July. But he now turns his attentions to his pro MMA debut at the Real Fighting Championship promotion in Derry next September. Given his grappling background, under the guidance of Jiu Jitsu coach, Ciaran McFadden, he believes he will make the transition from K1 with ease.
“It will be a massive show. There’s a few professional MMA fights and a few K1 fights with some semi-pro and amateur MMA. It’s the perfect time to strike with MMA in Ireland growing. We want to reach out to new audiences so mark September 17th in your calendar because it’s going to be something special.
“I can only get better. I have John Kavanagh who is a wealth of knowledge backing me. My mindset is really good and it’s paying off. I’m excited about getting into the cage and showcasing my MMA skills.”