“It’s a Hooligan party and everyone is invited” – Andrew Cowan sits down with Paddy Holohan
Following the meteoric rise to fame of Irish UFC star Conor McGregor in 2013, remedy a door was wedged open for Irish fighters to join the ranks of the fighting elite of the mixed martial arts (MMA) world. This open door has led to five Irish fighters joining the UFC Roster over the past year.
Patrick “The Hooligan” Holohan is one of these fighters. Fighting out of Jobstown, site Tallaght and training out of John Kavanaghs Straight Blast Gym Ireland (SBG) on the Naas Road with his superstar teammates which include Conor McGregor, site Cathal Pendred, Gunnar Nelson and Aisling Daly. It is here on the Naas Road that I met Paddy to discuss his journey through the UFC.
The UFC journey began for Paddy in May 2013 when he tried out for the UFC’S reality TV show, The Ultimate Fighter in Las Vegas. Paddy had been a professional mixed martial arts fighter since 2007 and had a record of 10 wins with no losses. Paddy was unsuccessful and didn’t make it onto the show. “It was probably for the best” he tells me. Spending six weeks on the show “would have been the ruining of me” and that he probably would have been “removed from the house by the Feds or a swat team”. At the tryouts, Paddy took a chance and approached UFC President Dana White and asked if the UFC ever came back to Dublin would he give him a fight. When the UFC announced their return to Ireland for July the 19th 2014 in the 02 Arena, Paddy received the call up he’d been waiting for. A debut UFC fight with three of his teammates in front of a sold out home crowd.
Paddy’s fight was the first of the night. He came into his fight as the bookies underdog. Despite this, Paddy went out and submitted his opponent Josh Sampo in the first round. His teammates Cathal Pendred, Gunnar Nelson and Conor McGregor all had victories on the night and put their success down to the momentum given to them by Paddy’s opening win. Reflecting on UFC Dublin in his own words Paddy says “it is something special that I can put into the bank that not a lot of people on this whole island will be able to, I own it, I know I will be on my death bed someday and that thoughts of that night will be going through my head”. Paddy’s charisma has captured the attention of the MMA world. His fairytale victory against Sampo made him a favorite of renowned Canadian journalist Ariel Helwani, presenter of the MMA Hour podcast. This podcast is listened to by hundreds of thousands of fight fans every week. Ariel has had Paddy on his show and regularly tweets back and forward to Paddy, usually regarding Paddy’s passion for tea. A passion that Paddy made known to the world when he declared in his post fight interview to the sold out 02 arena that he “was dying for a cup of tea” Paddy’s mission with Ariel is not to promote his image or his fights, but to teach the Canadian about the importance of a good cup of tea.
Paddy got a quick turnaround for his next fight. He was scheduled to fight Louis Gaudinot in Halifax, Canada on October 4th. Louis however pulled out of the bout with an injury just five days before they were scheduled to fight. He was replaced with UFC newcomer and Halifax local Chris Kelades. Despite coming in on very late notice, Kelades managed to come out on top and beat Paddy on a decision. This gave Paddy his first professional loss. One thing that strikes me is how positive he is about the whole experience. Paddy believes that he will benefit from the lessons learned in the long run. “Nova Scotia is what it is, it was a great experience, and we fought three really hard rounds and gave the fans what they wanted with a fight of the night performance, I have a map at home and I tick off all the countries that I have seen and looking at it now its more than what I have dreamed off”
Going forward the Hooligan has lots more places to tick off his map. In December he returns to Vegas where he will be in the corner for teammate Aisling Daly in her UFC Debut. Aisling has been Paddy’s training partner since the very start and Paddy’s biggest inspiration in the sport. Aisling took part in 20th season of the ultimate fighter, which is currently airing on BT Sports. Filming for this season took place over the summer which meant Aisling had to miss out on the UFC event in Dublin, she did however get a shout out from Paddy following his victory, Aisling got to see the Dublin fight card and Paddy’s call out to her to “stay strong”. Inspired by her teammates, Aisling kept up the SBG winning streak and like the rest of her teammates, put it down to Paddy’s shout out to her and the momentum he created. Following my interview with Paddy, I had the pleasure of watching the two sparring together at SBG Ireland.
Paddy will join two of his teammates Conor McGregor and Cathal Pendred fighting in Boston on January 18th. Paddy believes that having the SBG team back together in the Irish homeland of America should make them feel at home. Paddy’s is scheduled to fight Shane Howell. Shane comes into the fight on the back of a debut UFC loss in June. Paddy knows he has the tools to beat Howell. At the same time Paddy won’t underestimate his opponent who will be fighting for his UFC survival.
Looking back at what has changed since his UFC debut. Paddy has become a recognized face in his hometown of Jobstown. He is nominated for the People of the Year awards in Tallaght. Paddy is extremely proud of his hometown and what he has achieved. He tells me that “ordinary people can do fantastic things” and these words have been his inspiration. Paddy still maintains he is a normal everyday guy who has to deal with everyday problems such as cleaning up after his puppy and raising his seven-year-old son. His newfound fame has brought out in his own words “cousins that he never knew he had before” but he doesn’t mind because “it’s a hooligan party and everyone is invited”
Photos courtesy of Andrew Cowan