10 Fighters Who Could Feature at UFC Dublin
By Ross Markey
The UFC will make it’s return to Ireland on August 15th. for UFC Fight Night Dublin. We’ve got no inkling regarding any possible features for the card as of yet, but as you can imagine, speculation is rife in regards to who may compete. The promotion has only once held a pay-per-view event in the country in three visits – so the inclusion of big-name stars is somewhat of a slim possibility.
In 2009, UFC 92 took place in the nation’s capital, headlined by a light heavyweight pairing of PRIDE FC great, Dan Henderson, and former middleweight champion, Rich Franklin. In 2014, the promotion returned with a featherweight bout between former two-weight world champion, Conor McGregor, and TUF victor, Diego Brandao. The following year, flyweight contender turned politician, Paddy Holohan took headlining honors against Louis Smolka.
Below, check out ten mixed-martial-artists I believe may possibly feature at UFC Fight Night Dublin on August 15th. – in no particular order.
#10 – Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor last competed on Irish soil back in 2014.
Hold your horses! The chances of former featherweight and lightweight champion, ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor appearing on this card are almost slim to none. It’s a ‘Fight Night’ event rather than a pay-per-view for starters. One thing is for certain though, the Crumlin native will push to headline this event if he’s not paired for his next Octagon walk before early summer. The promotion would obviously rather have McGregor headline a PPV event – given the massive numbers his UFC 246 return to the win column against Donald Cerrone garnered.
McGregor, 31, called for a stadium show in Dublin in his post-fight press conference in January, but UFC Fight Night Dublin is expected to take place at the 3Arena rather than Croke Park or the Aviva stadium. Dublin has also been a notoriously difficult place to book late events in the past due to noise pollution concerns surrounding a number of music concerts. For the promotion to make the most of a McGregor homecoming, it would have to hold his Octagon walk off until the early hours of Saturday morning to draw in the most eyes Stateside. An unlikely scenario for August.
The records McGregor would set for a ‘Fight Night’ event are undeniable – but the organization would consider it a missed opportunity to book someone as lucrative as the SBG trainee in anything but a PPV event at this stage of his career.
#9 – Joe Duffy:
Joe Duffy failed to make the Octagon walk at the last event held in Dublin back in 2015.
No, not the RTÉ broadcaster. Rather, the UFC lightweight submission-specialist. The Donegal native has yet to compete in the Octagon since his unanimous decision loss to Marc Diakiese in March of 2019. The defeat marked a second-straight loss for the 30-year-old, but a return to Irish soil for the first time since Cage Warriors 70 in 2014 would garner serious regional interest. The Firas Zahabi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt was scheduled to headline UFC Fight Night Dublin back in 2015 against former interim lightweight best, Dustin Poirier, until a concussion suffered in sparring forced him from the card. Jobstown native Paddy Holohan would go on to compete in the main event instead.
Duffy and McGregor have history of course. During the rise of both men’s professional careers ten years ago, Duffy handed McGregor an arm-triangle defeat at Cage Warriors 39. A rematch would be questionable in terms of timing of both men’s career but nevertheless, the storyline and fan interest would certainly be present.
#8 – Rhys McKee:
Rhys McKee could potentially earn a UFC contract in his next Cage Warriors outing.
Ballymena youngster, Rhys ‘Skeletor’ McKee may already have a bout booked under a different promotion, but the chances of the finisher competing in August are definitely possible. In May, McKee will headline Cage Warriors Belfast as he competes for the organization’s now vacant welterweight title. A highlight-reel performance on home soil may turn the UFC’s head and force his signature as the ninthy-seventh fighter to make the switch from Cage Warriors to the North-American based promotion. McKee has been tipped to eventually join the UFC ranks in the near future, and a spot on the upcoming UFC Fight Night Dublin card would be an ideal introduction for the 24-year-old.
McKee has won three straight. Lodging victories over Hakon Foss, Perry Andre Goodwin, and Jefferson George as he continues to spearhead the new wave of the Irish contingency possibly awaiting a UFC opportunity. Depending on the outcome of his welterweight title fight in May – McKee could well and truly be a shoo-in for a high-profile pairing in the capital.
#7 – Ian Garry:
Ian Garry is certainly open to the possibility of competing on August 15th.
“Yes sir, 100%. If the stars are lined up then it’ll happen.” Ian Garry words when I asked him yesterday about the possibility of him fighting at UFC Fight Night Dublin in August. Yet another prospect from the Cage Warriors promotion, and a feature on that Belfast card in May. Still just 22-years of age, Ian Garry has made a big impression on the regional scene here in Ireland. In what would prove to be a homecoming event, ‘The Future’ would be making just his fourth professional walk.
With a record of 3-0, the Team KF Martial Arts trainee has finished both Mateusz Figlak, and Matteo Ceglia recently. The welterweight youngster, similarly to the aforementioned McKee, could see himself signed to a UFC contract via a stellar performance in May. The promotion is sure to scout out local talent for the August 15th. card; where better to start searching than Dublin itself?
#6 – Modestas Bukauskas:
Modestas Bukauskas may be already occupied, but the Lithuanian hasn’t ruled out an appearance in Dublin.
“To be honest mate, I think I’ll be fighting before that. I know it would be an amazing place obviously to fight but from what it looks like we’ll probably – because that is quite late you know. It’s quite a couple of months away. So, I think it will be more likely that we’ll look at something before May or June but again, I have no idea on the place or when at the minute. Like I said, it will be around early summer. But then again, if I have a quick turnaround I could definitely make it on that card so we’ll see what happens, mate.” Former Cage Warriors light heavyweight champion, Modestas Bukauskas’ thoughts on potentially appearing at the Dublin event when I spoke with him yesterday.
While not entirely ruling himself out of the running to appear at the event, Bukauskas believes his Octagon debut will come sooner than August. The Lithuanian born finisher became the ninety-fifth fighter to sign with the UFC from Cage Warriors, earlier this year. The addition of Bukauskas would offer some major exposure for the 205-pound contender – who would already have a substantial audience in tow.
#5 – Paul Felder:
Paul Felder would be a perfect headliner for UFC Fight Night Dublin.
Paul ‘The Irish Dragon’ Felder. How fitting. The surging lightweight contender has a date in New Zealand against Dan Hooker in two weeks’ time. If he manages to escape the headliner unscathed – a high-profile upper-echelon clash at 155-pounds could potentially await him next. Why not have the Roufusport trainee headline UFC Fight Night Dublin in August? It’s the perfect timeframe for what would prove to be Felder’s biggest fight to date. The Pennslyvania native is a well-known contender in the UFC lightweight division, aided by his win-streak and color commentary ability. A victory over Hooker in March and Felder suddenly emerges as one of the more suitable UFC Fight Night Dublin features.
#4 – Norman Parke:
Norman Parke would serve as a popular choice for a UFC Fight Night Dublin appearance.
While not currently signed to the promotion – Bushmills native, ‘Stormin” Norman Parke would prove a massive hit at UFC Fight Night Dublin if the UFC elects to resign the current KSW lightweight champion. Parke spent eight fights under the promotion’s banner and won a season of The Ultimate Fighter in the process. The 33-year-old Antrim native has won his last five fights in a row and is a staple in Dublin – having competed in the nation’s capital four times in his storied professional career. Parke has been best three times in the Octagon, to Rustam Khabilov in his final appearance and by Gleison Tibau, and Francisco Trinaldo in two incredibly close fights back in early 2015.
#3 – Nathaniel Wood:
Nathaniel Wood may be willing to cross shores for an August trip to Dublin.
The Morden native will take on former two-time flyweight title chaser, John Dodson at UFC Fight Night Rio Rancho tomorrow night – and won’t feature in a homecoming at UFC London in March, to many’s surprise. A former Cage Warriors bantamweight champion with massive potential, Wood has called for a meeting with former bantamweight champion, Cody Garbrandt in the past, and if Garbrandt can overcome Raphael Assuncao – let the promotion square the two off in Dublin. The 26-year-old has been flawless in the UFC so far since his move back in June of 2018, lodging victories over Andre Ewell, Johnny Eduardo, and José Alberto Quinónez. Similarly to Felder – the turnaround for Wood would be suitable.
#2 – Gunnar Nelson:
Gunnar Nelson would surely be a shoo-in for the August event.
This one may come as an obvious choice. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Gunnar Nelson is a longtime SBG student and featured at UFC Fight Night Dublin in 2014. The welterweight submission-specialist may have dropped his last two outings, but he still remains a hugely marketable name and a recognizable figure to Irish mixed-martial-arts fans. The 31-year-old is admittedly likely to feature in some facet this August and may be paired up with a fellow 170-pounder on the cusp of the official rankings.
#1 – Alexander Gustafsson:
Alexander Gustafsson could easily headline UFC Fight Night Dublin.
The perfect event for three-time light heavyweight title challenger, Alexander ‘The Mauler’ Gustafsson to bring an end to his retirement. The Swedish striker called time on his career following a submission defeat to Anthony Smith – but later told how he had begun flirting with the idea of making a comeback to active-competition. Firstly, Gustafsson must return to the USADA testing pool, but he has plenty of time to do that. In terms of potential Octagon opponents, we’ve got Swiss finisher, Volkan Oezdemir, or the loser of UFC Fight Night Rio Rancho’s main event between Corey Anderson, and Jan Blachowicz. Gustafsson may have faced Poland’s Blachowicz before but the former KSW light heavyweight gold-holder would serve as a legitimate litmus test.