Cork MMA fighters battle on as Covid has major impact on the sport 

Cork MMA fighters battle on as Covid has major impact on the sport 

Manny Akpan battling Jack Maguire at the Cage Warriors 110 MMA event at Neptune. Picture: Eddie O'Hare are

AFTER a long time away from the Octagon, both Jack Maguire and John Mitchell were willing to do whatever it took to get themselves back competing.

The two mixed martial artists made their Cage Warrior debuts at a memorable event in Neptune Stadium last November but due to Cornavirus restrictions, all of their scheduled fights since had been cancelled.

But recently, close to 11 months after their first fight in Cork, they finally had their second pro fight in the sport as part of the Trilogy series in Manchester, provided they adhered to strict safety protocols.

“Nobody had to do something like that before,” Maguire told The Echo.

“It was a first for everyone. We had to fly over, get tested, and then quarantine in a hotel room for 30-plus hours while we waited for the results.”

Jack shared a room with his coach and brother Arann. Knowing they faced a day and a half confined to their hotel room, they found the perfect way to pass the time.

“We knew Cobra Kai (a television series based on The Karate Kid) was after being released on Netflix so we didn’t watch any of it until we went over to Manchester,” he added.

“We brought the laptop and HDMI cable over and watched every single episode of it then, as well as all the Karate Kid movies. It was nice to have something like that, I was getting inspiration from Mister Miyagi for sure!

“There was a lot of downtime just waiting so it was just about trying to keep busy, I had to do a session in the hotel room so it was different but we got through it. It was a unique experience definitely.”

Cork fighter John Mitchell: Had to quarantine in hotel room for 30 hours. Picture: Eddie O’Hare
Cork fighter John Mitchell: Had to quarantine in hotel room for 30 hours. Picture: Eddie O’Hare

Down the corridor, John Mitchell was enduring a similar experience alongside his friend and fellow fighter Enda Sexton in their room.

The only difference was that Mitchell was required to cut more weight before his bout, meaning he had to rearrange the beds so he could get in a proper training session.

After flying over on the Monday, their tests came back negative for Covid-19 on Tuesday night, allowing Maguire and Mitchell to complete the weigh-in on Wednesday before their fights at Cage Warriors 114 on Thursday.

Maguire was up first and with Mitchell watching on from his dressing room, he bounced back from his defeat in Cork, impressively defeating Ciaran Mulholland by unanimous decision on a score of 30-27, 30-27, 30-25.

“It was good to get in there and to get the win,” added Maguire.

“It was great just to be able to fight given everything that has gone on recently with Coronavirus.

“I was hoping for a quick turnaround after the Cork show, it just wasn’t my day in Cork but I didn’t want to hold onto it too much.

“I’ve lost before and it won’t be the last time I lose either so there’s no point in dwelling on it.

“It did add fuel to the fire so I wanted to win the next time so to win now... it was nice to prove that I have what it takes to be in the cage warrior rankings and have a pro career.

“I was very happy with my performance. It wasn’t my usual performance where I grapple and try to grind out a win, it was one of the few fights when I showed up and really tried to dominate. It was great that everything I was doing in training over the last few months I did in the fight, it was like a new version of me in the cage so i was happy with that.

“I knew I could do it at this level but I just needed to prove it to myself that I can do it on the night of the fight.

“Sometimes I enjoy the fight too much that I don’t get going but I turned up to this one with a bit of a chip on my shoulder and just said to myself ‘come on, show what you can do.’

“I was really happy I did that and I’m looking forward to doing it again soon.” 

Manny Akpan and Jack Maguire in action. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Manny Akpan and Jack Maguire in action. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

It was soon Mitchell’s turn to show his quality and he made it two wins out of two since signing for the promotion by beating Alan Brykalski via submission with a rear-naked chokehold after just one minute and 52 seconds of the first round.

“I was happy with the result but there wasn’t a lot I could take away from the performance itself,” said Mitchell.

“I feel I’ve improved tenfold since my last fight but I didn’t really get the chance to show that off.

“Aran Maguire, our coach, is big on us trying to get a lot better between each fight and I feel I have a lot more skills in my arsenal to show but I couldn’t in this fight because it only lasted less than two minutes.

“But I think its a very big statement, it was a very legitimate test as well and it’s a big statement for Cork, it shows that we are up there with these lads.

“Jack and I usually fight on the same card and it’s often been either he’s won and I’ve lost or vice versa so it was great for us both to get the wins and to perform on such a big stage.”

The build-up couldn’t have been more difficult for these two Cork fighters but the results ultimately show the strength of character they possess in abundance.

They will both be looking to take this experience into their next fight, they both hope their next fight isn’t too far away.

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