Meet the rookie who is making his mark with Coach Kavanagh after focusing on MMA ahead of rugby

Meet the rookie who is making his mark with Coach Kavanagh after focusing on MMA ahead of rugby
SBG Cork’s Ryan Spillane. Picture: Jordan Curran

THE sport of Mixed Martial Arts has rapidly risen in popularity in Ireland over recent times.

Now there is a Corkman that looks set to take the MMA world by storm over the coming years ahead.

Ryan Spillane is already making waves and he is unquestionably one to keep a very close eye on, with the target to commence his career in the professional MMA ranks in 2019.

In fact he has already stamped his authority on the amateur ranks with his successes and performances in the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF), the international governing body for MMA.

In 2018, Spillane won gold medals in both the IMMAF European Heavyweight Championship and the IMMAF World Heavyweight Championship, while also going undefeated throughout the whole of last year, finishing every opponent he faced.

“It’s been surreal,” reflects Spillane on recent months. “After the tournament, it didn’t really kick in that I won it because I finished the first two opponents and my final opponent pulled out and actually never fought me.

“When I won the Europeans, there was a massive sense of achievement and I was in the cage when I won it.

“But this time it didn’t really feel like I won it. So it was the stuff afterwards that made me realize that look, I am a world champion now and I am the number one amateur heavyweight in the world.

“It’s been awesome. I have started working with Alpha Fighter Management and I have been training more up in Dublin with John Kavanagh.

“Then this next fight in Dubai is coming up. It is awesome. I have been training here (in SBG Cork) for 5-6 years and everything is coming together now.

“For a few years there, I didn’t know if I could have a career in the sport. Like I was tipping-tapping here and there, playing rugby on the side as well. Now it’s MMA full on and it is awesome to see the rewards coming out now.”

His coaching team consists of Liam Óg Griffin. But it also consists of a certain John Kavanagh, one of the most widely respected coaches in the MMA world and the man that helped Conor McGregor make it to the very top of the UFC.

SBG Ireland head coach John Kavanagh. Picture: INPHO/Gary Carr
SBG Ireland head coach John Kavanagh. Picture: INPHO/Gary Carr

“He actually works a lot like Liam,” says Spillane on Kavanagh. “He is a very quiet fella and they won’t talk to you all of the time, they will literally say this one thing here and this one thing here, good that’s it or bad that’s it.

“I was up in Dublin sparring and John was like, ‘Hey Ryan, good job sparring’ and that was it.

“It is awesome working under John Kavanagh because up in Dublin, I am sparring with high-level guys. Lads that are fighting with Bellator, lads that are fighting with the UFC."

Spillane can look back on the past few years with immense pride. It is still hard to believe he is only just 21 years of age.

He has been chosen to captain team Ireland at the Beast in the East tournament being held in Dubai on March 8, when they face team Poland.

“In my career I, have the same amount of losses than I have wins. I have a lot of losses. I wouldn’t take back those losses at all because they have grounded me to the fighter that I am today.

“In 2018 alone, I didn’t lose one fight. That is because I’ve had my losses and I had experienced bad refs, decisions that were a bit iffey.

“I have experienced fights, one where I travelled over to England and then fought on the same day, literally went off the airplane and went and fought.

“Something I shouldn’t have been doing, but I experienced it.

“So when I go professional I will have all of that and nothing is going to shock me in the pro ranks, as I have experienced all of those little things.

“When I look back on the amateur career I am happy with where I am in it.”

Rebecca Lewis and Ryan Spillane from SBG Cork City. Picture. John Allen
Rebecca Lewis and Ryan Spillane from SBG Cork City. Picture. John Allen

Spillane actually could have gone down a different sporting road, as he was in Munster Rugby development squads prior to making the decision to fully focus on a sporting life in the cage.

Spillane now though is fully determined to fulfill his potential, which is there in absolute abundance, in the sport of MMA and a journey into the professional ranks looks set to be on the cards in 2019.

“After Dubai I will have another chat with my coach and with John Kavanagh.

“But I think at that stage I will have close to 20 fights and it will definitely be the pro ranks I will hit then. I will climb to the top of them like I did in the amateur ranks.”

Ryan Spillane is a name to remember and he is a Corkman that has a very big future ahead of him in the MMA world.

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