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05th Aug 2015

MAKING HISTORY: Catherine Costigan speaks to SportsJOE about bouncing back in Dublin

"I'm pissed off now!"

Darragh Murphy

“I’m nothing like Conor McGregor. I’m a very different fighter… I’m Catherine Costigan.”

That’s what Limerick’s atomweight superstar had to say about the comparisons being drawn between herself and UFC interim featherweight champion Conor McGregor.

“Conor’s on such an amazing level,” she said. “I’d hope that I’m not too far off that level but some of the stuff that he can pull off in the cage is literally unbelievable. We’re just different fighters right now.

“It’s funny how I actually got the name of ‘the female Conor McGregor’ because I was doing a radio interview when boarding a plane and the presenter mentioned it. I barely heard him and was rushing onto the flight so just said ‘yeah, cool,’ and when someone asked me if they could use some lines from that interview for an article, I agreed. That’s how it came about.”

A month removed from her first professional loss at the hands of Amber Brown, Costigan is keen to rebound quickly and impressively as she has been named on a BAMMA card that, for the first time, will feature female fighters.

“Isn’t it fantastic?” Costigan said. “Sinead Kavanagh is getting that opportunity too, as well as our opponents, so it’s going to be a huge night for women’s MMA in Ireland.

“It’s fantastic having the UFC and Invicta on the world stage but it’s also important for Irish talent to be nurtured at home and I’m so excited about fighting in Dublin again.

“BAMMA contacted me about the fight and, because I’ve got a multi-fight deal with Invicta, I double-checked with them that it was OK and luckily they were fine with it.

“Both promotions know fighters really well. BAMMA knows that I’m going to sell tickets and that I’m going to deliver an exciting fight. And Invicta knows that fighting is work for us and that if I wasn’t going to be a part of their next card, that I’d love to fight in Ireland. They’re all very cool really.”

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As inspired as she is to perform in front of a hometown crowd once more, Costigan is still troubled by the first blot on her pro-MMA copybook.

“To a point I still think about Amber,” Costigan said. “When any fighter suffers a loss, that’s a feeling that you can’t just get rid of in a week.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed in my performance and there’s always going to be that feeling of guilt, that I’d let people down. So many people at the gym had donated money so that I could afford to prepare properly for my Invicta debut and after I lost, of course I was heartbroken.

“She was just so heavy on the night. I’m amazed that she had made the atomweight limit the night before because she so heavy on fight night. It wasn’t like any of her punches were knockout blows when she was on top of me but I just couldn’t get her off.

“If I had known that there was only a minute left in the round then I probably would have gutted it out but I couldn’t hear my corner because of the crowd noise.

“The fans were absolutely crazy because there were so many Irish fans over to see Conor at the weekend and I think I even had some of Amber’s fans cheering me on. When I got into the cage, I looked over at one section and saw all the people from my gym. Then I looked to another section and saw UFC matchmaker Joe Silva so the pressure was on. I tried to focus on the fight but it just didn’t go my way that night.”

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While coming to terms with her defeat, The Alpha Female found some consoling words in the form of UFC lightweight Joseph Duffy.

“Joe came down to do a seminar at Trials MMA in Cork and speaking to him really helped me deal with the Invicta fight. He told me that he felt a lot of pressure to keep winning and keep that undefeated record going to the point where he wasn’t enjoying it anymore. When he finally did experience that loss, the pressure was released and he realised that there were things in life that were beyond winning fights.

“It really opened my eyes and let me know that I shouldn’t dwell on the Brown loss. I’m 5-1 now, not 5-0, so the pressure of keeping that loss off my record is gone. Now I can go out there and just fight to enjoy it.

“Not only was Joe super nice and helpful with the advice but he also taught me some unreal boxing defence for MMA which I knew he would. He filled us all in on this really efficient defensive work which was cool. I didn’t think he’d recognise me but I was the first person he picked out and he came over and said ‘hi.'”

So it’s onwards and upwards for the Limerick fighter as she prepares to take on Czech veteran Simona Soukupova, a fight that has literally been years in the offing.

“I’ve known her for a long time,” Costigan said. “I was supposed to fight her in my second pro fight but I tore a muscle in my hip, could barely sprawl in camp and had to withdraw from the bout.

“Then I was offered a Cage Warriors fight with her on a week’s notice but I knew that seven days wasn’t enough preparation time for a fighter of Simona’s calibre.

“Now the time is right. We’ve both been ruling the 105 lb division in Europe and it’s all going to come to a head in the 3Arena on September 19. It’s going to be historic.”

Anyone who watched Ronda Rousey’s perfomance at UFC 190 on Saturday could see how monumental a level that women’s MMA has reached on the global scale but Costigan is quick to point out that, in Ireland, there’s still an awful lot of work to be done to grow the sport.

“Women’s MMA is bigger than it’s ever been,” Costigan said. “If you had gone to a career’s guidance counsellor ten years ago and told them that you wanted to be a fighter, they’d have laughed at you. But now they recognise it.

“My own aunt, who’s about 65 years old, rang me this week and told me she was watching this girl on 3E on Monday named Ronda and was talking about how cool she was. Although she also said ‘I hope you don’t get hit like that and get your nose all bloodied,’ but it shows how far the sport has come.

“But it is still very difficult to get sponsors. I’m lucky to have a few great sponsors in Dr. Dave’s Best Supplements, S&P Manchester and Dennehys Gyms Cork but I feel that there’s still so much that can be done for female fighters in Ireland.”

Catherine Costigan 16/8/2014

“You hear stories about Ronda Rousey paying her dues, sleeping in her car and so on so I know that everyone has had to go through some tough years but I’m just hoping that it comes good for me soon and hopefully it starts this Autumn.

“I want to get back to Invicta and show what I can do because it doesn’t feel like I had my promotional debut. The way to do that is by beating Simona in BAMMA which is no easy task.

“I’m not a trash talker but I’m pissed off! Not at Simona but just at my showing in Vegas. So you’re going to get an entirely different Catherine Costigan this time around and you’ll get to see it when two of the best atomweights in the world touch gloves on a historic night in the capital.”

Tickets for BAMMA 22, which takes place on September 19 at the 3Arena, can be bought here and to learn more about Catherine or to help out with donations, you can visit her website at