It may be irrational to believe in the supernatural, but the UFC Dublin ‘curse’ felt a little too real for comfort.
The last time the world’s largest MMA promotion rolled into the Irish capital, the UFC Dublin ‘curse’ put a bit of a dampener on the entire week. Considering just one year prior we witnessed that magical event headlined by Conor McGregor, the downer descended with the force of a ten-ton hammerfist.
The 2014 return following a five-year absence went off without any major hitches. McGregor’s original opponent in the main event, Cole Miller, withdrew with an injury about a month before the event. However, this didn’t change the showcase nature of the headliner. ‘The Notorious’ still got his first round finish against Diego Brandao.
Gunnar Nelson also had an opponent change due to injury. With all due respect to Ryan LaFlare, he isn’t exactly a marquee name in the sport, so Zak Cummings replacing him didn’t really affect much. The only other pull-out was Tom Lawlor. Promotional newcomer Chris Dempsey slotted right in to fight Ilir Latifi instead without any complaints.
Every Irish competitor on the card won their fight. Not even Mike King failing a drug test could stop Cathal Pendred from scoring one the greatest comebacks in UFC history. ‘You’ll never beat the Irish’ felt like a statement of fact rather than a cchant that night.
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) December 25, 2014
The first to drop off the third UFC Dublin card was Stipe Miocic. He was scheduled to fight Ben Rothwell in the co-main event, but this was scrapped entirely when Miocic picked up a knock. The real sickener about this cancellation was that Miocic earned a title shot by knocking out Andrei Arlovski just three months later. He then won the belt against Fabricio Werdum before setting the record for consecutive heavyweight title defences.
Then, the week of the fight, the headliner fell apart. The card was supposed to mark the homecoming of Joseph Duffy, but at the tail end of his training camp, he suffered a flash knockout in sparring. A scan confirmed the concussion and he was pulled from his bout against Dustin Poirier. Instead of taking a short notice replacement, ‘the Diamond’ opted to wait to fight the Donegal native another day.
In the space of a few days, the card lost both its main and co-main events. With very little time to work with, they had to work with what they already had.
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) February 24, 2018
The silver lining of these fights falling through was that Paddy Holohan got a deserved moment in the spotlight. One year after being bottom of the UFC Dublin prelims, the hometown hero took centre stage against Louis Smolka. He suffered a submission loss, but it was a massively entertaining fight in which ‘the Hooligan’ did his country proud.
Aisling Daly’s amazing walkout, Neil Seery getting a performance bonus for a stellar submission and Norman Parke getting a nice win in the new-look co-main were all highlights. The main event result and Cathal Pendred being retired by Tom Breese were the two low-points for the Irish.
Undeniably, the event also felt two marquee fights lighter.
Here’s hoping if the promotion does return to Dublin this summer, the MMA Gods will look down favourably upon the card.