Conor McGregor mania has well and truly gripped the nation with thousands of Irish fans eagerly waiting for Saturday night to witness the Irish mega-star take on the undefeated Russian, Khabib Nurmagomedov in one of the biggest fights in combat sports history.
For Limerick man and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) journalist, Seán Sheehan, this week has been surreal for someone who has covered the rise of the sport from obscurity to worldwide fame.
“It’s totally different now to how it was. For the first five years that I was covering it, people didn’t know what it was. Conor McGregor brought the sport into people’s psyche and he’s changed how people look at the sport because they do look at the sport now and before they didn’t,” he says.
Mr Sheehan, living in Newcastle West, has risen up alongside the sport and has fast become one of the most influential MMA writers in the country.
Writing for multiple publications, he is currently working with SevereMMA.com, which is Ireland’s leading website for MMA content and also produced the Conor McGregor documentary: Notorious.
Brushing shoulders with household names in the MMA world was hardly what Sheehan, now 30, had in mind when he was studying economics in University College Cork (UCC).
“I just fell into it really. I was studying in Cork one of the lads threw on an MMA fight one night when I was in college and that was it.”
After gaining extensive knowledge through years of observing the sport, Mr Sheehan, joined live discussions on podcasts, began to write his own pieces and eventually was asked to join the SevereMMA team that Graeme McDonnell founded about ten years ago.
Fast forward to today and Seán Sheehan boasts almost fourteen thousand followers and co-hosts Europe’s number one MMA podcast, SevereMMA podcast.
Mr Sheehan has seen first-hand the surge of popularity of people taking up the sport and says that while there aren’t currently too many fighters fighting outside Dublin, a change could be on the horizon.
“There are a few people who have emerged from other parts of the country, like Catherine Costigan from Limerick or Peter Queally from Waterford for example, but it’s very hard for people outside of Dublin.
“I think more people will emerge from all around Ireland because, if you think about it, it’s only in the last three or four years that McGregor has actually been as big as he is, so the fruits of that labour with him inspiring people won’t be seen for another five or six years,” Mr Sheehan says.
Even with his incredible success so far, Mr Sheehan still has a full-time job alongside his writing commitments but hopes that, someday, that he can focus entirely on his MMA writing career.
“There are very few people in the world that can actually make it their full-time job but I think if you actually want to get to that position you have to treat it as a full-time job so that’s what I’m doing,” he added.
When asked to give his prediction for Saturday night, Mr Sheehan says that while it’s difficult to predict, he believes that the Irishman will once again emerge victorious.
“The question is whether McGregor is still the same fighter he was two years ago. If he is, then I think McGregor will win and I think it’s as simple as that. How can you doubt him now after all he’s done?”
For more MMA updates follow Seán @SeanSheehanBA or check out their podcast by clicking on the following link: https://www.patreon.com/severemmapodcast