JOE meets Irish MMA champ Paul McVeigh
JOE sat down with Irish Cage Contender fighter Paul McVeigh to clear up a few things, discuss the value of sports science and find out what’s next for him on the MMA scene.
By Fergus Ryan
It's nearly three weeks since the historic night for Irish MMA at Cage Warriors 47 in The Helix. But before we can move past that event we need to set the record straight. The issue is with a story that began in the US and made its way across the Atlantic. The story gathered steam when featherweight Conor McGregor was lifting the Cage Warriors world title, deemed the first Irish man to hold a world title.
It was only after scrolling through some complimentary Facebook posts about JOE's coverage of the event that we noticed an entry from a familiar name, Paul McVeigh. That raised a red flag.
A quick word with Cage Warriors CEO Graham Boylan cleared it up. "Conor is the first Irish man to win a world title in Ireland but not the first Irish man to win a world title. We tried to clear this up in the lead up to the show but the story just gathered legs. Paul McVeigh is 100 per cent the first Irish Cage Warriors world champion." So the only thing to do was talk to the man himself.
To those familiar with the early MMA scene in Ireland and the UK, Paul McVeigh is not a new name. In fact he's one of the longest running MMA fighters still active, having made his MMA debut as an 18-year-old. Originally from Drumaness, Co. Down, Paul moved to Scotland to study in the early 2000s.
Regarding his Facebook post, Paul explains “It was really just a throw-away comment. My nationality has become clouded a bit because I’ve lived in Glasgow for 10 years. I wasn’t trying to take anything away from Conor, he’s a phenomenal fighter and will be a great champion. He’s part of a great team with a great coach in John Kavanagh, who I train under myself.”
I started at 18 when people didn’t really know what they were doing. All I had was an armlock submission and the mentality that I was sort of a tough guy
In addition to living abroad, Michael Bisping didn’t help when describing Paul as Scottish when he fought Louis Gaudinot in the ‘TUF: Bisping v Miller’ qualifier. “It doesn’t bother me at all. I tell people I’m Sc-Irish or a ‘citizen of the world’. It’s cool being Irish though, we’re the most loved nationality when we travel abroad.”
We’ll park the discussion on lineage and move on to the more important matters of Paul’s achievements in MMA. It’s the least we can do to make up for our oversight a few weeks back. It seemed even more necessary after talking to Paul, who is one of the most entertaining and knowledgeable guys you could talk to.
Paul draws his knowledge from a wealth of experience in both the practical and the theory side of the game. His practical knowledge stems from a career that spans over 10 years with the biggest promotions in the UK and Ireland.
“I started at 18 when people didn’t really know what they were doing. All I had was an armlock submission and the mentality that I was sort of a tough guy”.
Though he was incredibly young, Paul made a name for himself in the early UK MMA scene. He began a long association with the Cage Warriors promotion back in 2003. He won the bantamweight world title in 2004 and has defended it against all comers five times. “I haven’t lost in my seven Cage Warriors fights so it seems to appeal to my mojo to fight for those guys.”
Paul is also the Cage Contender bantamweight title holder since 2010 and is keen to make the all-important first defence of the belt.
McVeigh with his belt
“I have a little trouble with my elbow at the moment but if that heals up I’d love to fight in Ireland again. Cage Contender in Dublin was the first time my family saw me fight, which was awesome. They were never sure exactly what I did, they thought it was karate or something. So when they saw my fight with spinning back-fists and submissions and lots of crazy action they thought ‘wow, that’s pretty cool!"
Cage Contender promoter John Ferguson is effusive in his praise for McVeigh,"McVeigh is one of the most talented fighters ever to come out of Ireland. With his levels of skill and personality it absolutely beggars belief that after so much time at the top of his game that he hadn't had the call from one of the bigger shows."
Paul holds a degree in sports science, which is a huge advantage to him in his role as a coach at his gym, The Griphouse, one of the biggest fight teams in the UK. He didn’t start out doing sports science, though.
“When I moved to Scotland it was to do a science degree, which I’m really into. I thought I’d be strolling around in a ‘haz-mat’ suit doing experiments on monkeys but the first thing I saw in one of the texts books was a penis covered in herpes. I realised I wanted to do something else so I changed to sport science.”
To find out more on what he can teach you go to Paul’s blog, where you can find a mass of information on strength & conditioning specific to MMA training and he is also has a monthly feature in Fighters Only magazine.
With a black belt in traditional Jiu Jitsu (and now a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) Paul became known for his submission victories, with 13 of his 18 wins coming via tapout. “Submissions were easier to come by back in the day because some guys just didn’t know what you were doing. I also have trouble sticking to my gameplan, so these days if I’ve hurt a guy with punches I’ll see a sub and jump on it instead of continuing with the striking and maybe knocking the guy out.”
Despite being in the game for so long Paul is looking forward to continuing his career. Much of Paul’s early fights were in weight classes that were ignored by the UFC. This didn’t deter him from progressing in MMA. With the recent addition of feather, bantam and most recently flyweight classes, Paul is delighted, but it’s not the be-all and end-all to get into the UFC. His own development as a fighter has always been his primary motivation to fight.
“I’m not a career fighter. I never thought ‘if I do these things I’ll be in the UFC or I’ll get lots of money and loads of women. I’ve just committed to a process of getting better as a fighter.”
Paul also wanted to thank all his team mates at the Dinky Ninja’s, the Griphouse and everybody involved with Intensiti Fight Management. Who are we to deny him. We owed him one.
Before we go, check out Paul McVeigh’s impressive highlight reel too.
Picture credits go to Cage Warriors/Dolly Clew