Last night, Dublin’s 3Arena played host to a memorable showcase of everything that characterises this country’s ever-blossoming mixed martial arts culture.
“Good times never seemed so good!”
The folks at Bellator certainly knew what they were doing when they called upon each and every audience member present to make themselves heard just prior to going live on Sky Sports at 9pm last night.
They made damn sure to remind us repeatedly to turn the volume in the 3Arena up to 11 once the broadcast began but when the opening bars of Neil Diamond’s 1969 hit Sweet Caroline began to ring through the speakers, it became clear that they didn’t need to say a word.
A standout moment in a night filled with incredible instances of crowd participation.
— Cillian Cunningham (@CillianCMMA) February 24, 2019
It was a memorable moment in a night filled with incredible triumphs from the homegrown talent and by the time the main-card came around, the audience were ecstatic after witnessing four-straight first-round finishes from the local fighters.
Each and every one of the Irish athletes featured on the card made their walk to the cage with years of preparation in their back-pocket, a flag on their shoulders, and a crowd of roaring supporters behind them.
Some of them had been plying their trade on the global scene for years, fighting for the opportunity to compete on a stage like this – engulfed in an atmosphere like the one we were treated to.
And every single one of them seemed to be completely overwhelmed by the energy they experienced in the 3Arena by the time they made their way to the post-fight interviews.
There were too many stand-outs to do justice to. They all deserve 1000 words apiece.
The noise of the ‘Chaos Cartel’, Smullen’s grappling clinic, the beef that was squashed after a gruelling battle in the co-main event, that Charlie Ward left-hook.
McCourt’s effortlessly violent performance, the arrival of The Face Of Bellator, the calculated but destructive outing from BDK, the lion’s roar of Fleury.
The near-perfect win from Logan, the dogged determination of Redmond, and, of course, James Gallagher’s homecoming – an overall display that proved his ability to hold a crowd of his countrymen in the palm of his hand.
Even in defeat, those who came up short can hold their head high after their performances.
Intensity was far from lacking from those inside the cage last night.
When we look back at Bellator Dublin, I’d imagine time will allow us to see it as a night that provided a platform for our established fighters to take the next step, as well as a great move towards helping the sport’s growth in this country in the long-term.
Who knows how many young teenagers were moved by that visceral energy and will eventually decide to dedicate themselves to the martial arts from here on out.
The ripple effects of a showcase like that may still be felt ten years from now.
In the same way that many of those who were profoundly influenced by UFC Dublin in 2014 have yet to even wrap their hands for a pro-fight, the seeds that were planted on February 23, 2019, may not blossom for years.
We shouldn’t expect to be at the top of the world just yet, but by the looks of things, our momentum is steadily building.
We know beyond any doubt that we can blow the roof off of an arena.
Hopefully, the time soon comes where we’re testing out the acoustics in a stadium.
We are still well and truly in the early days of this journey, folks.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena