Richie Smullen spoke to us here at Pundit Arena about his upcoming Bellator debut and how he is relishing the opportunity to rebound after a rollercoaster year in 2018.
Bellator Dublin is now just a matter of hours away and with that in mind, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to everything you’ll need to know ahead of what should be an incredible night for Irish mixed martial arts.
For those who don’t know, Smullen was a contestant on the twenty-seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter before being forced to withdraw after a bout of rhabdomyolysis – something he explained to us during the edition of Exploring Irish MMA he was featured in back in June.
“I got rhabdomyolysis. My muscles broke down and the CK protein went into my bloodstream which then travelled to my kidneys.
“So what you saw on TV was my body completely shutting down. It’s not really common in MMA. I woke up fight-day feeling wretched. I didn’t know what it was. I had cramp in my legs.
“So I went to the venue to get my legs massaged – which I’ve since found out was the worst thing I could have done. That made it ten-times worse.”
He went on to make his UFC debut during the TUF Finale fight-card – facing the incredibly tricky Luis ‘Violent Bob Ross’ Pena on the night’s undercard. He would lose that fight by way of first-round submission.
All was clearly not well with him physically at that point and the pressures brought about by the possibility of a UFC contract saw him take the fight when he was yet to recover sufficiently.
Now, with a Bellator Dublin debut just hours away, Smullen once again spoke to Pundit Arena about his thoughts on his time in the States and how he is now fully ready to show us all what he is made of.
“It has been a crazy year. The Ultimate Fighter, my UFC debut and now my Bellator debut. I don’t know, there’s a reason everything happens. I got sick on TUF, it was out of my control in the end, nothing I could do.
“My UFC debut didn’t go as I had planned. I don’t make excuses but I wasn’t fully healthy for that either.
“Now, I’m healthy, I’m fresh, I’m strong, and now it’s time to show my capabilities.”
Bellator 217 will be the first European event to be broadcast as part of the promotion’s newly-signed deal with Sky Sports, something that adds an extra level of incentive to the number of homegrown fighters set to compete on the night.
“Everyone is aware that this is huge, a big Irish card filled with Irish fighters and it’s live on Sky Sports also. Not only will you see it in the 3Arena, you’ll see it all over the world. It’s a huge platform and I’m dying to be a part of it.
“I’m on the main-card also so Bellator have some faith in me.”
As things stand, the event itself is primed to be a sell-out and while the notion of hearing thousands of Irish fans may strike some as daunting, in Smullen’s view, once those cage doors close, his focus will shift entirely to his opponent on Saturday night, Adam Gustab.
“When the cage door shuts I’m not going to hear anything. I’m just going to be in there. The cool thing is that I’m fighting a Polish guy so I know that the majority of the support will be there for me.
“The last time I fought in the 3Arena I fought Rhys McKee. We’re both Irish so the crowd was kind of 50/50.”
As for a prediction, rather than aim to sit in there and bask in the support of his home-crowd, Smullen made it very clear that the finish is on his mind.
“You don’t get paid for overtime. I want to get in there, put on the pressure straight away and then we’ll go from there.
“I’m going to fight coming forward. If I get the finish, I get the finish, if I don’t, I’ll get the decision but trust me, I’ll be coming for that finish.”
Watch Bellator 217: Gallagher vs. Graham live on Sky Sports Main Event and Action on Saturday, Feb. 23 from 9pm. Preliminary bouts will stream globally on the Bellator Mobile App.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena