SBG middleweight Will Fleury returns to the cage this month after the biggest win of his career to date at Bellator Dublin in February.
I sat cage-side that night as the intensity within the 3Arena began to build fight-by-fight. Looking back on it now, when Will made his walk, in many ways, it was the first major pop of the evening.
Of course, the arena was filling up as the show went on so an increase in noise would be natural, but there was an unmistakable energy to be felt as The Lion of Tipperary quite literally roared on his way down to the cage.
Speaking to us here at Pundit Arena, Fleury recalled his fond memories of Bellator Dublin and how the buzz off of the crowd seemed to spur him on that bit further.
“I walked out and there was just a reaction. There was a wave of energy that hit me. I was buzzing off it and it was like a loop where they were all buzzing back off of me – the fact that I was pretty pumped up, running and screaming my way to the cage. It was special to me, it got me going 100%.
“At the time it was incredible, I loved every minute of it, the whole experience, the build-up, fight-week, it was all amazing. Coming out that night, raising up that flag, the Tipp flag, to that reaction.
“You don’t know if you’re well known or if you’re anyway big but as soon as I got out there and felt that reaction from the crowd it was huge to me. That gave me some buzz. Look, I wanted to beat the crap out of Shaun Taylor anyway but that definitely gave me an extra little bit of ‘ok, you’re killing this lad’.
“It was an incredible night, the whole experience was an amazing buzz. I just can’t wait for September again.”
Anyone who knows anything about Will Fleury and the near-ridiculous number of opponent pull-outs he has been forced to contend with over the years will understand his eagerness to get back into camp directly after putting on that polished display in Dublin.
The first time I had the opportunity to chat with him, his record stood at 4-0 – which, of course, wouldn’t raise any eyebrows at all if it weren’t for the fact that those four wins were joined by a whopping eight opponent pullouts – and they’re just the ones that his Tapology profile will show you.
As odd and unlikely as it may sound, it just seemed as though fighters were doing whatever they could to avoid competing with this guy and to be honest, everything from his record to his physical frame and skillset would be enough to deter anyone who is looking to maintain a solid record on the regional scene while making their own rise.
Of course, it’s not Fleury’s fault in the slightest but now, thanks to his Bellator deal, it does appear as though opponents will be a lot easier to come by and with this latest victory, a place in the win-column allows for him to have something of a solid foundation to begin his long-awaited ascent.
After resting himself for a period of a few weeks in the wake of Bellator Dublin, the wheels were once again in motion and Fleury found himself on the path that led him to his date in Oklahoma this month.
“I disclosed the shoulder injury but I had a pretty bad knee injury right before that fight as well so I had to give that a few weeks to heal. It wasn’t super serious it was more the type of thing that just needed a few weeks of rest. So I gave that about two weeks and then I was straight back into training.
“I didn’t get the Birmingham card. So I really wanted the London card, didn’t get it1. To be honest, I’m f**king delighted to be going to the States instead.”
Fleury’s impressive submission of Shaun Taylor was an important one in the sense that it allows him to progress further through the Bellator ranks from here on out, but his promotional debut – which came against the future UFC middleweight Alen Amedovski – was a much tougher outing for the SBG man.
Amedovski was able to pick up the TKO victory in 99 seconds against the Irishman and all in all, in speaking to Will directly afterwards, I could tell that he was kicking himself in some ways for his mentality going into that fight in Rome.
Fear is a very healthy thing to have within you when you’re about to fight another man inside a cage and when I asked Will about the differences between its presence during his debut and his second outing in Dublin, he made it clear that those helpful nerves were out in force upon hearing the crowd’s roar in February.
“Oh, 100%. Nobody wants to lose in front of their home-crowd man. A load of my family had come to watch. Also, I hadn’t experienced defeat in so long that I just had this thing of ‘you train hard, you show up, you win’. I had bought into that in my brain.
“I looked at the other guy [in my debut] and I was way better than him everywhere, it was cockiness. It was like ‘I’m like Manchester United playing Burnley’. That is a sh*t attitude to have for fighting. There has to be a level of fear. There has to be level of visceral want to survive.
“I’m embarrassed to admit that that was part of my brain at one point. That’s not how it works. On any given day you can be a lot better than someone, you get caught with a 4oz glove and it’s all over. So yeah, I definitely did have a lack of fear going into that fight.
“I’ve generally fought very high-quality guys, I’ve put myself out there a lot more than any of these youngers prospects coming up. I’m not afraid of fighting these guys who are (4-3) or (3-2). I want the guy who’s going to scare me a little bit. I want the guy who is going to give me that fight because it brings the best out of me too.”
Part two our interview with Will Fleury will be released later this week.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena