“I think the facts stack up pretty well for me.”
Will Fleury wants MMA fans and promoters to know a few things.
“I was 7-0 as an amateur and I’m 1-0 as a pro,” the Tipperary middleweight recently told Pundit Arena. “I’ve dominated every fight that I’ve ever been in. I have six finishes in eight fights. I’ve barely even been in a bad position throughout any of those contests. I literally spend all my time just dominating.”
“I’m the best prospect among the heavier weights in Ireland right now.”
The confidence apparent in his words may not be uncommon for a prospect with a pristine record, but Fleury isn’t just any unbeaten, young up and comer. His belief has a real depth and substance, born from experiences in a number of top gyms, training alongside and testing himself against a variety of elite fighters over a period of six years.
Next Friday, October 28th, Fleury will step into the cage to face Team Torres’ Chris Meaney at Cage Legacy 1 in Drogheda. He will do so sporting the record of a novice pro, but he is a far more mature and seasoned operator than that ledger suggests.
Fleury’s MMA story began at The MMA Clinic in Cork city, a gym that would later become Trials MMA and is currently known as Samson Martial Arts.
After Will had been training there for a couple of years, a fighter called Jake Hecht came to coach at the facility. The Missouri native, known as ‘The Hitman’, had fought three times in the UFC and trained with the famed ‘HIT Squad’. His influence was the catalyst for a wave of young fighters in the gym, including Fleury, to begin competing.
“He had that mentality of ‘Right, you’re here for a purpose and your purpose is to fight’. He was very good to get you motivated to want to get in there,” said Fleury.
Perhaps more importantly, though, the experience of sparring with somebody who had fought on the biggest stage provided Will and his teammates with some perspective.
“Jake Hecht fought in the UFC. I sparred with him. He was a very good fighter, but I got a sense that the gap wasn’t unbridgeable. I think that made a huge difference. To see that he was a real person and not some man-beast”.
“It made me think that maybe I could make it too”.
Work soon brought Fleury to England’s capital however, and he joined the infamously hardcore London Shootfighters gym. There he became a regular sparring partner of another notable fighter, Bellator’s perpetual violence machine, Michael Page.
Page, now one of the most hyped fighters in the world campaigning outside of the UFC, has been a massive influence on the way in which Fleury thinks about striking.
“Training with Michael Page was a massive eye opener as regards what movements you can pull off in an MMA fight and what is effective range,” said Will. “Because his effective range is way outside where anyone else’s is. It made me open up my eyes to the fact that you can land very damaging strikes from a distance as long as your footwork is good enough and as long as you know you can bridge the gap quite quickly.”
“I have seen how effective this stuff is and had it smash me in the face. So, I find myself using the movements that I see him do more often now as well.”
That’s a scary prospect for any middleweight in Ireland at present.
Trading leather and locks with some of the most dangerous men in Britain by night, Fleury worked as a quantity surveyor by day. However, Will eventually decided that he wanted MMA to be a full-time pursuit.
Unfortunately, the cost of living in London was sky-high and he would never be able to afford to stay in the city without a steady wage. But Fleury knew what he wanted. So he made the difficult decision to abandon his new life, quit his job and return to Cork to focus on his fighting career.
In recent months, Fleury made another significant move. This time to Dublin and the mecca of Irish MMA – SBG Concorde. There, training alongside the likes of UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor and under the tutelage of John Kavanagh, Will’s overall game continues to improve.
When speaking to PA, Fleury also mentioned what a positive impact McGregor’s presence alone has had on him psychologically.
“It’s a reminder that there is money to be made here,” Fleury said. “The reality for guys like myself is that it doesn’t always feel like there is. You are in a gym and you are just training, just hitting each other. It’s slog, slog, fucking slog all the time. Guys pull out, fights don’t happen, nobody pays attention. My amateur record was 7-0. I worked so hard for that, but nobody gives a shit.”
“But he is a reminder that you can make a career from this. There is a real end goal here. Seeing him justifies your effort in a way. It feels like it satisfies your brain. You think ‘Well look, this can be done. There are real opportunities here.'”
“That didn’t just happen straight away[for McGregor]. That took a long fucking time. So be prepared to give it a long time and things will happen. At the end of the day, if you are good enough, then you will be able to prove that. It’s a reminder that reality can change massively in the space of a year, two years.”
However, Fleury doesn’t let ‘The Notorious’ one’s presence or aura lull him into a false sense of security either.
“You can’t let it distract you from your hard work,” said the fighter. “You can’t think ‘Oh I’m training with this guy so that makes me way better.’ No, no, no, your journey and your own work are your own thing and you have to go and focus on them.”
“It’s your own path at the end of the day. You have to plough your own way. Nobody is going to plough it for you.”
Will takes his next step along that path at Cage Legacy. He will take it far away from the glares of the masses and the bright lights under which his big name training partners, past and present, regularly ply there trade. But the wisdom that they shared with him will still be on display.
Fleury believes this will be a vital step, as well. With North American MMA giant Bellator and British promotion BAMMA collaborating to host an event at Dublin’s 3Arena in December, he sees a massive opportunity close on the horizon. If he can score a resounding victory against Meaney, his chances of landing a place on the BAMMA portion of that event are strong.
So a resounding victory is exactly what Fleury has planned.
“I’m pretty much going to do what I’ve done my whole career, which is go in there and dominate from beginning to end and probably finish the guy,” said Will. “I don’t say ‘Oh, I’m going to do this or do that.’ I see opportunities and I take them. And they always present themselves in fights. Everyone makes mistakes. There are always opportunities and it’s all about exploiting those. And that’s my mentality. I go in and I look for the opportunity and, when I get it, I exploit it and I fucking finish.”
“I don’t care how I do it. If he presents a takedown, I’ll smash him into the floor. If he tries to stand with me and wants to batter me – we will go toe to toe and I’ll take his head off.”
“After I go up and smash this guy, I would love to get on that Bellator/BAMMA card. I think it’s an amazing opportunity for any young Irish fighter. These are the opportunities you want to be getting. Fighting at the 3Arena on a card like that would be a dream come true.”
A dream come true perhaps, but it’s one that Fleury is more than ready to realise.
“I feel like I’m ready to explode and break into this scene.”
Check out Will Fleury’s pro debut against Dublin’s John Redmond and read below for Cage Legacy 1 ticket/Pay-per-view info.
If you guys want to get your hands on tickets for Cage Legacy 1 at the Tom Leddy Theatre in Drogheda on October 28th, please contact the man himself, Will Fleury, via Twitter @WillFckinFleury. If you can’t make it to the show, you can also catch it on Pay-per-view.