As the Irish contingent of UFC fighters dwindles you could be forgiven for feeling somewhat gloomy. Cathal Pendred retired in November and Paul Redmond was dropped from the roster a month later.
Aisling Daly, Neil Seery, Conor McGregor, Joe Duffy and Paddy Holohan remained within the rank and file of the UFC. Ireland was still going strong and McGregor was about to set the UFC on fire.
Fast forward a few months, and McGregor has lost his first fight in the UFC. The wrangling between the star and the UFC adds another dimension to the unease among Irish fans. Only a short time ago, both fans and fighters were the darlings of the UFC hierarchy. Now the gleam of the green is slightly tarnished.
Into the mix came the news that Paddy Holohan was retiring from the UFC. The flamboyant Dubliner took everybody by surprise with the announcement. The news darkened our brightest memories of UFC glory, and the rollercoaster of emotions that fans experienced as the fighters blazed a trail on the world stage.
However, this panel of fighters are far from finished.
Chances are that Redmond will bounce back after a few bouts in BAMMA. McGregor still remains the biggest name in the UFC, and Neil Seery is making steady progress up the rankings. Aisling Daly is prominent on the UFC roster, and Joe Duffy will be eager to get back to winning ways.
Holohan no doubt will be devastated. His condition is 1 in 5 million and his health comes before everything else. However, the Tallaght native enjoyed a career most could only dream of. Retiring with a 12-2-1 record is respectable in itself however Holohan has headlined the 3Arena and fought in front of a full house in Boston.
The bright lights, screaming fans and a raised hand will be experienced by very few fighters. Where Holohan finished is a million miles from where he began.
The Jiu Jitsu brown belt had an extremely impressive ground game and most of his wins came by submission. He was game before, during and after his fights –never shirking a fight or the challenge it brought.
The SBG man had an Irish charisma all his own. Standing next to McGregor he held his own, with a sharp wit and a distinct Dublin brogue. Holohan radiated a fierce pride in his country and a sincere way of expressing that pride; which is one of the reasons he became one of our most popular fighters. There was a visceral sadness about his departure, but there is a solid benchmark left behind.
Holohan along with this group of MMA stars have a far greater legacy than anyone could have anticipated. They have written the history of this sport. They are the first successful Irish fighters to make significant inroads into the UFC and their blueprint will be studied for generations.
Thousands of Irish aspirations began with the path Paddy Holohan and his generation paved. Every MMA fighter for decades to come will stand on the shoulders of Holohan and this elite group of athletes. This generation is a sentence on the first page…of a book yet, to be written. That, my friend, is something money cannot buy.
We wish you well.