Undefeated SBG Ireland lightweight prospect Richie Smullen has revealed that he would never have been selected for season 27 of The Ultimate Fighter(TUF) if it wasn’t for the support, nay, patronage of teammate and UFC featherweight Artem Lobov.
Smullen will compete with seven other unbeaten lightweights for a UFC contract and have the chance to work with either UFC heavyweight kingpin Stipe Miocic or light-heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier, who will be serving as coaches, after he made a strong impression at tryouts for the latest season of the famed reality show in Las Vegas this past December.
However, the native of Arklow in County Wicklow recently told The Mac Life that Lobov’s financial assistance had made that initial trip to ‘Sin City’ possible.
“Believe it or not, it’s because of Artem I’m over here,” Smullen said during a TUF 27 media day in Vegas. “Artem paid for the trials, sent me over. I did the trials myself, obviously, but without Artem, I wouldn’t have been here, wouldn’t have had this opportunity.”
Lobov himself is familiar with the TUF experience having been a contestant on season 22 in 2015. ‘The Russian Hammer’ made it all the way to the final of the show but lost out to grappling ace Ryan Hall via decision. Lobov has since gone 2-3 in the UFC octagon, picking up wins over Chris Avila and Teruto Ishihara but dropping decisions to Alex White, the highly-rated Cub Swanson and, most recently, Andre Fili.
“This guy can wrestle like Khabib with leglocks like Palhares…scary prospect!!! Follow his journey from the start,” wrote Lobov alongside a picture of he and Smullen in March.
Smullen is indeed a very talented grappler. His first two career wins came via heel hook and he scored a host of submission wins in the amateurs as well.
The 26-year-old turned pro in 2016 and notched three straight wins before going head to head with fellow hot prospect Rhys McKee at BAMMA 30 in Dublin last July. That fight ended in a draw. Smullen has not competed since.
Smullen will be up against it on TUF 27, as he was one of the least experienced fighters selected. José Martinez Jr. and Luis Peña also have just four fights worth of professional experience under their belts, but every other lightweight is at least 6-0, and one, the 25-year-old Allan Zuniga, has already fought and won thirteen times. Smullen did, however, does have a fairly extensive amateur background.
Smullen isn’t the only fighter with ties to SBG scheduled to appear on the show, as undefeated Canadian Brad Katona, who has been training at the Dublin gym in recent times, will be competing in the featherweight division. Interestingly, English featherweight Jay Cucciniello was listed in the official press release as fighting out of “Malaga, Spain by way of Dublin, Ireland.”