At some point over the last few months, even the least superstitious member of MMA’s international community must have briefly wondered what vengeful deity is intent on sapping the remaining glow from the twilight of poor Ian McCall’s career, such is the unfathomable nature of his recent run of bad luck.
Similar thoughts must have popped into the heads of those involved in the sport in Ireland recently, whenever the names Chris Fields and Will Fleury were mentioned.
The news broke on Monday that Fields had been forced to withdraw from the main event of this Friday’s Bellator show in Belfast due to an issue with his carotid artery. This was the third time in a six-month period that a scheduled fight featuring the Dublin veteran had fallen apart.
On the two previous occasions, it was his would-be opponents who pulled out.
Fleury isn’t as well known as former Cage Warriors middleweight champion and TUF 19 contestant Fields, but if you read an article about him that appeared on Pundit Arena back in October of last year, you will know that the Tipperary middleweight is a promising newcomer to the paid ranks and quite a character to boot.
However, in that previous article, we didn’t delve too deep into the unfortunate series of events that has befallen Fleury since he decided to turn professional in 2015.
In all, the SBG Ireland representative saw three scheduled fights cancelled between August 2015 and the time of that article.
Things got even worse thereafter.
That piece was written only days in advance of Cage Legacy Fighting Championship 1, at which Fleury had been originally scheduled to face Irish-based Alaskan Rolando Dominique, but it had to be amended when Dominique pulled out and Chris Meaney stepped in to replace him.
Meaney subsequently pulled out of the fight as well. Agonizingly, he did so on the day of the weigh-ins.
Fleury, desperate to see action, would go on to take part in a caged K-1 contest at the show. Facing a seasoned kickboxer in Dawid Blaszke, Will suffered the first defeat of his combat sports career.
At the 3Arena in Dublin last December, Fleury was scheduled to face Kyle McClurkin as part of BAMMA 27, but McClurkin was forced out of that contest with a broken hand.
All of this means that Fleury has only managed to log one pro MMA fight, a submission win over John Redmond, since making the jump from the amateurs, where he compiled an impressive 7-0 record against solid opposition.
Showing remarkable mental strength, however, Fleury hasn’t allowed this to rattle him. In fact, he sees the whole painfully long and winding episode as an opportunity to strengthen a metaphorical muscle.
“I think resilience is a muscle and you strengthen that muscle by being in situations like that,” Fleury recently told PA. “Throughout your fight career, you are going to have to be resilient because this game is just mental – shit is going to happen. So, it’s good to have that resilience test nice and fucking early. I never wavered. I never even considered walking away from the game. I’ll adapt and I’ll overcome all of this shit.”
“Look, six pull outs, whatever. That’s going to happen. That’s this game. You just adapt and overcome. You fucking push on and get on with shit.
“That eight-fight win-streak, there is a reason none of these guys are showing up. But it’s about not letting that stuff get to you and realizing that this is all part of the process.
“Is this going to make you that guy that’s so driven that you are going to be an absolute dominator(sic) that’s going to be smashing guys everywhere? That’s what I feel like I’ve become from all of this.”
Fleury will have the opportunity to display his drive and smashing skills this Friday at the SSE Arena in Belfast, as his bout with the aforementioned McClurkin has been rescheduled for BAMMA 28.
— BAMMA (@BAMMA) January 26, 2017
The 27-year-old prospect feels he has gained more than just an understanding of his own resolve throughout this ordeal, though. He may only have been to the cage once as a professional, but he is a veteran of all that occurs in the build-up to a contest. And he feels this will stand to him over the course of this week, as well as on fight night itself.
“I’m calm, really calm, and it’s just like, this is a process I’ve been through before and I’m doing it again,” Fleury said. “It feels really familiar. I’m not nervous about a big show or anything. This is what you are supposed to be doing in this business. All of it, all the water-loading, weight-cutting and everything, just seems familiar. I haven’t really been out of fight mode in like three years now.”
“Experience breeds maturity and mentally speaking I’m better than 90% of the guys around. I don’t freak out about weight or anything. I do what I should do all the time and I don’t doubt myself.”
Though McClurkin has no prior professional experience, Fleury is familiar with the Northern Irishman’s amateur exploits and he is not taking the Fight Academy Ireland product at all lightly.
“He is coming down from light-heavyweight,” said Fleury, who has signed to fight as low down as welterweight in the past. “He’s dangerous, he’s good, he’s athletic. He is going to be solid and coming at me, and that’s a legit fight. He’s explosive, he’s very powerful and he wants it.”
Still, Fleury confidently backs himself in every situation and he isn’t looking to just win in Belfast, but also to impress. With BAMMA once again teaming up with Bellator MMA on this event, Fleury is keen to catch the eye of the North American promotional giant’s head honcho.
“I’m looking to impress in front of that crowd. It does mean a lot to me that Scott Coker and those boys will be there,” he said. “There are the eyes of a lot of people on this and I do want to put on a good show for them. And I’m super pumped to be doing that.”
While Fleury will be hoping to wow Coker and Co., there has also been talk that he might sign with Middle Eastern promotion Brave. For Will, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the States or Bahrain, even at this early stage in his professional career, he just wants to test himself against quality opponents.
“I want to be the best fighter possible. So, I want to be testing myself against good guys,” said Fleury “I don’t want an easy fight. I don’t want a guy who is just going to be a number on my record. I want that guy who is the 6-1 Dagestani wrestler and I want me being the underdog coming into that situation, because fuck me that’s going to get me excited. That’s going to hit my buttons and I’ll be like, ‘Ohh Shit, Will, this is do or die now.’ And it’s that challenge that makes you feel alive.
“I want that opportunity. I want that situation where I’m the underdog and nobody thinks I can fucking do it and I’ll get in and smash the guy.”
“Hopefully, it will be a case of smashing McClurkin and then getting into, ‘Oh, shit, you’re totally over-matched here.’ I’ll look for that fight where it’s like, ‘You’re not in a good situation here, Will.’ Then watch me do well. Watch be get better.
“Honestly, I really fucking believe this, get me in their with [Michael] Bisping in the morning – I’ll smash that guy. Get me in there with anybody in the middleweight division. Fair enough, some guys probably have a better grappling game than I do, some of them probably have a slightly better striking game than I do, but I don’t think that anybody wants to fight as much as I do and embrace that fucking contest as much as I do.
“In those moments where you are both smacking the shit out of each other and it’s like, ‘Ohh, who is going to break first’, I never feel like I’m that guy who is going to break. I’ve been hit plenty of times so far but my brain is always like, ‘I’m going to get you.’
“And that’s how I feel. No matter who you are, you are going to expose an opportunity and I’m going to take that.”
You can watch Will Fleury take on Kyle McClurkin and the rest of the BAMMA 28 card live on Friday night February 24th via the UNILAD Facebook page. The show starts at 5 p.m. GMT.
If you want to watch my fight this Friday you can stream it live on UNILAD https://t.co/NhV3P30P17
— Will Fleury (@WillFckinFleury) February 21, 2017
Will also asked us to mention that he has set up a GoFundMe page in aid of the family of a former training partner Marlon Forde who passed away recently. All donations would be appreciated.