Bellator revolutionising European MMA circuit, says former McGregor trainer John Kavanagh


Conor McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh says Bellator are about to revolutionise the European MMA circuit ahead of the inaugural European Fight Series.

Kavanagh praised the organisation for improving how much fighters are paid and believes the European Fight Series, which kicks off in Newcastle, England on Feb. 9 before moving on to Dublin, Ireland on Feb. 23, will change the lives of some fighters.

The shows are just the beginning of what Bellator calls the next step in its European expansion initiative as it plans to hold events in the U.K., Ireland and western Europe on a regular basis moving forward.

“It’s huge,” Kavanagh told ESPN.

“Bellator overnight have changed the lives of a huge amount of my guys, financially. For me as a trainer it’s huge. After all these years of having to do these European shows just enough so that the guys can fight in America and actually earn some money, now they can do it here.

“I’m very excited, it’s been a great morale lift for all my guys. There’s a great energy in the gym right now and I’m looking forward to this year and the coming years, making that relationship with Bellator even stronger.”

“Bellator are going to be really the only show that regularly visits European cities that can give the fighters a decent pay day. There are some other good European based shows, but the level of pay is so low it’s more like the pros are amateurs.

“There’s nobody that can make a living fighting on European shows, whereas at Bellator, they’re actually being paid like regular fighters — they can train full time and just focus on fighting, rather than having to work security on the weekends or work nine to five and train early in the morning or late at night.

While the UFC haven’t been back to Dublin since October 2015, the upcoming event by Bellator marks the promotions third visit in four years and is set to be headlined by young bantamweight James Gallagher (7-1) vs. Steven Graham (6-3).

For Gallagher, headlining an event in Dublin will be a dream come true and something he’s wanted to check off the bucket list since turning pro.

On Feb. 23 he gets his chance and Kavanagh believes this could do for him what the July 2014 UFC event did for Conor McGregor.

“It’s going to be a fantastic night,” said Kavanagh.

“It’ll be a packed arena, it’s a big fight card, a lot of Irish guys on the card so I think there’ll be a really nice momentum-build as the night goes on, building to a climax with Gallagher headlining against a tough American opponent, coming off a loss and get back on a win.”

Gallagher is coming off his first professional loss, a first-round knockout at the hands of Ricky Bandejas which went down last August.

He was universally praised for how he handled the defeat, facing the music head on, making appearances and talking to the media. Not bad, for a 22-year-old who has been thrust into the sport’s limelight very quickly.

“From a mental point of view, winning is easy,” Kavanagh explained.

“As a trainer, you want to see how someone reacts to a loss and he’s been incredibly mature about it and taken away the positives that you can, he’s reinvigorated himself, he’s back in the gym, training hard, back with the style that got him so far and he’s even improved on that and he’s looking forward to showing the Irish crowd what he’s all about.

“From eighteen or nineteen, he’s been on massive shows so the audience, whether they like him or dislike him, they’re kind of watching him evolve and learn his art whereas a lot of other fighters are in their mid to late twenties with a big record and then they go to the big show.

“James has been learning on the job about how to deal with media, how to deal with fans, how to deal with big shows, big pressure and he’s done very well I think.

“He’s taken that loss, he took it on the chin, he’s faced the crowd, he’s faced the media and, from most of what I’ve read, people were impressed with his answers and mental approach. I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen in the gym since then.

“I’m looking forward to a tough training camp ahead of us, a great night and then him putting the icing on the cake with a return to form and a big victory in front of his hometown crowd.”

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