Fighting the good fight
Paddy Holohan, former UFC star and elected member of South Dublin County Council tells David Hennessy that Ireland needs the help of its diaspora if it is to stop issues such as the huge homelessness epidemic. He also says that Donald Cerrone, who fights Conor McGregor this weekend, will not be able to match the Irishman mentally.
He was the first Irishman to win a UFC fight on Irish soil and has trained with Conor McGregor. Now it is a different type of fight that is engaging Paddy Holohan. Holohan was elected to South Dublin County Council for Sinn Féin earlier this year. He says the country is struggling, now with record numbers of homeless. He says that the Irish abroad should do what they can.
Paddy told The Irish World: “We need to get the Irish abroad back into the trenches understanding what’s going on over here.
“We have worked out that the only people that are going to benefit from the government ruling are the elites and the companies. The people that are making massive money in the country, they’re paying no tax. The little man here is suffering.”
Paddy writes in his autobiography about growing up in Jobstown, having a mother who was not really there for him and witnessing domestic abuse. If anything, he thinks the situation has got worse.
“A lot of the youth, their future hope has been literally taken away from them. There’s not a chance if you’re leaving school now of getting a job and going to buy a house until the government in the country changes. I don’t condone what goes on in housing estates, a small minority of them but I definitely understand it.
“When the next general election comes up, people need to stand up. If you live outside of Ireland, it’s your responsibility to get ten people to vote. Vote for a party you elect. If you can do that from afar, that’s your part for Ireland.
“If you have green, white and orange in your blood, it’s your responsibility to stay always tuned into this land. This is where we come from.
“At the moment, the Irish nation is a little bit deflated. There’s a huge section of us that are standing back up ready to fight back but we need the Irish people on the outside to get in tune with what’s actually going on over here.”
Holohan began fighting MMA (mixed martial arts) when he was still a teenager, training under John Kavanagh, the same coach who brought Conor McGregor to prominence. It would take him to the big time of UFC. He beat Josh Sampo by submission to become the first Irishman to win a UFC battle on Irish soil when the UFC came to Dublin for a show headlined by Conor McGregor in 2014. He also fought on the same card as McGregor in 2015 when he beat Shane Howell by unanimous decision in Boston. Paddy retired in 2016, revealing he was a haemophiliac: A condition that doctors warned him against fighting on account of. Paddy retired with twelve victories from his fifteen fights.
“MMA gave me a lot. I got out of MMA what I put into MMA. If you don’t put it in, no one will do it for you: No coaches, no brother or father or anybody. You have to put it in. You have to do the long hours, all that stuff.”
MMA takes a lot of criticism. Some say it is barbaric or savage. Paddy says these people do not know what they are talking about: “The people who say these things and make these comments usually don’t know a lot about a lot.
“When you look into a cage, you can’t help but find the doubt in yourself. Subconsciously you know you could never stand in those shoes or stand on that mat so it’s very hard to accept that but it’s very easy to turn around and knock it down. That’s what people do when they’re faced with things. They’re not comfortable saying: ‘I’m not able to do that, I would not be able for it’. They try to chop it down a little bit and beat it up.
“If somebody wants to climb Everest, anybody will let them. People will encourage them. Not only that, people donate money for them to climb it.
“When they climb Everest, they will pass bodies. They will pass people who have died way before them. If you want to call fighting barbaric, then we have to start calling out other stuff like climbing and horse racing or formula one racing. For me they do more damage and are more dangerous than MMA.”
After assuming office in May, Paddy has set his sights high in the political world: “I’m only getting started. It’s a blessing to be able to show people what my heart is really like and that I stand by my word.
“At the moment all I’m chasing is to fix the place a little bit and do anything I can. Listen, I’m not going to be able to fix it on my own. I know I’m not an expert but I can talk to people and I have an ability to get people together.
“I wouldn’t write off anything now. I’m 31 years of age. I’m very young still in this game, I’m only getting started. I would run for President. Why not?”
Conor McGregor returns to the Octagon on 18 January when he takes on Donald Cerrone. Still one of the biggest names in UFC, Conor was the first Irishman to take a UFC belt when he beat Jose Aldo in 2015. He went on to make history when he became the first man to hold two UFC belts when he beat Eddie Alvarez in 2016. His last UFC fight was his defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov in late 2018.
Paddy says Conor is ready to make his return: “I’ve been fortunate to see him in training the last little while and people are going to be shocked when Conor comes back. Conor is definitely that focused machine, I can see that in him again. I don’t think Donald Cerrone is on the same level as Conor mentally, that’s what I think. I think he’ll knock Donald Cerrone out and continue doing the country proud like he always has.”
Conor has been making more headlines on front pages than back pages recently. There was widespread disgust when video emerged of him punching a man in a Dublin pub last year. Is this next fight a chance for McGregor to get back to winning ways and perhaps on the road to redemption? “There’s no doubt Conor was the general. All the different demographics of Dublin society, places in Dublin, middle class, upper class, working class, he was accepted by all at the same time which was a huge thing that happened because everybody had a player in the race.
“I think Conor will be Conor regardless. At the end of the day people will turn on you no matter what.
“Conor’s always out there for the people but the media doesn’t help.”
Hooligan by Paddy Holohan is out now on Gill Books.