BAMMA burst onto the Irish MMA scene in September 2015 hosting their debut show in the Irish capital of Dublin with BAMMA 22. Their debut show featured eleven fighters from Ireland and three from Northern Ireland, with six of those fourteen picking up wins on the show.
With the momentum from this show, they also announced a second show in Dublin for February 2016 which hosted BAMMA 24: Ireland Vs England. BAMMA 24 took place on 27th February 2016 and once again the promotion put on a huge show in front of a very busy 3 Arena. Sources close to the promotion confirmed that the show hosted 6,000 fans which is a huge turn out for the European promotion.
So what is next on BAMMA’s venture into new locations?
I truly believe that given their recent success in the two Ireland shows they have put on, there is certainly a market to crack in the North of Ireland which like the South has become a hotbed for MMA in recent years. And if the promotion are trying to justify a reason as to why to venture to North Ireland then here are a few reasons they should look to bring their product to Northern Ireland.
It’s unlikely that BAMMA would be looking to attack a small venue and given their love of Arena shows the Odyssey/SSE Arena in Belfast is a prime venue. It has played host to a number of shows in the past including Cage Wars and UXC and can hold up to 11 thousand fans.
The venue hasn’t hosted an MMA for a while and whilst most of the local shows tend to favour smaller venues there is definitely a market for a big show in Northern Ireland and the following numbers definitely support that claim, albeit you could argue there is now more of a market given the boom that MMA has undergone in recent years.
Cage Wars hosted the Odyssey Arena back in 2010 which featured some big European named fighters aswell as a few American names at the top of the card. The now defunct Cage Contender religiously did about 3,000 people shows favouring the Kings Hall Complex in Belfast. UXC also tested the market at the Odyssey which attracted 5,000 fans, they can thank Rodney Moore for that one!
Development of local talent
With a thriving Northern Irish MMA market there are a number of fighters who are on the cusp of bursting through the European scene and there is certainly enough Northern Irish fighters to fill a card in Belfast.
There is a host of young up and comers on the Northern Irish scene at the moment with a few to watch including;
Lightweight Rhys McKee (2-0-0)
Featherweight James Gallagher (3-0-0)
Light Heavyweight Karl Moore (6-1-0)
Lightweight Tommy McCafferty (6-2-0)
Bantamweight Damien Rooney (10-5-1)
BAMMA have done a great job in recent years of building up local talent and I think a focus on specific areas of Europe is really key to both help develop the sport across Europe but also give fighters a chance to test themselves on the big stage. I am certain that there are hundreds of local Northern Irish fighters who would love to grab a chance at representing their home town on a BAMMA card.
Promoting existing roster
Alan “The Apprentice” Philpott was crowned BAMMA Lonsdale Bantamweight Champion at BAMMA 24 in a tough fight against Nathaniel Wood and “The Apprentice” would definitely be key to putting on a show in Northern Ireland. Philpott is an experienced fighter but still young enough to attract a big following and given his recent Title win definitely has the ability to drive the sport forward in his hometown.
Andy “Taz” Young at Flyweight always makes for exciting fights and the Next Generation fighter would undoubtedly love a chance to fight in Belfast alongside his team mate Philpott. Bantamweight Declan Dalton, Flyweight/Bantamweight/Whatever weight you want Steve McCombe and Merv Mulholland could all be key additions to a Northern Irish card. The likes of Chris Stringer and Ali Maclean may be Team Kaobon fighters now but both were born in Northern Ireland and would likely jump at the opportunity to fight on home soil.
I am almost positive that I have probably missed about a million other reasons why BAMMA should venture to Belfast but I think even based on the above few points there is a strong argument to be had and with enough fan support behind a drive to Belfast you would have to think that BAMMA would add this to their radar, if its not already firmly on there.
One other thing to point out is that BAMMA match maker Jude Samuels has a great knowledge of the Northern Irish scene given his previous ties with Cage Wars providing commentary cage side at their events.
Without looking to spark a huge debate I also certainly think there is some merit to a show in Northern Ireland helping to unite Northern and Southern Irish fighters/coaches/fans. MMA certainly has a uniting influence and after the fights are over you don’t see many sports with such great sportsmanship, irrespective of whats happened before the fight/where the fighters are from. Make of that point what you will be I do think there is a chance of it helping somewhat.
Belfast has proved it is a fighting hub in the past and the crowds are always there for big events!