Cage Warriors target UFC star Joe Duffy as they look to wrestle back top spot in Irish market

The promotion has been a stepping stone for the likes of Conor McGregor and Cathal Pendred on the way to the UFC

Joe Duffy, Ireland, UFC,

Image: UFC's Joe Duffy. ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Graham Boylan, Cage Warriors CEO, believes his promotion will be back in Dublin in 2017.

The nights the promotion enjoyed at the Helix with Conor McGregor, Neil Seery, Cathal Pendred and many other Irish MMA stars have become a thing of legend since ‘The Notorious’ soared to the top of the UFC ranks.

Yet, having not put on a show in Ireland since August 2014, BAMMA have since commandeered the market with two, soon to be three, events at the 3 Arena.

At the beginning of the week, BAMMA revealed that they would be collaborating with Bellator from now on. With the new deal in place between the two promotions, BAMMA fighters will be able to compete in Bellator – a stipulation that has been widely celebrated by Irish MMA community.

However, as Boylan see it, BAMMA have “sold themselves out”.

“I think BAMMA have sold themselves out,” he said. “I think Bellator are financing BAMMA, and I think BAMMA are in financial trouble and that’s why they are doing this.”

The Corkman insisted that he isn’t worried about his fighters wanting to join the BAMMA ranks to gain a clear path onto the Bellator roster.

"You’ve got to weigh up who people perceive to be the best organization in the world. You’ve got to ask fighters what their aspirations are. Bellator is a great brand, it’s a big show, but it’s not the biggest show in the world.

"Any fighter that says they want to fight for Bellator over the UFC is a fighter that is not reaching for the top."

Some believe that there is an arrangement in place between Cage Warriors and UFC, given that their shows are broadcast on the promotion’s exclusive network, Fight Pass.

Furthermore, Cage Warriors re-signing their surging featherweight champion Paddy Pimblett - likely the biggest draw outside of the UFC ranks in Europe - was rumoured to be developmental deal for the Liverpudlian.

Dismissing the whispers, Boylan claimed that Cage Warriors is still a completely "separate entity" from the UFC.

“In terms of Paddy and in terms of everybody, Cage Warriors will always stand on it’s own two legs. We have a working relationship with UFC insofar as they have a broadcasting network that streams live MMA, and we broadcast our content through it. That’s our working relationship.

“In terms of fighters and contracts, we’re completely separate entities. That being said, when your fights are on their network, it gives fighters signed to Cage Warriors a better shot at UFC, because you can be guaranteed that UFC matchmakers are watching these fights.

"That’s their library, that’s their platform, and they use it to watch the guys that are coming through the ranks. Being on their network is huge in terms of visibility."

Image: Cathal Pendred at Cage Warriors 70, 2014. ©INPHO/Gary Carr

It can’t be easy for Boylan to see BAMMA take off in the Irish market, but according to the CEO, Cage Warriors will look to reclaim their dominance in the Emerald Isle in 2017 with a show in Dublin.

“We’ll be back, I’m working on a few things and then we’ll be back,” he said. “In 2017, Cage Warriors will be back in Dublin, though.”

One of things Boylan will be definitely working on is re-establishing the Irish ranks in his promotion, and already, a few names are springing to mind for the promoter.

Despite Paul Redmond being announced for a debut with Bellator on December 16 (the first of their collaborative efforts with BAMMA), Boylan is confident he will secure the signature of the Ryano man soon.

"I’d say Paul Redmond will be out of contract soon won’t he?," Boylan asked. "I’m pretty sure he signed three fights over twelve months, so I’m pretty sure Paul will come home. We’ve got ‘Johnny Jitzu’ too. We’ve Manning, we’ve got Karl Moore and we’ve got Damien Rooney when he’s out of contract. There’s a bit of a card building up there already, isn’t there?"

Boylan also manages Donegal fighter Joe Duffy, who recently announced his intention to test the free agency market after not reaching a new agreement with UFC.

Boylan maintained that Duffy’s negotiations with UFC are still at a stalemate.

"There are a lot of things happening with the UFC now. There’s the buyout and they’re going through a massive restructuring phase. I’m sure when they feel the time is right they’ll sit down and have a talk again, but they probably have things to figure out before then. For now, though, it’s a bit of a stalemate."

While many believe that Bellator will be Duffy’s first port of call if he doesn’t come to a deal with UFC, Boylan is adamant that a Cage Warriors return could be on the cards for Duffy.

He also stressed that ‘Irish Joe’ would be the perfect man to front a card at the 3 Arena for Cage Warriors.

Image: Joseph Duffy at Cage Warriors 70. ©INPHO/Gary Carr 

"Of course Cage Warriors will be interested if Joe becomes available. Who’s to say he won’t help Cage Warriors sell out the 3 Arena in Dublin next year with the rest of the lads I mentioned earlier?

"That would be a nice card – Duffy, Pimblett, Fishgold, Moore, Manning, ‘Redser’, ‘Johnny Jitzu’ – that would be a card for the 3 Arena next year."

Although Boylan wouldn’t confirm that Cage Warriors would definitely be vying for the 3 Arena next year, he asserted that it would be either Dublin or Belfast that he is looking at, and the venue would have to be something on that scale.

"You’ve got to aim for the stars. There’s no point in doing anything else. 3 Arena is about the size we’ll be looking at. It could be in Belfast though too, that is still an option. There are still a few things to get sorted, but it will be either Belfast or Dublin."

Boylan recently booked fan favourite John ‘Johnny Jitzu’ Redmond against Leeroy Barnes for their November 12 card at the BT Studios in London, which will act as a build up to UFC 205.

Despite the fact that both fighters have losing records, Boylan is adamant that the contest is one of the most "fan friendly" pairings that can be put on in the UK and Ireland.

"Myself and Ian Dean (matchmaker) have wanted that fight for nearly three years," he explained.

"We’ve spoken about that fight for nearly three years. I can’t explain to you how many times we’ve been in the pub on Friday after work and that fight will be become the topic of conversation.

"I honestly believe it’s the most fan friendly fight any organization can put on at the moment in the UK and Ireland.

"As soon as those two guys got the contract they signed it, we announced it the same day. When those contracts came back, I put my t-shirt over my head and ran around the office like I had just scored a goal.

“I’m going to put on the popcorn and just keep refreshing my newsfeed, because I think we can expect these two lads to have an epic back and forth in the lead up to the fight as well."