Dublin-based MMA fighter Will Fleury is hoping his promotion to the Bellator arena will put his days of endless cancelled fights behind him.
The 29-year-old middleweight, who fights out of John Kavanagh’s SBG gym in Walkinstown, is unbeaten in four professional fights but has had an astonishing 11 opponents pull out in that time.
His fight career has taken him all over the globe, including stints in lesser-known MMA metropoles like South Africa and Jordan, but this is his first shot at the big time.
He signed a two-year, six-fight deal with American promotion Bellator which, after UFC, is generally considered the biggest franchise going.
Familiar problems struck ahead of his planned debut in Rome next week at Bellator 203, as local fighter Massimiliano Sammarco pulled out of the fight at short notice.
Having been looking forward to facing a hometown hero, Fleury will at least still face a home fighter in the Italian-based Macedonian Alen Amedovski, who beat Sammarco last year.
For Rathmines-based Fleury, however, once bitten is twice shy and he isn’t hedging his bets on facing anybody come July 14 in Rome.
“I’d love to have faith that the guy would show up and then I could do research [on him],” Fleury told the Dublin Gazette.
“But if you look back on my career I’ve had 11 pull-outs and four fights as a professional. A lot of the time, you can do all the research and then a guy doesn’t show so it’s pointless.
“At this level, it’s smarter to spend your time focusing on yourself. That’s all that matters. If I go in there and I’m performing right, I’m going to bash him.”
That confidence, Fleury believes, is part of the reason he’s found it so hard to find willing opponents in the middleweight division – they see what he’s about and decide it’s not for them.
“I’m not knocking out these guys.
“I’m not some freak athlete. I’m just an extremely determined guy and people seem to see that and go, ‘I don’t want any part of that’.
“You’re going to get beaten up bit by bit, and you know that. A lot of these guys figure out what it is and don’t want any part of it.”
While that confidence doesn’t always come naturally to Irish athletes, the success of Conor McGregor and the demands of the fight profession are slowly changing minds.
“You very quickly realise the consequences of talking yourself down.
“If you don’t feel like you’re going to perform, and you get in there and say ‘maybe I’m not great at this,’ your ego starts to crumble.
“Irish culture does predispose you to being more humble, and ‘ah sure, I gave it a good effort,’ but that’s not conducive to victory in a combat sport.
“I hear guys like Carl Frampton and Andy Lee, and they half talk themselves down, and I’m like ‘what are you doing lads?’
“You’re doing yourself over here. Do the work and have faith in the work.
“As long as you have the work done, why wouldn’t you whoop this guy?”