Phibsboro-based middleweight Will Fleury hopes he gets the recognition he deserves should he see off England’s Norbert Novenyi Jr at Bellator 227 at the 3Arena on Friday night.
Fleury dismantled highly-rated US contender Antonio Jones in his first fight stateside in July at Bellator 224.
And the 30-year-old doesn’t feel he’s got the credit he deserves for consistently taking on, and beating, higher-ranked fighters when others shirk the challenge.
The one blemish on Fleury’s record, defeat to Italy-based Macedonian Alen Amedovski in Rome last year, a fight he took on short notice as his original opponent pulled out at short notice.
Fleury has been frustrated in the past by what he felt were prospective opponents pulling out rather than succumbing to defeat. But Novenyi is the first fighter he’s faced with a lesser record than his.
“My last three opponents have all had better records than me. In fact, every opponent I’ve ever faced has more wins than I’ve had,” Fleury tells the Dublin Gazette.
“There are guys I’m dominating but they’re 50/50 fights going into it. I’m different than most Irish fighters in that I’m taking on the toughest guys possible all the time.
“I haven’t had any objections to doing that. I’ve backed myself in those situations. The one issue I would have is it doesn’t make a difference recognition-wise.
“I’m going out and beating guys who are legitimately quite tough and beating them in a dominant fashion. But it hasn’t gotten me any further in my career.
“You go out and beat a guy who is absolutely crap and you get the same. If you knock that guy out it’s the same as knocking out a guy that’s actually legit.”
Fleury was frustrated following his grapple with Jones in Oklahoma where, despite dominating the fight, he couldn’t force a submission despite repeatedly pinning his opponent to the canvas. He’s determined to correct that when he takes on the unbeaten Novenyi on home soil this weekend where, for once, he’ll be able to revel in being the home fighter.
While he’s competed in Dublin before, he’s done so against opponents from the city and has never enjoyed home advantage – though he’s relished representing his country in hostile territory.
“It was a huge thing for me going to America. I felt like I was going out there representing Irish MMA.
“You’re privileged to have your opportunity to represent Ireland, in America especially. I was pretty disappointed I didn’t get the finish with the choke, and I felt I was quite close at one stage.
“I had his back and had his arm trapped and should have been able to finish it there. A couple of little adjustments need to be made to get that finish next time.
“But overall I came away from a fight with a legit opponent with very little damage and I’m pretty happy with how it went. I’m well set up now.”