DRIMNAGH’S Aisling Daly – Ireland’s only female professional mixed martial arts fighter – plans to save her next big outing for the UFC’s return to Dublin in October, telling GazetteSport “I don’t think I want to risk missing a second Dublin card. I’d rather not risk another injury.”
Daly is currently nursing a minor niggle following her recent loss to Randa Markos, but expects to return to full training in the coming couple of weeks. She sees herself as two or three fights away from a title belt fight in a division that’s still taking shape.
“It definitely makes a difference fighting away from home a lot. I’d much prefer to fight in Dublin,” she says. “I’m used to the travel now, but it makes a big difference to wake up in your own bed. The travel is an occupational hazard.”
Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt Daly’s previous fights include appearances in Canada, the US, the UK and an impressive last-minute stand-in win in Amman, Jordan, in which she defeated Angela Hayes having excepted the fight at just three days’ notice. Her overall record currently stands at 15 wins and six losses.
The Dubliner has gained far more recognition in recent years as MMA has come to ever increasing prominence in Ireland through the exploits of Conor McGregor, but she still feels the women’s sport is under-appreciated, both here and abroad.
“When I beat Jessica Eye, I was the first Irish fighter to hold a world title”, she tells GazetteSport. “Nobody knew who either of us was back then, but I don’t think it got quite the recognition it deserved.
“Conor obviously raised the bar in Ireland, but not getting the recognition was a little bit usual.
“The women’s sport generally is still in its infancy, however.
“The women are still underpaid in the UFC. It’s partly the contracts – you can only fight every three months. But UFC also recognises fighters based on how many fights they’ve had within the organisation.”
Daly is currently ranked number 11 in UFC’s women’s strawweight division, a class that was only added to the championship in late 2014. Early rankings were determined by results in reality TV show The Ultimate Fighter. Daly was defeated in the show’s quarter final.
“I’ve had 21 professional fights, but I’m fairly new to UFC, because women’s MMA is fairly new to UFC. We’re still behind the men as a result, but it’s a take it or leave it kind of deal.”
Poland’s Joanna Jedrzejczyk is the reigning belt holder in a division that’s yet to see a successful title defence, and Daly fancies her chances against the Pole’s kickboxing style.
“I’m a jiu-jitsu girl,” she says. “So the ideal opponent for me is a wrestler. Someone like Carla Esparza would be the most difficult fight for me, because I’m always looking to get the take down, and Carla would be able to defend the takedown well.
“Maybe Joanna wouldn’t be able to defend the takedown quite so well. But I think at this stage you just need to be well rounded and able to deal with all styles. You can’t afford to be too one dimensional. I’d feel fairly comfortable matching up with anyone in the division.
Daly recently moved down a division to the 115lb straw weight level, a weight at which she finds herself “pretty depleted”, but faces up against fighters her own size, rather than bulkier opponents who might take fights from Daly on pure physical power rather than technical ability.
It’s a bold move, but one that raise the fighter’s profile still further after her televised appearances on The Ultimate Fighter, and allows her to compete at the top of the international game.
“The top two or three girls at 125lb are a lot bigger, a lot stronger than me,” Daly explains. “I want to be the best in the world. If I’m going to achieve that, I felt this was the right move, especially with the weight divisions available in the UFC.”
Despite her recent defeat to Randa Markos, “Ais the Bash” is full of hope, and looking to harness Ireland’s growing affection for her sport.
Come autumn, she’ll be back on the warpath.