Celebrated Dublin MMA coach, John Kavanagh, has relocated his internationally acclaimed Straight Blast Gym to the Naas Road where beginners in the sport will get the opportunity to train alongside champions Conor McGregor and Cathal Pendred in what is Europe’s largest MMA facility.
Speaking to Gazette Sport last weekend at the official opening of the new facility, Kavanagh explained how he had been thinking about the move for a long time and why he felt the time was right for the change.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind,” said Kavanagh. “Where I live, if I walk out the front entrance it leaves me on the Long Mile Road and if I walk out the back way it leaves me at the Naas Road.
“For a long time, I was walking around day dreaming about getting one of them, and we’re now the third occupant in that row.”
Opening the biggest gym devoted to MMA in Europe demonstrates the growth in the popularity of the sport in Ireland, but the man they call The Godfather of Irish MMA revealed that the project was a “calculated risk.”
“Maybe I’m a bit of a nut opening a place this size,” said Kavanagh. “A couple of things came together at the right time for us – the general understanding and acceptance of the sport in Ireland, the explosion of Conor [McGregor] at home and in the States, and the country’s financial collapse that led to the reduction in the cost of commercial property.”
When the new SBG gym opened last weekend, droves of fans queued up to meet “The Notorious” Conor McGregor, who had no problem meeting his public, staying in the gym’s Octagon for hours, shaking hands and taking pictures.
“It’s crazy to see but I read a lot of books and these types of things aren’t that uncommon”, said Kavanagh on McGregor’s stardom. “When Brian O’Driscoll first emerged he proved that guys didn’t have to go to the southern hemisphere to make it and it inspired a group of guys to get into the game. If you didn’t have O’Driscoll, you wouldn’t have guys like Cian Healy.
“Ireland was never a country known for producing world class players, and it only took one person to change that. That’s what Conor is doing for mixed martial arts in Ireland now.”