BY AIDAN O’DONNELL
LETTERKENNY man Tommy McCafferty is training like a man possessed ahead of his Mixed Martial Arts showdown with Stuart Davies at the Clanree Hotel in two weeks time, having conquered all he could possibly conquer in kickboxing.
McCafferty, who captured several professional ISKA titles over the past few years, grew frustrated with the lack of real quality opposition to keep him on his toes and made the switch to MMA to give himself a fresh new challenge.
“Basically, there was a lack of fights for me in the kickboxing,” he said. “We got up as far as world level, won all the belts we could and defended them. There was nothing really left for us, so it was a change to K1 in Mixed Martial Arts. It’s one of them things and time for a change.
“I’ve been full-time kickboxing at a professional level for four years. I’ve won Commonwealth, European, World Light-Middleweight and World Middleweight titles. I always intended to go and fight at 69 kilo’s as well but any time I looked into that there was nobody really there to fight.”
The hugely popular McCafferty, nicknamed “The Ghost”, has hooked up with trainers Marty McLaughlin, China Coyle and John McAteer and is currently in the middle of a gruelling training regime.
He said: “I’ve started from scratch now with the MMA, changed trainers and been travelling a lot. I’m only back from Belfast on Sunday where I go up to spar. I’m training between Milford and Derry with three different trainers.
“I’m training twice a day, six days a week, so it’s pretty hectic at the moment. I’ve been training like that now since the start of January.
“I’ve done eleven fights in MMA before but that was four years ago, so it’s nearly like learning to cycle a bike again. The MMA has grown massively in the last few years. There’s clubs that have popped up everywhere.”
McCafferty’s bout with Englishman Davies is the co-main event on a stellar bill that also includes an eagerly anticipated fight between fellow Donegal man Steve Coll and Norman Parks in a title fight at the Clanree Hotel, Letterkenny on Saturday, May 12.
“Davies is a Thai-boxer from England so I’d say it’s going to be a tear-up. It’s going to be a big show with Sky coverage. There seems to be a lot of chat about it and the tickets are flying out at the minute,” McCafferty said.
The Letterkenny man believes both codes share similar traits and characteristics but says the lighter gloves that they use in MMA mean a fighter can’t afford to withstand too many blows to the head.
He added: “The biggest difference between the kickboxing and the MMA is you can go to the ground in the MMA. It’s stand-up only in kickboxing; there’s no clenching or grappling in it, so it’s back to basics with the grappling and wrestling to make sure I stay on my feet.
“The basic principal with kickboxing is to out-point the opponent, get a TKO or knock them out. It’s something similar in MMA but you can also submit them as well.
“In kickboxing I was generally fighting twelve 2-minute rounds for world-title standard, whereas in MMA I’ll be fighting three five-minute rounds. It’s similar overall but it’s a completely different dynamic. It’s a different type of fitness and endurance.
“You’d be more patient because it’s a 4-ounce glove. You can’t stand trading with a 4-ounce glove on, compared to kickboxing you’d be wearing 12-ounce gloves and you can afford to take an odd shot to get one in. But with the MMA and the 4-ounce glove there is no room for error at all. You need to be more elusive.”
The 26-year-old is eyeing potential fights with top Irish MMA fighters Craig Loughran, Norman Parks and Eoin Roddy further down the line, but is prepared to bide his time.
“The next step up will hopefully be to drop down to a lower weight class. This fight is at 70 kilos so we’re hoping to drop down to 67 after this if all goes to plan. Hopefully, if we get on a good run and make a name for ourselves we can get a shot at one of those guys further down the line.
“It’s the same as any sport, you have to start somewhere and work your way up. I’d probably want five or six fights just to get back in the swing of it and used to the finer details,” said McCafferty, who wished to thank his sponsors – Arena 7, Stateside Restaurant and The Friars Rest – for their support.