Five-time National Elite champion Sinead Kavanagh could become one of the biggest names in MMA before the night is out.
The former Driminagh BC amateur will challenge Cris Cyborg for the featherweight world title at Bellator 271 in Florida tonight.
A former international teammate of the likes of Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington and one of the first recognizable female fighting faces around the National Stadium, Kavanagh will look to dethrone one of combat sports biggest names.
The fight will be Brazilian Cybrog’s third defence of the 145-pound title she won since joining the organisation from the UFC in 2019. During that time she has enjoyed a trio of finishes against Leslie Smith, Arlene Blencowe, and Julia Budd.
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Kavanagh, meanwhile, has competed eight times in the Bellator cage and comes into the fight on the back of two successive wins against Katherine Lehner and Olga Rubin.
Kavanagh, who has always maintained a close relationship with experienced Boxing coach Tony Davitt and is a close friend and sparring partner to Kellie Harrington, left boxing somewhat disgruntled in 2016, join SGB, and has developed into an MMA name.
“Boxing wasn’t good to me. Amateur in Ireland, women weren’t getting paid,” she said when speaking to the BBC.
“When I think back on it, it was very dark and I wasn’t in a good headspace with that sport. I was boxing 10 years, but I had to leave and go to MMA.”
“I went to John [Kavanagh’s] gym, my mate was talking me up, saying I could hit hard. I was in the background with my head down.
“That’s what John said he loved about me, gave me classes to do, and I done them. I got onto the pro team. John’s been very good to me. He’s looked after me, took me under his wing and told me I could be a star here [in MMA].”
Fast forward 11 MMA and Kavanagh is one win away from becoming the first Irishwoman to fight for a major MMA world title.
“When we were kids there wasn’t women’s sport really,” she explained.
“Now, the world’s at my feet,” she added. “Never give up. When you look at me, I’m 35, I’ve been fighting since I was eight years of age.
“Never give up on your dream. This is where it’s taken me, to Miami to fight the best in the world. You can’t write that, what’s happening. If I win this belt it’s going to be some story and I can do it. Definitely.”