Yesterday's news that the Ultimate Fighting Championship will return to Dublin for an event on July 19th has sent Ireland's mixed martial arts community into a something of a tailspin. The UFC hasn't held an event here since January 2009, a show which sold out Ireland's largest indoor arena The O2 in a matter of hours. Now armed with a bona fide Irish superstar in Conor McGregor, who will also headline the event, you can expect the anticipation for the show to hit fever pitch when tickets go on sale.
Of course this isn't only great news for Ireland's MMA fans but also for a stable of Ireland's top Mixed Martial Arts fighters who have long been successful on the European stage as they look to take the step up to the big leagues and showcase their talents in the world's largest MMA promotion.
Top featherweight Conor McGregor will obviously be on board but how many other Celtic warriors can you expect to see in the Octagon come fight time this July? John Balfe takes a look at some of Ireland's top fighting talent.
Nickname: The Punisher
Biggest Win: Che Mills
Something tells us that the name Cathal Pendred will be a familiar one to MMA fans the world over before too long. Pendred is a dominating welterweight, skilled in all aspects of mixed martial arts, particularly the mental aspect of the game. Pendred recently vacated his Cage Warriors welterweight title freeing himself up for a crack at the UFC, although most people in the know will say that he should have been a member of the UFC's welterweight division for at least the last couple of years - evidenced by his one-sided dismantling of former UFC top contender Che Mills in Dublin last summer.
Nickname: 2 Tap
Biggest Win: Mikael Silander
By Saturday evening Finglas native Neil Seery will become the first Irishman to feature on the main card of a UFC event, something that not even Conor McGregor can count on his list of achievements (though that will change come July). Seery fights in London on Saturday evening after taking a fight against UK fan-favourite Brad Pickett on less than two weeks' notice - a decision which aptly embodies Seery's fighting spirit. Much like Pendred, Seery has vacated his Cage Warriors strap as he prepares for the biggest fight of his life this weekend.
Nickname: The Killing
Biggest Win: Pavel Kusch
Standing at 6'5", you don't come across many middleweights with the sort of range at their disposal as Chris 'The Killing' Fields. Adept at all aspects of MMA, Fields is particularly dangerous with his striking as he keeps opponents at the end of his mammoth jab and expertly uses that to set up other techniques. Fields has faced top competition recently in the shape of UFC veteran Jesse Taylor and former Bellator competitor Norman Paraisy and his performances in those fights showed that he's a fighter very much on the rise.
Nickname: The Hooligan
Biggest Win: Artimij Sitenkov
Boasting an undefeated professional record, 25-year-old Dubliner Paddy Holohan is one of Ireland's brightest MMA prospects. Of the ten wins so far in his career, more than three-quarters of his contests have ended with a submission victory for Holohan with just three of his opponents making it out of the first round with him. A hugely entertaining character too, Holohan has a big future in this sport and you can bet your bottom dollar that he'll be one of the fighters showcasing his skills in the Octagon come July.
Division: Female Strawweight
Nickname: Ais The Bash
Biggest Win: Jessica Eye
Not only known as one of the best female fighters in Ireland, Aisling Daly is regarded by most observers as one of the finest pound-for-pound female fighters on the planet. The SBG Ireland competitor was (up until a couple of weeks ago) the only person to hold a victory over top US fighter Jessica Eye, a fighter who since losing to Daly has become a recognisable face in the UFC. Known for her furious work ethic and for setting a pace that her opponents can't match, it's surely only a matter of time until Daly takes her rightful spot on the UFC roster, especially now that the UFC have launched a female strawweight division.
Biggest Win: Phil Mulpeter
One of the absolute brightest prospects in European MMA, Paul Redmond trains out of Team Ryano will likely follow his teammate Neil Seery into the UFC before long. Redmond is one of these fighters who improves each time you see him. Fierce in his stand up game, Redser subscribes to the take-one-to-give one striking mantra - a strategy which is seemingly continually improving as his technique continues to refine. Not only does he posses dynamite in his hands, Redmond has one of the meanest submission games in the country and, in particular, a pretty mean toe hold. Despite looking off colour in a loss in Dublin on New Year's Eve, you really get the feeling that the sky is the limit for this guy.
Nickname: The Honeybadger
Biggest Win: Warren Kee
Owner of the best nickname in Irish MMA, the Honeybadger is also one of Ireland's most versatile fighters. Having suffered a defeat to fellow Irish contender Paul Redmond in 2011, Mulpeter has gone 4-2 over his last six fights, including a dominant victory at the Cage Warriors card on March 1st. The SBG Ireland fighter is continually championed by his teammates, particularly Cathal Pendred, who say that he's UFC ready and give that they train with him every day, who could say they're wrong?
All photos (unless noted) sourced from Facebook. Follow John Balfe on Twitter.