It's tough to get hold of a man who is about to open up his fourth MMA gym, while also training five UFC fighters, but that's exactly what we've done.
Key-note speaking at the Tiger Uncaged event in House, Dublin, last night, he was kind enough to spare us a few minutes for a quick chat.
As well as talking about the unorthodox route he took to becoming Ireland's leading MMA coach at the event, Kavanagh broke the news that Tallaght will soon be home to the latest Straight Blast Gym, an expansion that'll be headed up by none other than Paddy "The Hooligan" Hoolahan, so what better way to start.
Where and when will the gym open?
It’ll be somewhere close to The Square in Tallaght. We’re looking at a couple of locations but it hasn’t been decided yet. Hopefully in the next three or four weeks we’ll be 100% and the work can begin, and we’ll open up sometime this summer.
Is opening his own gym something Paddy has always shown an interest in?
Paddy’s my only UFC fighter that also coaches. He takes two of my classes a week, and they’re two of the most popular classes we have, because if you spend a minute with Paddy you’ll leave in a better mood than you came in. He’s just a great personality to be around, and he’s one of those very rare people who can be both a great fighter, but also a fantastic coach. Right from the beginning I had it in my mind that he could open his own gym someday.
What was the reason behind the expansion, and why choose Tallaght?
It’s an opportunity for me to help Paddy uncage his passion. He’s an amazing fighter, but he’s also super passionate about coaching. He gets the same kick out of it as me, whether it’s someone pulling off their first armbar, or coming up to you after three months saying they’ve lost some weight and feel better about themselves, he gets the same buzz from it. So he was a big reason in me wanting to open up a new gym.
But also Tallaght needs facilities like this, and it’s only 20-30 minutes away from the other main gym. Between the two there’s a catchment area of around 250,000 people, and Tallaght is full of fighters.
Will the full time coaching role impact Paddy’s fighting career?
We’ll work it around his fights. At the end of the day you only fight three times a year, four times max. Plus we do our training during the day, so he’ll have the evenings free for coaching, which are the busiest time for it. He’ll have a very hands on role, but maybe three weeks coming up to a fight he can stand back, get someone to cover for him so he can focus on his own fighting, but Paddy is such a hyper individual that I’m sure he’ll have the energy for both.
Could you ever see yourself opening up a gym outside of Dublin?
I won’t rule anything out. This is my first time doing another gym on this scale, a full SBG with one of my fighters, so I’ll give this a go, see how we do over the next year. I’ve a lot of qualifying and graduating coaches that are in position that can take on the roles, so it’s rewarding as well to give jobs to people that I’d have loved fifteen years ago when I was starting out, to make a decent living, teaching martial arts, and doing something positive. So who knows, maybe we will, #Takeover.
What should the complete novice expect from the outset if they were to begin training in SBG?
I think I’ve spent about ten years trying to dispel the belief that if you go down to SBG you’ll be sparring guys like Conor McGregor in the cage on day one. It couldn’t be further from the truth. We have a very logical progression for when people come in. There’s a four level system, all with different levels of skill and intensity. When you come in it’s quite light, no contact, and after a couple of weeks you’ll slowly increase everything. It’s a step by step, gradual thing where you can learn how to hit some pads, roll around, have fun and get into a new social circle.
Is there any word on Paddy’s next fight?
No word yet. He wants to be on the Scotland card in July, so if he gets offered that it’d be great.
Is there any news on who that could be if it did happen, or is there someone you’d like him to fight next?
No, not really, but it’s a small enough division, and I think in a division that size Paddy is maybe two good stoppage wins away from being offered a title fight. He has the personality, and he has the fighting skills, so I think who he faces isn’t as important as how he wins, and how he comes across in the media, because that’s a big part of the game.
What can we expect from Cathal Pendred’s next opponent, Augusto Montano?
I think he’s a good standard opponent, he’s had some good wins, but I think Cathal’s his kryptonite. He’s a tall striker, but I can see Cathal taking him down and punishing him, and putting him away early.
Cathal got some criticism from certain members of the press after his last fight, most notably Joe Rogan, for his striking game. Is this a chance for him to showcase his standing skills?
It’s MMA at the end of the day, and it’s a high pressure environment, so you’re going to take the fight to where you’re strong and the opponent is weak. We take the criticism on board, but whether it’s criticism or praise there’s no one that’s more critical of my fighters than my fighters themselves. Between each fight we try to train and improve our skills every time, so I am looking forward to that fight, and see Cathal show another leap in his skill level.
How is Aisling Daly dealing with the pressure of the next fight, seeing as it’s one of the biggest in her career?
I actually think this fight has kind of gone under the radar a little, because this is really for number one contender spot. Gadelha I think beat the current champ, or at least was a razor close decision, so if Aisling can go in there and look good, and win, who else is there for her to fight? We’re training for that, we’re ready for that, and we can’t wait to get in there and put on a display.