Ireland has a long history of producing great warriors and fighters. From the ancient clans who fought for local power, through countless invasions until the present day.
Right now, some of the hardest men and women in the world are from the Irish shores – and they have the world title medals and belts to prove it.
Today our top fighters realise their potential in the arenas of the world’s top combat sports such as boxing and MMA.
In this article we will take a look at some of Ireland’s hardest men and women competing today.
Carl Frampton – ‘The Jackal’
Carl Frampton is nicknamed the Jackal and is widely acknowledged as one of the best super bantamweight boxers in the world.
He won the IBF world title last year against tough Spaniard Kiko Martínez in his home city of Belfast. His fanbase has grown so large that a temporary stadium was built specifically for his title fight so more of his fans could see him become champion.
He defended his title against the highly rated American Chris Avalos earlier this year and will make his US debut this weekend as he takes on up-and-coming Mexican star Alejandro González Jr – so look out for that.
‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor
Fearless Dubliner Conor McGregor was in action in Las Vegas last weekend as won the interim UFC Featherweight Championship with a second round victory over Chad Mendes.
He was due to face undisputed champion José Aldo but the Brazilian star dropped out days before the bout due to a rib injury. A fight with Aldo is likely to be on McGregor’s agenda in the near future.
However, after McGregor won his belt he was immediately challenged by former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. McGregor seemed interested in the fight saying: “Most certainly I’m up for a fight against Frankie. Jose went running. I had bigger injuries than a bruised rib in this camp alone, and I still showed up.”
Not content with becoming a champion in MMA, McGregor recently called out the king of boxing Floyd Mayweather Jr!
‘Irish’ Andy Lee
Yesterday boxer Andy Lee announced that he would be headlining the first world title fight to take place in the Republic of Ireland in the 21st century.
After a long tough career, the Limerick man finally won the WBO middleweight title in December last year against the feared Russian Matt Korobov.
He followed it up with a tough bout against the former champion Peter Quillin in the New York Barclay’s Centre, which ended in a draw.
Lee is famous for his ‘equaliser’ – a ferocious right hook that gets him back into a fight that has started to slip away from him.
A year ago, Lee’s career looked to be winding down but after three great results against tough opponents thanks to three ‘equalisers’ he is headlining a stadium fight at Thomond Park in his home city against unbeaten British rising star Billy Joe Saunders.
There is not much to say about the County Wicklow boxer that hasn’t already been said. Katie Taylor is arguably the most outstanding sportswoman Ireland has ever produced.
She won her first major honour at the age of 19 when she became the European Amateur champion.
In the ten years since she has won several World and European titles. The most recent of her five consecutive world titles came last year in South Korea.
Taylor was named Sports Woman of the Year by the Irish Sports Council in 2014. She has since added another European title to her collection, winning the gold in Baku, Azerbaijan last month.
Taylor is also the current Olympic champion, winning the gold medal in London in 2012, and will be looking to defend her title in Brazil next year.
Other top fighters
Special mentions go to former WBO International Middleweight boxing champion Spike O’Sullivan who has just one defeat to his name and will be hoping he can force his way into the world title reckoning in the next year.
If Lee and O’Sullivan keep winning there could be an all Irish middleweight world title fight on the horizon!
Former European champion Stephen Ormond bounced back from a disappointing defeat against English star Terry Flanagan with a win in earlier this month. Flanagan became world champion last week and Ormond may hope to earn a rematch which could see him finally fight for a world title.
Up and comers
Unbeaten Belfast star Jamie Conlon is the WBO Inter-Continental Super Flyweight Champion. He is tipped for bigger things in the future and will be one to watch in the next year or so.
Ryan Burnett is an unbeaten bantamweight. The 23-year-old was a world number one as an amateur and turned professional two years ago. He is trained Andy Lee’s trainer Adam Booth and is expected to go far in the next few years.