Tinryland native Andy Murphy and Kilkenny’s ‘Magic’ Myles Price know a thing or two about the intricate and competitive world of mixed martial arts.
Both training out of Sully’s Gym in Kilkenny and working with Team Ryano (based in Dublin), the local pair will be representing their counties and country on an international fight card for BAMMA 26, taking place at the 3Arena over the June bank holiday weekend.
While it’s been a hot topic of conversation over the past 2-3 years with the rise of Conor McGregor and other Irish pro fighters on the international stage, MMA has become a central topic of sports discussion nationally in recent weeks. The sport has seen the death of a young Portuguese athlete, Joao Carvalho, in the wake of an event with Total Extreme Fighting in Dublin, an untimely and unfortunate incident that has since sparked calls for regulation of the sport in Ireland, as far as banning the sport in Ireland.
While many of us (myself included) will only ever see what happens on TV screens when it comes to the business end of MMA events, both Murphy and Price live and breathe the sport, dedicating their lives to bettering themselves physically, mentally, technically and beyond through martial arts.
For Andy Murphy, it was about the challenge.
“It was always about challenging myself and getting out of my comfort zone. I competed up to international level at middle distance athletics for years and after four knee operations I couldn’t run any more. I’ve always had an interest in combat sports but I guess I was always a skinny type guy and so serious on my athletics that I didn’t get a chance to do any of that stuff. I wanted to get involved in some sort of combat and mixed martial arts was the perfect mix – it’s like the decathalon of athletics, MMA as such, you get to test all areas.”
For Myles Price, at least in the beginning, it wasn’t about the competitive side of the sport.
“Competing was always a bypass [byproduct] of whatever I was doing, you know. I done it because it made me feel like a good person, made me a better person and helped me change other peoples lives in turn. When I saw I could change other peoples lives it really pushed me to love the sport even more and competiting it in was just a bypass [byproduct] of all the positives you get from it, and the training as well.”
When it comes down to the training end of things, there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes than we see on TV screens as both were quick to address.
“A lot goes into this, a lot more than people realise”, offers Price.
“My day would usually be five hours of training a day and that might not neccessarily be hard training, but I just have to look after my body. The time that I took off, or I wasn’t competing was spent doing sports psychology. I was doing a lot of strength and conditioning to build my body so it would prevent me from injuries down the line.
“The average day for me is going to Dublin 2-3 times a week with this man (Andy), preparing for competitions, and I just train every single day. I don’t do anything else. My life is in the gym. I can’t think of myself ever doing anything else I love it so much.”
The dangers of mixed martial arts and regulation in the future.
A death in a sport is never a welcome experience and recent events following a fight night in Dublin have seen the international mixed martial arts world focus their eyes on Ireland of late with the sport coming under intensive scrutinty.
“I know that sounds mad like, the first thing that comes out of my mouth is that it’s not dangerous. It is a contact sport of course, the same way boxing is a contact sport. When you get a punch into the head, your brain hits off your skull and that’s what causes you to get knocked out. Every combat sport is dangerous. Super biking is dangerous. Horse riding is dangerous. People die every year in those sports.
Just because what our sport entails doesn’t mean that one bad incident should have a bad light shone upon it. People have to realise that the reason this light is being shone is that Conor (McGregor) has shone a big, bright light, into this country for mixed martial arts.
“We’re trained athletes”, adds Murphy.
“This isn’t tiddlywinks here, it’s a tough sport. We train six, seven days in a week. Sometimes twice in a day. We’ve got families, we’ve got jobs as well.”
“You have to have your bloods done, you get your medicals done, we’re signing a contract. We’re not getting bullied into taking this fight – I want this, I want this opportunity. I do believe it is safe. I understand people looking in – people fear what they don’t understand.”
Full interview: Myles Price & Andrew Murphy on MMA
BAMMA 26 takes place at the 3Arena, Dublin, on Saturday 4 June, also live on Spike TV (Sky:160). Tickets are available via Trax Records, Carlow and Rollercoaster Records, Kilkenny or Ticketmaster outlets nationwide. Find Sully’s Gym here on Facebook.