Paddy Holohan: My TUF Experience (Part 1)

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Paddy “The Hooligan” Holohan will become the latest product from the Emerald Isle to appear on the UFC’s infamous reality platform when the premier of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate debuts on Wednesday, September 4.

Widely considered as Ireland’s best bantamweight, the young Dubliner spoke to PETER CARROLL in this two part interview covering his experience from the try-outs, to his eventual selection as a cast member for the ground breaking season.

Although some of Paddy Holohan’s fights have come on short notice, nothing could have prepared the Tallaght man for what he met at the TUF 18 try-outs back in April in Las Vegas.

“It was totally different because I hadn’t really been preparing for it,” said the charismatic Dub. “Obviously I’m always training so I was ready. I’m always concentrating on my training and eating well in case something like this comes up.

“Originally I wasn’t sure if I was going, but then my sponsor Dublin Ink managed to sort something out. Even at that I only headed across with one of my mates, I didn’t have a coach with me or anything so we were just having a bit of craic.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever really went into a contest without knowing anything about an opponent and I actually found it worked out well for me. Sometimes when you know who you are going up against and you have a face in your head, you can overwhelm yourself mentally.

“You might hear ‘this guy is a decent striker’ about someone you’re going to fight and the more you see him, the more it builds up in your head and next thing you know, you’re thinking ‘this guy is one of the best strikers in the world’.”

Standing in wings waiting to register amongst nearly 300 like-minded martial artists, Holohan picked up the first of many lessons he would learn about himself on the journey in Sin City.

“I’m always fairly easy going and I tend to get on with everyone. It’s something I thought about beforehand but when I was in the waiting room with everyone else, I wasn’t even slightly worried – I was ready to fight every single one of them.

“Not because I’m trying to be a fighter or I want people to know that I’m a fighter. I was there for myself, my family, my coach and my team. I wasn’t over there to prove anything to anyone. This is just what I do and I’m glad that I had that mind-set in the moment.”

Holohan confessed that one of the biggest obstacles for anyone trying out was the duration of the day, such was the interest in this particular season that will see two female coaches at the helm of the teams for the first time.

“All in all it took about 18 hours and that really takes it out of you,” admitted the dynamic grappler. “Honestly, had someone told me that before I probably would have thought it would affect me, but again it wasn’t too bad, I kind of kept the whole group I was in going, because you could see people breaking as they were waiting.

“We were queuing up to register very early in the morning and it took a while for everyone to get signed up. After that we were separated into groups of 30 and after the interview process that was shifted again down to 16.

“I was delighted with the interview, they had a panel set up and I went in and I just acted like I always do. I knew out of every single person there, there was definitely no one like me,” said the former Cage Contender Grand Prix champion.

With the interview proving to be no obstacle for Holohan, the final 16 members of his group then waited for their chance to showcase their ability, with the usual TUF try-out format being utilised with the prospective cast members having to hit pads for three minutes before grappling for the same amount of time.

All too aware of the possibility of getting an unfamiliar partner to hit pads with, Holohan wasn’t taking any prisoners when the time finally came to put on a show for the UFC shot callers.

“We were the last group called in and everyone was getting tired but I managed to get a look at some of the lads holding the pads and I grabbed one straight away that seemed to be calling combinations in a way that I was more familiar with.

“Getting the wrong guy in that situation could really mess you up so I knew I had to jump all over that. Because of the length of the day, the usual three minutes was cut down to about 90 seconds so I went hell for leather in the striking, but if anything I thought the allotted time might go against me in the grappling.

“I was probably one of the smallest 135ers there. Some of the fellahs that were there were huge – they didn’t even look like they could consider making bantamweight.

“With only 90 seconds on the clock I thought it would play into their hands a bit, but I sailed through it in the end. The first guy they paired me with settled me down, I managed to get a sweep on him, pass his guard and finish him with a choke.

“I was happy with that but the next guy I had was this huge black guy – he was enormous. I thought he was going to try and smash through me, but again, I was delighted that I managed to get the better of him.”

With Conor McGregor’s stunning knockout debut coming just days before Holohan’s TUF bid, the SBG man noticed the appreciation the Americans have for the Irish and the potential the Irish have in the world’s premier mixed martial arts promotion.

“Once anyone heard that I was Irish they wanted to tell me all about their heritage and everything else and of course, there were a lot of people asking about Conor.

“They really are mad about us over there and you could really see what an opportunity the Irish lads have when they get into the big show.

“Even when I was just doing my pad work I could hear someone shouting – ‘Yeah, come on the Fighting Irish!’ – it was crazy,” he said.

When all the medicals were done and it was time to go, there was doubt in Holohan’s mind that he was going to get the call.

“I just knew that I nailed it. I was happy with how I performed and they seemed to have a good time in the interview. They didn’t let me know for a couple of weeks but then they rang and gave me two weeks’ notice.

“They said that I’d made it through the try-out process and they told me to get ready to fight,” he finished.

The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate premiers in the US on Wednesday September 4 following UFC Fight Night 28 and is due to hit screens in Ireland on Thursday September 5 at 11 pm on BT Sports 2.

By Peter Carroll – @PetesyCarroll

Owner/Editor of SevereMMA.com. Writer, Podcaster, Producer of 'Notorious: Conor McGregor' film, 'Conor McGregor: Notorious' TV series, 'Ten Thousand Hours', 'The Fighting Irish' and more documentary films.