Paddy Holohan: My TUF Experience (Part 2)

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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 performance in the ground breaking season.

(If you missed Part 1, click here to get up to speed)

After the initial try-out in April, Paddy “The Hooligan” Holohan wasn’t waiting around long before the phone call came that confirmed him as a cast member for The Ultimate Fighter 18, with the successful applicants finding themselves under the same roof for the second time in mid-May.

“When we arrived back to the gym I couldn’t help but look around and think, ‘one of these guys could be the UFC’s next big superstar,” admitted Holohan.

“But for every time I thought something like that I would just remind myself that there’s no magic dust for this shit. We all have to put in the work.”

The Irishman saw how competitive the environment was before he even made it to anything on the TUF itinerary when he visited Robert Drysdale’s gym during his stay across the water.

“I went up to get some training with Drysdale and sure enough, as soon as I arrived I found out that one of the guys from his place was going to be in The Ultimate Fighter too,” he said.

“We were paired up and I knew this guy wasn’t taking it easy as soon as we exchanged.

“He was looking to get stuck in and he definitely wasn’t going at the normal training pace, but that woke up me to the intensity of the situation and I start giving him a hard time.

“He hobbled out of the gym and I made sure that I said it to him while he was leaving – ‘are you alright there mate?’ – just so he knew that I was ready for anything in there.”

The SBG prospect again encountered some difficulty in the build-up to somewhat of an unknown for the show, with the only request given to him being to “get ready to fight”.

“I was stuck in the hotel room for four days with absolutely nothing do. No music, no contact with anyone outside. All I had was poxy American TV with the ads coming on every 3 minutes. I honestly felt like I was losing it.

“I ended up watching one of them shopping channels and I swear, if I’d had a credit card no UFC contract would’ve got me out of debt I’d have put myself in, just out of boredom,” he laughed.

Not for the first time on his Sin City adventure the 25 year old was pleased with his own reaction when his hotel incarceration was brought to an end.

“As soon as I got the knock to go the UFC gym I was the same old Paddy Holohan I always am. Again, if I had known that I was going to be left in a room for four days with nothing to do, I would’ve expected that to affect me. I was pleased that it didn’t,” said the Tallaght man.

Even just before the Irishman’s fight, which he discovered he would have to win to get into the TUF house, the theme of stalling, so prevalent with his four day wait and 18 hour try-out day, reared its ugly head again and some would argue that it wouldn’t be their last encounter.

“Just before I was about to go out and fight, the power generator for the whole building went out. It was unbelievable. It was another hour’s wait before anything happened, but I still felt good.”

Although it was cut down to just a few short clips on the broadcast, Holohan encountered what Bryan Caraway, who cornered the Dubliner for his fight, seemed to suggest was a classic case of “lay and pray”.

“That was so frustrating,” Holohan recalls the UFC bantamweight telling him after the decision was read out. “I can only imagine how you felt in there, but even watching that I was getting frustrated.”

To add to that UFC president, Dana White, spoke out on the manner in which Josh Hill saw off the prospect from “the projects of Dublin, Ireland”.

“I don’t like to see guys just come in and try to wrestle that aren’t well rounded, and Josh Hill is one of these guys that just tries to wrestle fuck you,” said White in frustration.

“It wasn’t super exciting, it wasn’t super eventful, he just kind of did the lay and pray,” Tate chimed in.

Indeed, one of the most entertaining and dynamic fighters from the land of saints and scholars found his exit to the competition via what he likes to call, in his usual tongue in cheek way, “airport hugging”.

“Because that’s what it looks like,” he replied to my inquisition. “It’s meant to be a fight and this guy is hugging me. I just kept hitting him with clean shots and cracking him with elbows when he had me against the cage.

“When he took me down I just kept attacking from off my back, either with strikes or with submissions – I just wouldn’t stop. He wasn’t trying to win the fight and all that was going through my head was what Dana had said before, ‘this is your future, don’t leave it in the hands of the judges.’

“In the end, yeah, he won the fight, but he didn’t beat me.

“It turned out that he was a wrestler with a record of about 30-0 from his high school days – no surprises there for me anyway. He was tough, he didn’t really try and impose a game as such, I was trying to sweep him and get the sub but he was just happy enough to sit there.

“Hats off to him I suppose,” he awarded the victor.

One of the main characteristics of the John Kavanagh product is undoubtedly his self-belief and the fact that he made it through the try-out process with a significant back injury is a testament to the virtue.

Carrying a back injury characterised by swollen discs to the point that they began to affect his nerves, Holohan bit down on his gum shield and still came out one of the select bantamweights that auditioned for the show.

Three weeks out from his discectomy, “The Hooligan” still refuses to use the struggle he had with his back as the reason for his exit. However, the man who has been known to train with broken limbs is finding it tough to cope with the stationary existence that accompanies the recovery process.

“It’s not like I didn’t know about it when I was heading over there,” he admitted. “It wasn’t even the training that seemed to trigger it. When I got off the plane it felt really tight, that’s where most of the pain came from.

“Now that I’ve had the surgery it feels like my life has just stopped. I can’t do anything in the gym, I can’t even teach jiu jitsu. It’s very depressing to be honest, but I’ve got my family around me and my team mates have been calling me to check in – that’s helped a lot.”

Although the young bantamweight has five weeks to wait before a MRI will tell him exactly how long he will have to wait before training again, he has already made very concrete decisions as to where his future in the sport lies.

“Being over there with all the other guys trying out for the 135 division really opened my eyes to the size difference. I’m barely walking around at that weight so I’ve decided I want to move down to flyweight, I think it could really suit me down there.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but I’ve made up my mind now and I’m already looking forward to competing in that bracket.”

With the UFC’s announcement that they will return to Ireland in the third quarter of 2014, there’s only one target for Holohan.

“That UFC is my goal, it’s my mission. I won’t take my eye off that date and I’ll be clocking up wins as soon as I can to get my name on to that card,” he finished.

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.