Paddy Holohan sees an advantage over Vaughan Lee after spar in SBG

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Neil Seery isn’t the only Irish flyweight who has signed a new UFC contract. On the announcement of Paddy Holohan’s July 18 bout with Vaughan Lee in Glasgow, ‘The Hooligan’ revealed that he too had been handed a brand new four-fight contract with UFC.

“Of course I’m happy with it,” said Holohan. “It’s not like I had any fear of going into the last fight on my contract and losing though. I don’t worry about that kind of stuff. I only enjoy this game when I fight freely. I never think about promoters, contracts and things like that. I just worry about my performance and finishing the guy that’s in front of me. Three five-minute rounds, that’s all that matters.”

There’s been a bit of downtime for the SBG flyweight since his three round domination of Shane Howell in Boston in January. Although it will be six months without a fight for the Tallaght man, in no way has he been inactive, as the July 18 bout in Glasgow will mark his fourth fight in a year. To add to that, the Dubliner has been busy cornering his fellow ‘Team Midget’ partner Ais Daly as well as looking to try and open a new SBG affiliate gym in his locality.

He said: “The break has been great since Boston. I didn’t have that much to do, I was away working with Ais for her fight in Montreal. It’s been nice. We’ve been trying to get things going with SBG Tallaght too.

“It will be 364 days after my debut when I fight in Glasgow. I’ll be standing there for my fourth UFC fight in just under a year since my debut and I’ll be doing it in another country that will be doing it for the first time ever. There’s been a lot going on, but I’m excited to fight over there.”

Holohan’s next opponent Vaughan Lee has visited SBG recently for training. The Englishman will fight for the first time as a flyweight on July 18 having clocked up a record of 3-4 under the UFC banner as a 135er. Holohan explained that despite having a bad dose of food poisoning the day before the 32-year-old came to the Dublin gym, he made a special effort to get down and spar him knowing that the two could meet each other in the Octagon one day.

“If you weigh the same as me and you’re in the UFC I always think there is a chance that we could meet. I don’t spar you like I’m trying to fight you, because that’s just being a dickhead. I spar how I spar and then I have that vicious streak. That vicious element is usually what gets to people, they think, ‘this fella is trying to kill me.’

“When we were sparring it was grand. I felt really, really comfortable. To be honest, the day before he came up I was after getting food poisoning, so I was in bits from the day before. I was as sick as a dog. I had been in Liverpool and I had just got back and then John rings me and says Vaughan Lee is down in the gym and I should come and spar him.

“I told him he could bet his bottom dollar that I’d be down there even if I ended up shitting all over the mat!” he laughed.

“He has quick stand-up, he closes the distance quickly. Grappling wise I feel like I’m a lot trickier. I think my frame is more established, I think I’m sturdier and I think my jiu jitsu is more structured than his. I felt really, really solid in the grappling department when the two of us were going at it.

“I felt great in the striking too, don’t get me wrong, but that was where we would’ve been more even. Now I wasn’t trying to take his head off or anything, but I was comfortable with it.”

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Although some might take a potential opponent showing up at their gym as an insult, Holohan has always seen the visits as opportunities to learn. Referencing his occasional training partner Neil Seery’s visits from Team Ryano, ‘The Hooligan’ believes there is always something to be gained by sparring someone in his weight class.

“I wasn’t annoyed about Vaughan being in SBG at all. When these moments come around you can take them as burdens or you can take them as opportunities. You can spar the guy and you can find out information that you didn’t know before. Any information that you didn’t know before should always be welcome.

“That does exist, guys still get upset when people in their weight class come to train in their gym. Neil Seery has been coming up to us for a long time, even when we weren’t in the UFC. There was always a very real chance that me and him could’ve met for the Cage Warriors title at some stage.

“The thing is, you’re going to have to fight these people if the promoters put them in front of you. I’d rather know if he hits like a horse, rather than find it out in front of 10,000 people. After sparring these people you can expect it, you know?

“There are things that Neil does that would’ve taken me a while to figure out during a fight. I’m sure he would say the same about me, these things work both ways. You’ll always learn from sparring.

“One thing I learned about Neil from sparring him is that he doesn’t clinch. If you watch his fight with Damien Rooney you can see he keeps his elbows down and when Rooney came in to clinch he just let his hands go. Some people who fight Neil might only find that out in the third round when they’re already down on the ground,” Holohan explained.

With his teammate Conor McGregor set to face Jose Aldo the weekend before his clash with Lee, Holohan spoke about how reassuring it is to see someone from his gym at the very top of the sport.

“Seeing Conor and where he is now, it’s a reassuring thing more than anything. It shows me that I’m doing things correctly. I couldn’t tell you where Vaughan Lee fights out of at the moment. I couldn’t tell you who his coach is or who his club is, but I know I’m surrounded by all the people who were with me from the start.

“Conor is out in Vegas surrounded by all the people he was with from the start, and I’m still here with all of the Team Midget guys. I feel grateful to be part of SBG and to be able to represent them. I don’t try and burden myself with it either, because I know the people who love me will still love me no matter what happens.

“That works for me. Some people build up the idea of representing this amazing club and that works for them. I always go out there with no regrets thinking look how far we’ve all come. I just fight, and when I fight I try to win every single second.

“Of course I want Conor to win that belt. Not just for SBG, but for Ireland. If Conor has that belt in his hands I’ll know that I can do that. It’s going to be reassuring for me of course, but it’s going to reassuring for Irish people who have never even met us. It’s going to be a seriously exciting thing to see.”

@PetesyCarroll

Peter Carroll is Severe MMA's lead feature writer. He has been featured in many top publications and some rubbish ones too. He also writes for the Irish Daily Mirror and Vice's Fightland.