Dillian Douglas targets pro debut in 2018 after an exciting amateur display in 2017

Exciting amateur featherweight Dillian Douglas, last year’s winner of Severe MMA’s ‘Irish Amateur Fighter Of The Year’ accolade is expecting to pick up where he left off in 2017 in the new year and even spoke of how he had hoped to squeeze a couple more bouts in during the tail-end of 2017 to add to his hat-trick of submission victories.

“It was a great year don’t get me wrong but, I wish I could have had even one or two more fights. 2017 was the first year I moved down to 145lbs and I’ve said for a long time that I would move to this weight and I believe this is my natural weight and a permanent move. Even without winning the Clan Wars lightweight title and the GTFP tournament to get the featherweight crown, it’s still would have been a great year.

“I haven’t really asked for any fight for 2018 as of yet, opponents usually just come my way and I fight. The only two fights I asked for were Jay-Ar Campos and after that fight I called for the vacant lightweight title on Clan Wars which I was given Hugh Gleeson for and these are both big names to have under my belts as wins.”

The Ballymena born youngster explained how his grappling game has continued to develop extensively throughout the year along with his wrestling and striking, evident from his three consecutive rear-naked choke wins over Hugh Gleeson, Ben Robson and finally Denmark’s Mack Promanee, capping off 2017 in style for the 8-5-2 Douglas.

“I’ve had a place in my heart for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since I began training, but really in the last 2 years I’ve really upped my boxing, wrestling and of course grappling not only with Next Generation but my boxing coach Eamon Loughren, still being a blue belt under Chris Brennan, there’s a long way for my ground work to come.”

Douglas spoke of a potential professional bow in 2017, which ultimately failed to materialize, but stated how he is currently happy to continue as the Clan Wars amateur lightweight crown holder in the mean time.

“Obviously there’s been talk of the pro scene which we had tried to match up for March and September but it never happened, so whatever comes my way I’ll happily take it in my own time when I’m ready, but I’d like to say I can see myself being part of the show, being their amateur featherweight champion, which I am so grateful for being given the chance to fight for by all of the GTFP team.”

Currently fighting out of the Next Generation Northern Ireland team, Dillian compared the entire group to a big family where each member are cogs in a well oiled machine.

“My head coach Rodney is in my opinion the best coach in the world right now. My BJJ coach Ryan Green is without a doubt, in my eyes one of the greatest grapplers I’ve ever seen on the mats, my boxing coach Eamon Loughren who I have to thank for so much, including my mindset, way of thinking, cardio and of course my boxing technique.

“I train with Rhys McKee who has beat me black and blue since day one and is one of my favorite corner men and watches over me when I have my fights coming up to spot flaws and anything that works. Alan Philpott who from the day he met me has kept a close eye on me when I’ve had bad runs. Mark Andrew who I take a lot from, I try to tweak his style my way. Andy Young who is one of the strongest flyweights I’ve ever met, who I have the best back and forth wrestling wars with. George Courtney who is my main gym partner, who points out the good and bad of my style by perfectly countering it every time.

“The list could go on and on forever, but everyone helps each other in the gym, that’s the way it should be, whether it be grueling wrestling rounds, fast paced and heavy striking or methodical chess matches of grappling exchanges.

“Without my head coach Rodney none of us would have be where we are or possibly even met one another to better ourselves. My sponsors, my friends and especially family all play a big part in all of this too.”

Douglas briefly touched on his initial involvement in mixed-martial arts, and how a case of bullying completely altered his life, and led him to a career in the cage.

“I first started to lose weight because of bullying, when I began I would say I was just short of 100 kg at 15 years of age. Through the years I’ve moved down slowly from fighting at middleweight with Will Fleury when he was in the amateurs, to welterweight and then eventually lightweight.

“I had a long past of depression, self harming and suicide attempts even when I was doing well in MMA, and while some thoughts may never leave me, I’m working on them each day with the help of the gym, my family and my friends”.

When questioned on his future plans in the sport and the excitement of 2018 ahead, he had this to say.

“That’s the question I’m still asking myself, it’s obviously up to the boss man Rodney Moore, but hopefully I get the chance to show myself on the bigger stages as a pro at some point this year, time will tell what is going to happen.

“Thanks for allowing me to do this interview and thank you to Severe MMA for allowing me to win the Irish Amateur Of The Year award. Finally, to anyone I have forgot to mention, I apologize as I would be writing for the next year if I had to list all of you.”