‘Mr Pink’ back in yellow: Martin McDonough talks four-year hiatus; Cage Warriors Wales return

‘Mr Pink’ back in yellow: Martin McDonough talks four-year hiatus; Cage Warriors Wales return

The world of MMA moves on so quickly. Fighters’ moments come and go and, if you’re unable to move with it, it won’t be long until your face becomes unfamiliar. 

Martin ‘Mr. Pink’ McDonough (12-5) was a soaring combatant on the domestic scene. The pink mohawk and forward-pressing, heart-on-his-sleeve style was becoming a fan favourite with European fans. Under the Cage Warriors banner between 2012 to 2015, McDonough amassed a 3-1 record with the promotion, with all three victories coming by way of submission in the first and second stanzas.

The unanimous decision loss wasn’t supposed to spell the end of his Cage Warriors run, however the promotion’s closure and number of injuries Martin suffered kept him from active competition.  

“I was originally supposed to fight Martin Sheridan two years back,” McDonough detailed. “I was in training and as I went to throw a body shot and as my partner blocked it, I ruptured my bicep. He pulled out around the same time, so I was still up for a new opponent, but obviously that injury got in the way.

“I just ended up with my head up my arse because, the time before that, I was training and dislocated my elbow, so I thought to leave it for a while as it just wasn’t able to come together and have some time off.”

What can come with injuries is sitting out, feeling depressed and not knowing what to do next. Martin didn’t know what his next move was. After many beers and an unexciting lifestyle, Martin made a change. That change came in 2018, entering the boxing scene.

“It hit me hard, to be honest,” Martin confessed. “After pulling out from the Sheridan fight, to me, it was done with. I was done fighting. I felt no point saying I’ve retired and stuff, because I don’t see this as a professional career or anything like that. I just did it for fun.

“I ended up just going on the piss a lot and trying to put it all behind me in the worst ways. Going on the weights was just a way of trying to pull myself together and then I boxed again. I feel like I had to go full circle and not rush into anything.”

“All I did in 2017 was weights and eventually I just got bored of the same routines. I needed something and fighting – in any form – was that missing thing.

“I started looking into boxing around summer 2018 and boxed a few months later in October,” ‘Mr. Pink’ informed. “I worked a lot with my pad man and still had decent head movement and footwork despite being heavier than my previous competition days – I just lacked on cardio.

“Initially I just got back into it for the training to keep in decent shape – as every good comeback tale tends to begin. I had a couple of unlicensed boxing matches and won some of them, then I went up and fought in Colchester. 

“I was confident I won the match by decision, but because I was fighting on a different show, they done me over and gave a hometown decision to my opponent. They didn’t want me to win the title and go away with it.”

Following the unfortunate outcome, McDonough decided to knock boxing on the head and go back to his rootes, training with the boys at Tillery Combat MMA Academy, now Shore Mixed Martial Arts, which has produced Welsh standouts such as Jack Marshman, John Phillips and Jack Shore. helping them get ready for fights. 

About three months into full training, the former bantamweight was presented with an opportunity. 

“My coach told me he was going to keep a pro spot open and if I wanted it, the spot would be mine. My first thought was what weight would it be at, as I was still pretty heavy into the weights and walking around just above welterweight, around eighty kilograms as I was training with Jack Marshman a lot. 

“The ask was to get to sixty-five kilograms, but it was too much to ask after such a long time away from the game, so we agreed to seventy kilograms. As of now, I’m waking up at around seventy-five kilograms.”

Upon returning to action, it is common for a battler to take on lesser competition on a smaller show in order to truly find their feet, shake the rust and feel like themselves again. McDonough has only fought once outside of Cage Warriors since mid-2012 and, despite the time away, the submission artist wants to put his talents on display for as many people to see as possible.

Many would see that as a risk, should the evening’s events not fall in their favour. However, the Welshman’s attitude won’t let him rest on his laurels.

“I prefer taking the jump back with Cage Warriors, to be honest,” the seventeen-fight professional revealed. “They know what I’m about and always have. If it was a local show, they could be trying to feed me to a boy who’s like 3-0 but is a killer in my first fight back. Either way, it’s a fight.

“I said yes to Cage Warriors before they even offered me someone to fight. I just accepted it straight away. Luther’s had seven professional fights, so I feel I still belong with Cage Warriors.

“Cage Warriors, too, they’ve definitely got bigger since the last time I was there. I think it’ll feel like going home, especially once those yellow gloves are back on me. I had a bunch of fights on there and made a name for myself as well as making really good friends with the promotion. It feels like a homecoming. Getting in there, under the Cage Warriors lights, is all I’ve been thinking about.” 

The last few years have been quite a long, soul-testing experience for Martin McDonough. With the past behind him, it all comes down to this Saturday night where the veteran will once against seal the straps on those vintage yellow four-ounce Cage Warriors gloves and be once again under the bright lights of the place that he calls home as he locks horns with the Shaun Luther (2-4) at lightweight – a man he is not overlooking, despite his negative record. 

McDonough accepts he might not be favoured by the bookies. Despite that, Martin doesn’t feel his boxing experience should be ruled out, having fought against several promising boxers both in home and enemy territory as well as helping further his own striking capabilities.

“Training has been going so, so well,” Martin beamed. “Training with Jack Marshman, Jack Shore, Josh Reed and others, it’s a very high level we are at. I’ve watched plenty of videos on Luther and he looks like he has very good cardio and is a tough fighter which I like. 

“Shaun seems awkward to stand with, but not as talented on the ground. He’s probably going to be bigger than me because he’s naturally a lightweight whereas I used to fight at bantamweight. 

“I’m just going to come out like I always have done and be active, pressuring, violent and take it as a fight and not a point-scoring bout. I do this because I love fighting and he seems pretty game himself, so it should be fun.

“On paper you can try to discredit him because of his record, but you look at the lads on there and they are all the top lads on the scene. He’s not out here taking easy fights and that’s respectable.”

In the time since Martin’s last MMA outing in 2015 to present day, the length in which Welsh MMA has grown is something you cannot help be impressed by. With many of the frontrunners just happening to be teammates of McDonough, the Gwent native has undoubtedly seen the surge first-hand. 

“Our gym is the best in Wales and I’ve seen it grow exponentially,” Martin told. “Even when I was away from MMA, I was still seeing the boys as we all live in the same town. Even in my sporadic on-and-off training, each time I’d visit I would see them improving leaps and bounds and all getting so much better. 

“We knew we had something special with Jack Shore which everybody knows now and the like of Reed and Marshman. Two of the Welsh lads in the UFC both took bonuses the other week, so you see how much they have developed in recent years.”

In comparison to his previous run of play, Martin feels he is upon higher levels as of late and intends on making the most of the airtime and audience his bout will be showcased to. It’s an opportunity to reintroduce himself to the masses and to show new fans just why he was a Cage Warriors favourite.

“Training-wise I feel it’s better than it was during my previous Cage Warriors stint,” McDonough boasted. “I feel more comfortable on the feet and I’m a much more confident grappler. The way I see it now, though, is that there are people who don’t know who I am compared to four or five years ago, so I’m just going to show them who I am and what I’m all about.

“I don’t feel like I’m making up for lost time, though I do feel I have wasted some years with injuries and not sticking with it, instead I chucked my toys out the pram. However I think that time away has done me some good. It’s given me time to want it again.

“Even back when I was winning big fights, I wasn’t appreciating the scale of it. I just took some fights for money or just to fight. I wasn’t enjoying the stage I was at as I was just trying to push my way into the UFC. I had the mentally constantly of just ‘one more win.’

“It was becoming a chore, whereas now I’m finishing work and I can’t wait to get to the gym and train. I think I have three of four years of my best left, so I plan to make the most of it.”

Upon the cutting questions poised for the Welshman’s return for the man dubbed as ‘Mr. Pink’ is will the hair be dyed pink and the will the mohawk also return? Throughout all the honest answers given, Martin is choosing this one in which to keep his cards close to his chest. 

“Out of all the normal questions you get asked from people in the build up to a fight about your training, the most common hasn’t been about any of that – it’s all been questions about the mohawk! It was my unique point back then, but I’m older now. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”