Euro Fight Night headliner Dargan – Burger is going to sleep

dargan

“The Dragon” Jonathon Dargan is set to headline John Kavanagh’s return to promoting, the much anticipated “Euro Fight Night” event that will take place this Saturday, September 14, at the Red Cow’s Pavilion on the Naas Road.

Dargan, whose two previous encounters fetched some of the loudest cheers of the night at both Cage Contender 8 and Cage Contender 14, will fight for the first time with a professional status in what will be his third fight in as many years.

Despite the distance between his fights, “The Dragon” has a history in combat sports that has seen him represent Ireland in taekwondo from 1994 right up until 2009, while also getting some experience in the sweet science along the way. The Dubliner is also adamant that had things gone his way, he would have competed a lot more.

“Ideally I would’ve had about four fights at this stage,” he admitted. “I was scheduled to fight at Cage Contender 10 and I missed weight and then after that I was meant to fight Konrad Iwanowski but I broke my hand in the lead up to the one.

“I’m sure the distance between the fights probably doesn’t work in my favour, but when you have got such a good team behind you and support from your family and girlfriend – it makes it a lot easier to keep training and keep the intensity up.

“The sparring I’m getting is the best in Europe with the SBG lads and I find it very easy to motivate myself for fights. I’m 42 now and I don’t think fighting every couple of months would suit me anyway – maybe I need the year’s rest after every fight,” he joked.

Given his background in the striking arts, many were shocked by Dargan’s first outing in the cage back in March of 2011 against aggressive campaigner, Staz.

“I hadn’t really been training MMA that long and to be honest, when I looked across the cage at Staz I was thinking ‘what am I after getting myself into here’. But, John Kavanagh had told me to go in and clinch him and take the fight up against the cage.

“I was so unfit thinking about it now, but I could hear so many familiar voices cheering me on and that really got me over the finish line in the end. I was just happy to have my hand raised but I knew I had to work a lot harder on my conditioning,” he said.

Dargan’s next bout was against Keith Elliott, a highly touted amateur boxer who had recently turned his hand to mixed martial arts. Many who had seen the Staz bout believed it to be a classic style matchup – grappler versus striker – with Dargan the more likely of the two to force the fight to the ground.

Ground his opponent he did, with a straight right hand followed up by a vicious flurry of ground and pound which rendered Elliott obsolete, all inside the first ten seconds of the contest.

“I’m not gonna lie to you,” laughed the light heavyweight. “I knew that he was a young lad of 25 or so, so all I was trying to do was end it as quickly as possible. I thought he would’ve had my number in the later rounds because of my cardio.

“It was just perfect, I think he was waiting for me to shoot a double, because he just walked straight on to the end of my punch and once I saw him wobble, I knew I had to finish it.”

Although the opposing game plans in his first two outings may seem like the biggest change in Dargan as a martial artist, no one can deny how far the 42 year old has come as an athlete since his emergence on the scene two and a half years ago.

In his debut, the Irish representative seemed quite soft in physique and it was clear that a lot of work had been put in before the Elliott fight where there was certainly less belly, more definition and a change of attitude toward conditioning.

Had he maintained the shape he was in for Elliott coming into this Saturday, people would have considered Dargan in prime shape for the bout. However, as the press releases surfaced for the ‘Euro Fight Night’, it was obvious that the Tallaght man had gone one better and transformed himself into conditioning machine. Now, all there at 205, he explained his transformation.

“I see all these six week diets and 10 week cardio plans, but they’re all fads. It took me two years to get into this shape. I had taken a lot of time off from taekwondo. It had been two years since my last competition when I fought Staz and by chance I happened to get chatting to a personal trainer, Simon Summers, down in Tallaght Sports Complex shortly after that.

“I told him that I was getting into this MMA, but I needed to be super fit and in the end he said he’d help me get to an optimum level of fitness for the sport.

“It wasn’t easy, it was horrible some days. My girlfriend really stuck by me throughout the process though and without her, my family and friends, I would’ve never been able to do it. You have to do these things every day and that was made easier by training with the lads, they have to put in the same work and put up with diets of their own.

“I’m in such good shape now I’m willing to take a run at getting onto the Irish taekwondo team again for one last hurrah!”

It’s hard to know where Dargan will want to take the fight when he squares off against Anthony Burger on Saturday, but his approach to striking has been heralded by some of Ireland’s top talent, with Conor McGregor even seeking out the help of his SBG team mate in his taekwondo gym in Terenure.

“I’ve been working a lot more on my kicks,” said McGregor in an interview with Gazette Newspapers back in April. “I want to use even more of them and I’m gonna head down to Johnny Dargan’s taekwondo place to sharpen them in the next few weeks.”

McGregor threw more kicks in his contests against Buchinger, Brimage and Holloway than in all his other fights combined and Dargan confirmed that he was paid a visit by the colourful featherweight.

“He came down alright, we have two world champions down there now and it meant a lot for them to get a visit from Conor,” he said. “I didn’t know he said that, that really means a lot.”

With John Kavanagh giving “The Dragon” the nod to headline for his return to the promoting chair, the Dubliner is expecting a bigger crowd than ever.

“They’ll be out in force waving their ‘Old Man Dargan’ signs”, he laughed. “But seriously, the crowd have a huge impact on the way I perform. I always think back to that Staz fight and hearing people in the crowd roaring at me.

“Sometimes you hear a voice you know like your ma, your girlfriend or your best mate, and it just forces you to pull something out of yourself.

“To headline an event that people are really getting behind is a big deal for me and I can’t wait to get in there.”

As for his opponent, Anthony Burger, Dargan is confident that the result will go his way on the night.

“He’s going to sleep. I was shocked by myself last time out against Keith and I think I’m on whole new level now. It’ll be one to remember.”

By Peter Carroll – @PetesyCarroll

Photo: Tomek Bogut

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.