Will Fleury: “It was frustrating. I go out and smash a 15 fight veteran and nobody paid attention.”

 SBG’s Will Fleury (1-0) steps into the cage on Friday evening ready to defeat debutant Kyle McClurkin on the preliminary portion of the BAMMA 28 card. They had been due to meet at BAMMA 27 but a broken hand led to McClurkin’s withdrawal from the card.

One professional fight between the pair has led to the bout going under the radar, but Fleury expects it to be a high level fight. “I think he is better than some of guys on the scene who are 4-0 or 5-0,” he said. “He has been training for a long time. The fight should be a good standard, even if it is a 1-0 guy against a 0-0 guy, we’ve both been training for a long time.”

“He’s no joke, he has a really good skillset. I’ve got a lot of respect for him, but I think I’m the heavy favourite.”

The man from Cork started his professional career in an impressive manner, having gone 7-0 as an amateur, he defeated Irish MMA veteran John Redmond at Battle Zone FC 15 in April 2016. His opponent had 15 professional fights to his name, with a 5-10 record at that point.

Reflecting on that fight, Fleury was surprised that the victory didn’t make the waves he had hoped it would. “Pretty much nobody commented on it, though Petesy (SevereMMA’s Peter Carroll) said I looked like a viking, other than that, I didn’t hear much.”

“Pretty much nobody commented on it. I think most people in Ireland would have had me as a heavy favourite. I won emphatically. I don’t think I got touched in that fight, he stayed away from me and wouldn’t commit. I took him down and submitted him fairly quickly. Barely anyone acknowledged that fight, it was frustrating. I go out and smash a 15 fight veteran and nobody paid attention.”

The 27-year-old was scheduled to fight Rolando Dominique at Cage Legacy Fighting Championship in October 2016, but his opponent withdrew and Chris Meaney stepped in. However, Meaney dropped out, and wasn’t able to accept a kickboxing bout that the promotion and Fleury offered him.

Dawid Blaszke, an experienced kickboxer, stepped in and the pair met in a K-1 bout.

Fleury found himself Googling the K-1 ruleset the night before the fight, only finding out 4 hours before he was due in the cage that you can’t catch your opponent’s kicks, eliminating his primary defensive tactic. And despite losing the fight, Fleury is adamant that accepting the fight was the right thing to do. That loss left a bitter taste in Fleury’s mouth, one that he does not wish to experience again.

“My striking is much more MMA based, I’ve watched that video 300 times. I made a lot of mistakes. That loss tasted like shit, I don’t want that feeling again, it has made me hungrier and more determined.”

“You don’t learn anything if nothing happens, I’m still glad I took it.”

You can hear the frustration in his voice when he explains how it felt having to listen to MMA fans giving him feedback on his performance. “I never want to be in that positon again” he said. “Having people who don’t even train MMA, they are giving you advice. I never want to be in that position again, clueless people giving you advice.”

“I think everybody who loses a fight gets that, the same people who are patting you on the back when you win, they are first to criticise and give you advice when you lose.”

Fleury’s resilience is obvious when asked how he coped with such a disappointing second half of the year, not giving himself time to dwell on what could have been, he was back in the gym the day after a fight was cancelled, something that unfortunately happened on multiple occasions. “This is MMA, shit happens,” he said. “It has proven to me what I want it. A lot of people would have walked away, you’re early in your career and you only have a little bit of money coming it, it really is chasing the dream at that point.”

“You’re incredibly disheartened at the time, it feels like a huge waste of time because your entire life goes into this, but I had that drive to go forward.”

The Cork native made the move to Dublin in May 2016, via a stint in London where he worked as a quantity surveyor and trained at London Shootfighters. His former gym, previously known as The MMA Clinic, once possessed a solid amateur team, but things slowly fell apart after the ownership of that facility changed hands a number of times, and many fighters and suitable training partners left the team.

“I was desperate for training partners, I knew I was going to have to leave at some point.”

The gym he now calls home often has 10 to 20 fighters who are at middleweight, or higher, training at any given time. Every fighter in the gym has a different frame and style, which is helping Fleury to develop as a fighter, but it also eliminates a large number of Irish middleweights that he could face in competitive action.

“It is awkward, there probably are guys I train with that I could be fighting, but we don’t fight teammates. If you’re actual training partners or you know the person well, you form a bond with them. I wouldn’t ever fight them.”

“Fighting is primal shit. You’re basically going in there looking to destroy someone. You have to have zero empathy, and it is much easier to do that if you don’t know the guy. I would struggle to do that against someone I know, having to hurt them.”

The 185lber believes his skillset has improved greatly since moving to SBG-Concorde, with the level of grappling availably impressing him the most. He also notes how SBG’s head coach is helping him develop. “John [Kavanagh] is great at those little areas,” he explained. “He works on things others ignore, he is good at identifying smaller technical parts and subtle areas that other gyms don’t always pay attention to.”

The Dublin-based fighter mentions that he has cut down to welterweight on three occasions, once for an amateur fight and twice for professional bouts that fell through. Happy to fight at 170lbs or 185lbs, Fleury explains that he is willing to drop down if big fights are available and the compensation is suitable, as long as he is given enough notice to make weight.

The middleweight mentions that there is extra motivation to perform on Friday due to the fact that Bellator’s key figures will be in attendance at the SSE Arena, and he feels he could make a name for himself with the Viacom-owned promotion. “I think they have a lot of crap in their middleweight division!” He exclaimed. “I would be more than happy to clear the division out for them. They have some genuinely good fighters, but a lot of bullshit and weak fighters.”

Fleury isn’t tied down to BAMMA, having signed a one fight contract, though he would be open to fighting on the promotion’s return to Dublin in the summer. The two factors that will help Fleury decide which organisation to sign with are the financial compensation offered and whether that deal presents him with an opportunity to travel. He notes that he was impressed with the professionalism shown by the Cage Legacy FC team and would be open to competing under their banner again if they found a suitable opponent, even if the venue would not compare to the SSE Arena.

Cage Warriors, making their return to Ireland next weekend, were also mentioned as an option if an intriguing bout was offered at one of their London or Dublin shows. The SBG fighter was close to signing to Bahrain-based promotion Brave in 2016, but that deal fell through once the promotion decided against organising a middleweight bout, though he would “love to” fight under their banner.

And after a year of struggling to find opponents who would agree to fight him, as well as the multiple fights that fell through due to medical issues, Fleury is eager to make up for lost time. “I’m open to opportunities. I really want to stay active, I’d like to fight every month or second month,” he told SevereMMA. And he is happy to step in against opponents who have had numerous professional bouts, declaring that he is “game for whatever” and explaining that a couple of UK MMA fighters had agreed to fight him previously but pulled out.

“Look at guys like Ronan McKay and Conor Cooke, they would be seen as more experienced than I am, but put that out there for a vote and I think people would expect me to beat both of them. I have no problem taking on more experienced guys, I’m at that level because of my training and amateur experience.”

Fleury recently found out that an old friend had died by suicide. Marlon Forde, a former training partner from his days in Cork, had been following his career closely, even though the two had lost touch. “It is heartbreaking,” he said. “He was sharing all of my stuff on social media, he was screenshotting and posting stuff on Instagram about me and I didn’t know he was doing this.”

“It makes you appreciate life and what you have, it puts everything in perspective.”

Fleury has created a GoFundMe page to help support Marlon’s girlfriend and 2 infant children, any donations are greatly appreciated:

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.

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