‘MMA fighters are, by and large, a sensitive bunch’
Mike Sheridan says the sport has greatly boosted his confidence and changed his body
Mike Sheridan during an MMA training session. Photograph: Paul Fogarty
Today it’s one of Ireland’s most talked about sports, but I initially became aware of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) in the 2000s thanks to my older brothers. I ran ultra-marathons for years but had always wanted to fight; not white-collar boxing, but properly compete.
About five years ago, I started shooting a documentary called Barbaric Gentlemen which involved my training under the watchful eye of Conor McGregor’s striking coach, Owen Roddy at SBG Charlestown, then fighting at an event run by the Godfather of Irish MMA, John Kavanagh.
That was five years ago and I’m still training today. I do my own strength and conditioning, so most sessions are an hour and a half long training in either Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling or striking (boxing or kickboxing). Every person you spar has a different style so it’s often a chess match trying to figure out how to get the better of them.
There are a lot of misconceptions about the sport but fighters are, by and large, sensitive and highly skilled creatures – every class finishes with hugs and handshakes. There’s a huge amount of women getting involved in the sport now too, and the women’s division of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) is packed with world-class athletes. MMA has totally changed my body – I’ve bulked up and toned, and the sport has given me so much confidence. For anyone who’s curious, I would say give it a try. You might surprise yourself.