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TUF 20's Aisling Daly: Paddy Holohan is going to be ‘the flyweight division's Conor McGregor'

The MMA Hour, MMA Fighting

With eight years of professional experience under her belt, TUF 20 strawweight competitor Aisling Daly is effectively an elder statesmen when it comes to the army of Irish exports currently taking the mixed martial arts world by storm.

But in mid-July, while Daly's SBG Ireland teammates exploded onto the global stage with a masterful 5-0 Irish run at UFC Dublin, Daly found herself on the outside looking in, stuck inside The Ultimate Fighter house and unable to experience the culmination of years of hard work alongside her countrymen, ultimately forced to watch the event on delay halfway across the world.

"It was hard for me to miss it," Daly admitted on Monday's episode of The MMA Hour. "Basically it was the biggest event in Irish MMA history, and to be such a big part of Irish MMA history myself and not be part of it was kind of heart-breaking for me. But at the same time, I have my goals and my dreams and I need to follow them as well, so I felt like I was doing something good for me and I was just happy for the guys.

"But like I said, I did get to see UFC Dublin on delay, and man, that was such a boost in the house. I can't wait for you guys to see that episode. I really hope they show it all, because the amount of emotion that was going through me just watching them, it was really amazing. It was such a culmination of years and years of hard work. I was really emotional watching it."

A 26-year-old former flyweight, Daly trimmed down to 115 pounds to participate on the show and vie for the inaugural UFC women's flyweight championship. Promotion matchmakers seeded her fifth out of the 16 fighters competing in the tournament, and a match-up against Team Melendez's Angela Magana, the show's No. 12 ranked seed, is imminent.

Reviews for The Ultimate Fighter 20 have been largely positive four episodes into the new season, although as time goes on, Daly finds herself agreeing with critics who argue that the forced injection of drama into the show was unnecessary in a season already bursting with inherently high stakes.

"The season, I think it's well shot, it's well put together," Daly said. "To be honest, I think they're focusing a lot more on the American fighters in particular, maybe not deservedly so. Maybe the attention is negative attention, people taking their pants off -- why are they showing that? From the way we were sold it is that it was going to be about the fighting and about us being the best 16 females in the world. But I guess sometimes you have to appeal to different audiences to get the viewership in, and that kind of thing.

"But I'm just there for the fighting, keep my head down and get the job done. I have no interest in drama. I just want an easy life, and I tried to keep out of the drama the best I could in the house. Some of the girls there, I don't know, maybe they have histories or damaged pasts or whatever, but some of them don't deal with things all that healthily from a mental point of view, and some of them don't treat people very well. So I just kept out of that kind of stuff."

Now that filming is over, Daly has spent a majority of her time preparing for her long-awaited UFC debut while also resuming minor coaching duties with John Kavanagh's SBG Ireland squad. On Saturday, two UFC events will take place half-a-world apart, so while Kavanagh travels to Sweden to corner Gunnar Nelson and Cathal Pendred, Daly will fly to Canada and assist undefeated flyweight Paddy Holohan at UFC Fight Night 54.

Holohan was initially slated to fight top-15 ranked Louis Gaudinot, however Gaudinot withdrew less than a week from fight night, forcing matchmakers to scramble and eventually settle on UFC newcomer Chris Kelades as a last-minute replacement.

"To be honest, we had a feeling Louis would pull out," Daly said. "We knew Louis has a weak mind, so we had a feeling that he wouldn't actually make it to the cage. So we're not worried about it. We expected this, we thought Louis might bail. We didn't think he would bail this late into it, that's not a cool move to do, pull out on something on fight week. But whatever, Paddy's ready.

"Paddy's just been sharpening all his tools, and to be honest, I don't think there's a flyweight in the world that could put a hand on Paddy. He's going to be the flyweight division's Conor McGregor, and that's the way it is."

Daly's prediction is relatively bold, considering that all roads begin and end at Conor McGregor when the discussion turns to Ireland's MMA takeover.

McGregor, the charismatic featherweight who propelled himself into the division's top-five with a massive first-round victory over Dustin Poirier at UFC 178, will be in attendance when Jose Aldo's attempts to defend his belt against Chad Mendes later this month, and UFC President Dana White has already suggested that he may be the next logical contender for Aldo's throne.

"We're finally getting to where we deserve to be, thanks to Conor," Daly said. "He's really kicked the door in for us. We were working hard over here. We were skilled, just nobody was paying attention to us, and Conor has really put us on the map.

"We always believed in what we were doing. We always knew we would get here. It was just a case of when. So now we're realizing our dream is in front of us, and we're as confident if not more confident. We knew we were doing something special. Even from having been on The Ultimate Fighter and seeing the different training methods used by different coaches, there's nobody doing what we're doing. We're really ahead of the curve with how we train and the special bonds that we have between teammates and our coach. Nobody has what we have."

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