Ever since Thursday’s announcement that the promotion would return to Dublin on Aug. 15, conversations regarding who will be the next Irish fighter signed to the UFC have ramped up significantly.
Last week, it was announced that top prospect Ross Houston had vacated the Cage Warriors title after being released from the organization. Later the same day, it was revealed that Northern Ireland’s Rhys McKee would fight for Cage Warriors gold when the promotion docks in Belfast on May 16.
Given the well trodden path between Cage Warriors and champions in Europe, McKee has long been considered the next fighter from the island to sign for the world’s flagship promotion, and Cage Warriors president Graham Boylan agrees.
“It is 100% Rhys McKee,” Boylan told MMA Fighting.
“24 years of age, 13 pro fights, 10 wins inside the distance; there are welterweights in Europe - not just Ireland - who have unbeaten records but they are not putting their competition away. The UFC is where the best compete, it’s where guys who finish fights go. At welterweight, Rhys is leading the pack and flying the flag for the island right now.”
The Irish promoter believes that the Dublin date adds more importance to the Cage Warriors Belfast date.
“Yes I believe it does [add more importance to Cage Warriors 115 in Belfast]. The next generation of true Irish stars will be competing on Cage Warriors in Belfast, the UFC decision makers have eyes on that, the boys will need to bring their A-game on May 16th and show the world the type of fighter the island breeds,” said Boylan.
Although he can’t guarantee that the Next Generation Northern Ireland fighter will get a call up the UFC on the back of an emphatic victory and title capture, he does think it will put him right in the shop window for Dana White, Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard.
“A solid performance with a win will of course put him at the door yes, but once you get yourself to that position, patience is required. I’ve seen a lack of patience kill many UFC dreams over the years. Sometimes the timing is just not right so you’ve got to stay active, stay relevant and defend your belt,” he explained.
“I think it was June or July last year I said there was a new waive of talent coming out of Ireland and I believe within the next 12-to-18 months we will have three or for, if not more, in the UFC. But let’s not rush them, let’s collectively get them there to stay and not just get them there to take home the t-shirt.”
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