On the eve of Bellator MMA’s event in Dublin this weekend, middleweight Will Fleury claimed that up and coming Irish fighter’s aren’t getting the respect they deserve.
With the theatrics that is now commonplace at pre-fight press conferences, speaking on OTB AM Fleury believes that it is damaging the perception of the next generation of fighters.
“I think this second generation of Irish fighters hasn’t gotten the same respect as the first,” said Fleury.
“I don’t know, maybe because people are starting to see fighting as a bit more of a pantomime type of thing.
“It’s very real when you’re in there, but it is a very strange sport the fact that there’s this element of it being all a show until it isn’t.
“People see a lot of the show stuff and think, ‘they’re only giving each other a bit of guff at the press conference,’ but it’s very real once you’re in there,” the Tipperary fighter said.
Behind the soap opera that many of the sports’ press conferences devolve into, Fleury detailed how he feels perhaps people overlook the realities that fighters face - particularly when they lose.
“The devastation I felt after the last fight… or even the physical damage, you know? It’s very, very dramatic and hard to overcome,” Fleury said.
After losing his last fight, Fleury is hoping to bounce back against English middleweight Justin Moore on Saturday at Bellator MMA's event in the 3Arena.
According to Fleury, one of the challenges facing the second generation of Irish fighters is that the level is now much higher than it was previously.
“There’s a young lad on the [Bellator] undercard, Ilias Bulaid, and he’s a 10-time world champion kickboxer making his debut.
“This guy has been training since he was four-years-old basically - unbelievably talented - and 90 per cent of the crowd will think, ‘here’s some twat making his pro debut,’” Fleury explained.
However, it’s difficult to ignore that the theatrics many fighters engage in before fights help to raise their profile - even if it does have the side effect of leaving a less than appetising taste in the mouth.
“I do find it discouraging that people can’t see through that. That people can’t have a little bit of a deeper look and see behind all that there are two incredibly dedicated athletes who are just doing what they have to do to get the attention.
“It’s a pity because you’re never going to read a good story about MMA in a broadsheet newspaper because we’re not seen as that sport,” Fleury said.