Recently, I got the opportunity to chat with Bellator Dublin feature Richard Kiely, ahead of his welterweight showdown with Michael ‘Venom’ Page on September 27th. from the 3Arena. The Tallaght born striker has already grabbed the attention of many within the mixed-martial arts community with his entertaining pre and post fight verbals. Despite his seemingly naive 3-1 professional record, Kiely enters the sport with a highly decorated kickboxing career in toe, something both him and ‘MVP’ have in common.
Jumping from BAMMA to Bellator MMA in February this year, ‘The Face’ made good on his call to Scott Coker’s promotion, scoring a highlight reel knockout of Mickael Bucher. It’s a second home soil walk in succession for Kiely this Friday night, after a failed pairing with Galore Bofando in June. The SBG staple believes his rise through the ranks at Bellator, will follow a similar process to his stint in BAMMA.
“The transition has been pretty seamless and has followed the same pattern. One fight and I’m the face of both organizations. People may laugh at that but I’m fighting one of the biggest names in global MMA and once I make a nice pair of snakeskin shoes out of Michael (Page) they’ll find it difficult to disagree with me. I fought for the world title after two fights with BAMMA, once I beat the ‘Snake’ I expect to fight for a world title next.”
I was in attendance for Bellator Dublin at the 3Arena in February, and if I’m totally honest, apart from James Gallagher’s timely submission or Charlie Ward`’s even quicker knockout, Kiely’s stoppage over Bucher received the biggest ovation of the evening. Planting a shot inside the final minute of the opening round, Kiely sporting his recognisable pink shorts, coolly walked off, but according to him, his debut against Bucher wasn’t his besting showing.
“was a poor performance by my standards, I allowed him to lay a hand on the moneymaker so as soon as that happened it was time to give him the P45 and he was knocked out approximately ten seconds later. It was my first fight back after fourteen months so I was just playing and enjoying being back in there until he touched ‘The Face`’, then it was time to add him to the highlight reel. Everyone knows how special the Dublin crowd are, they appreciate entertainment and say what you like about me but you can’t deny I bring entertainment both in and outside the cage.”
As mentioned earlier, both Kiely and Page come from a point-fighting background, bringing notable success from the sport with them to mixed-martial-arts competition, but the hometown striker believes Friday’s opponent is quite limited to that fighting style.
”Michael (Page) is one dimensional, he’s world class at that one dimension but he can only fight one way. I’m not here to justify my skill-set to people, I’ll let it be a shock to everyone when the snake’s chin gets volleyed into the crowd.”
Things got quite heated between the pair at a July press conference in Dublin, with Bellator officials forced to separate the two after a stare down, but in Kiely’s opinion the clash between two of the division’s most entertaining strikers isn’t necessarily a personal one. Page also told at the press event, how he was openly over-looking Kiely.
”I’ve no strong feelings for him either way, he’s a bully, tries to get in people’s heads and then is a bad winner. It just so happens I’m better at getting in people’s heads and I’m not afraid of bullies. We already saw how he reacted and how he was shaken at the press conference. You could say he was a rattled snake.”
Page suffered his premier professional defeat in his fifteenth fight last time out, dropping a heavy second round knockout to former division best Douglas Lima in the welterweight semi-final bracket. The 32-year-old had amassed a ten fight win streak with the promotion prior to the loss to the Brazilian. When asked on his opinion of Lima vs. MVP, Kiely had this to say.
”I think he was fighting a favorable opponent in (Douglas) Lima. Lima is slow and static, complacency beat Michael (Page). I’m faster, hit harder and won’t give him any respect in there. He’s proven he goes out when connected with an arm-punch. Imagine what will happen when I connect.”
Currently, Canadian striker Rory MacDonald sits upon the welterweight throne after overthrowing the aforementioned Lima in January, 2018. Whoever scores the victory this weekend certainly instates themselves into title contention while MacDonald and Lima run back their initial meeting next month. Without overlooking ‘MVP’, Kiely gave his thoughts on how a potential pairing with ‘The Red King’ would play out.
”Rory (MacDonald) has broken mentally, he’s world class but you can start beating him down even before the fight happens. You saw what happened when he faced (Stephen) Thompson. A good game plan to negate his strengths and then just do what I do and you’re looking at the first Irish Bellator world champion in the next six months, and definitely the best looking champ on the roster.”
In the last calendar year, we’ve seen a huge influx of Irish talent to Bellator, in particular SBG Ireland product Pedro Carvalho, who has dispatched both Derek Campos and Sam Sicilia of note recently, to progress to the quarter final bracket in a rematch with Campos. In Kiely’s opinion, it’s a long overdue influx and it’s only the beginning.
”Pedro Carvalho is doing exceptionally well, It just goes to show what happens if you get an opportunity and you can take it. As for the current state of Irish MMA, I see a lot of Irish fighters and coaches giving out that there’s not enough shows and what have you. It’s all well and good sitting there and talking about that, but do something about it. I didn’t get any opportunities handed to me, I created these opportunities. I went out, I decided that I wanted to skip the queue, so I started calling people out, I’m not entitled, I work hard. I create the opportunities, people just sit there and wait for things to drop onto their lap, it’s not going to happen, the same with coaches. Coaches are giving out that there’s not enough shows, they need to get up off their arse and start running some shows.”
SBG Ireland figure and polarizing striker ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor has teased a return to the Octagon in recent weeks with clashes with Justin Gaethje and a rematch with Dustin Poirier brewing in the background, according to Kiely, no matter what the former two-weight world champion does next, will have people tuning in.
”Everyone has an opinion on Conor (McGregor) and it just shows how clever he is that he can send the world into a frenzy by simply tweeting a date. I have no opinion on what Conor (McGregor) should do, but what I’m quite sure of is that whatever it is, it’ll have people tuning in and will make money.”
I asked the co-headliner of his ideal dinner party guests if he could choose only three, and of course, he gave a entertaining spin on things.
”I’d invite my son and my mam, and would kick the emergency exit open on the sly so my three sisters could sneak in.”