For SBG teammate’s Richie Smullen and Richard Kiely, the two share more than just a gym and a name, they both enter Bellator Dublin this Friday in search of two straight victories since their promotion bows last February. Wicklow born Smullen featured on the Bellator 217 card at the beginning of the year, picking up a clear-cut unanimous decision triumph over Adam Gustab. This weekend once more at the 3Arena, the 28-year-old clashes with fellow grappling talent, Cork’s Sean Tobin.
Smullen, who of course featured on The Ultimate Fighter: Undefeated season under former heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, made a considerable impact on the show, all while dealing with rhabdomyolysis, a syndrome which can cause kidney failure if the dead muscle fibres contents enters the bloodstream. On the season finale card, headlined by a middleweight clash between now interim champion Israel Adesanya and Brad Tavares, Smullen faced Luis Pena in a lightweight meeting.
Despite falling victim to an opening round guillotine, Smullen doesn’t make excuses for his premier professional blemish. The Arklow native had this to say when I questioned how the syndrome affected his performance against ‘Violent Bob Ross’.
“That’s not really a fair thing to say to be honest, I was suffering from rhabdomyolysis yes but I still took the fight, I don’t like to make excuses. After that fight I spent a lot of time getting healthy. To be honest I was sick, if it wasn’t the UFC and that opportunity at that point in time I wouldn’t have fought. Anyways, I don’t like to make excuses, what’s done is done.“
In his three-round affair against Adam Gustab seven months ago, Smullen secured his first win for the promotion since his return from the United States. With the win in toe ahead of Friday’s walk, Smullen spoke of some alterations to his fight preparation.
“It’s my second fight for Bellator and I’ve learned a lot, I’ve grown a lot as a fighter and I’m twice the athlete since I starting taking my nutrition serious with the (George) Lockhart and (Dan) Leith guys.“
Against Sean Tobin, who trains out of Trials Martial Arts & Fitness in Mitchelstown, Smullen is wary of the experience ‘The Machine’ brings with him to the cage with his 6-3 professional record. Both men holds four separate submission victories between them, but Smullen is confident in his own grappling ability.
“I feel I should have finished Adam (Gustab) quite a few times, I feel I never pulled the trigger and played it safe to be honest. Sean (Tobin) is a good experienced fighter, but I believe my grappling is too strong, everyone thinks it’s easy to stop until they feel it. I think the grappling just comes natural to me, but I am a complete fighter, at Bellator I think it will be on display. I’ll be looking to put Sean away and get onto Bellator to match me again straight away.“
Smullen fought to a majority draw with Northern Ireland prospect Rhys ‘Skeletor’ McKee back at BAMMA 30 in 2017, and despite McKee’s status as a leading figure on the Cage Warriors lightweight roster, Smullen hasn’t totally ruled out a rematch between the two in the future.
“Me and Rhys had a great fight at BAMMA, he’s a solid competitor, as for us fighting again I don’t know what the future holds. But as for now we’re in different promotions and weight classes.“
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